Don't Breathe

A group of teens break into a blind man's home thinking they'll get away with the perfect crime. They're wrong.

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  • ★★★★ review by Todd Gaines on Letterboxd

    For me, sound is a vital reason why I enjoy horror movies. From John Carpenter's Halloween to present day movies such as It Follows and The Guest, sound can make or break a movie. Don't Breathe has a nice sound, but it's the lack of sound at times, that brings the house down.

    Kids, don't break into houses. Nothing ever good comes from it. I thought the trailer gave too much of the plot away. I was dead wrong. It would be criminal for me to discuss more of the plot. All I'll say is there's a scene as memorable as American History X's curb stomp.

    If you've seen The Hard Way, you know Stephen Lang is one of the most underrated baddies. In Don't Breathe, he proves he's also one of the most underrated actors, period. Lang is the movie's acting glue, and his performance will stick with you for a long time.

    I like it when I can't make up my mind who to cheer for. I went back and forth a few times, and I'm not sure if I'm 100% pleased with the ending. The kids all impressed me, but all of them are guilty of stupidity. Both Jane Levy's Rocky and Dylan Minnette's Alex had some outstanding moments in the dark. 

    Fede Alvarez directed. He also directed the Evil Dead reboot. I like this a lot more than Evil Dead. He shoots Dirty Detroit, Michigan like a pro. All of the shots are well filmed, and the movie is edited near flawlessly. The dialogue is minimum, but the script is tight. 

    Don't Breathe is very brutal at times. It doesn't rely on jump scares. It scares the audience with pure real terror. What you see, could happen. This is smart horror at its most intelligent. Seeing on a loud big screen helps, and I do hope I still enjoy on a home video rewatch. Yes, this is the real deal. Go see today!!

  • ★★★★★ review by Lucy on Letterboxd

    I REALLY DIDN'T BREATHE ONCE THE ENTIRE TIME

  • ★★★★ review by CinemaClown on Letterboxd

    Unflinching, unrelenting & unforgiving, Don’t Breathe is a nail-bitingly tense, extremely riveting & endlessly thrilling slice of breakneck cinema that breathes an air of freshness into the home-invasion subgenre of horror by subverting a few tropes and makes ingenious use of genre elements throughout its runtime to finish as a genuinely unsettling & highly satisfying thriller that’s simple plotted, cleverly constructed & effectively told from start to finish.

    The story of Don’t Breathe follows a trio of petty thieves who break into houses that are secured by one of the accomplices’ father’s security company. Desperate to move to a new place and start afresh, they decide to carry out one last robbery after learning about a blind war veteran who may have around $300,000 cash stashed in his house. Expecting it to be an easy heist, they break into his house but soon find out that the blind man is more than capable of defending himself.

    Co-written & directed by Fede Alvarez, Don’t Breathe is his sophomore effort but it still serves as an excellent showcase of his skills & understanding of the genre. By taking the usual home-invasion thriller template and twisting some of its conventions, Alvarez here succeeds in delivering something that feels fresh & original. The premise is simple, the story is told from intruders’ perspectives, the stakes are raised by taking away the abilities of the supposed victim, and the result of these changes are hugely rewarding.

    Another impressive thing about Don’t Breathe is that it places greater emphasis on its suspenseful atmosphere and relies on its perfectly carved moments of horror to tap into the viewers’ primal fears instead of plainly shocking them with excess violence & mindless gore. The characters don’t have enough flesh on their arcs but they are still serviceable to the plot and are efficiently handled. Also noteworthy is the cluelessness about who to root for as in the end, all of them turn out to be despicable in their own ways.

    Majority of the events unfold inside the blind man’s house and the production design team does a fantastic job to add more menace to its minimal setting by providing a mysterious, labyrinth-like structure to it. Cinematography is one of its biggest strengths as camera is expertly employed in each scene plus the cleverly chosen angles, skilful use of slow-mo or tracking shots, and fantastic use of low-light photography greatly amplify its ominous tone & nerve-wracking aura. Editing is razor-sharp for the most part and the entire film is brilliantly paced but there are also a few glaring issues with it.

    To mention a few, there was absolutely no need to open the film with that flash-forward segment, for it unnecessarily spoils one character’s fate and lingers on viewers’ minds from that moment onwards. It is one lazy trick that is quickly becoming the norm of lately as more n more filmmakers are afraid to begin their stories with a natural opening act, fearing that the audience may lose interest if they are not given something to hold on to. Instead, what it eventually conveys is their own lack of confidence in their material, resulting in them resorting to such cheap tricks to keep the viewers around.

    The audience would have been far more involved in the story & the fate of its characters if they had no idea of where it was headed in the first place. Also uncalled for is its final moment where the film attempts to set up the basis for a sequel. However, almost everything that lies between its opening & closing moments makes up for a lean, mean & intense cinema that makes terrific use of available resources to successfully accomplish what it set out to do. The build up is steady, the suspenseful ambience is naturally established, and it is absolutely relentless once those thieves enter the dilapidated house.

    Sound is another one of its highlights that works in perfect harmony with its sinister score to further ratchet up the tension to disquieting levels. Coming to the acting department, its small cast consists of Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette & Daniel Zovatto, with Lang & Levy impressing the most. Playing the blind war veteran, Lang delivers a performance so imposing & intimidating that his character comes off as a haunting figure who's meant to be feared. Levy is in as one of the delinquents and does a convincing job at it while the Rottweiler present in the movie pretty much steals every scene it is in.

    On an overall scale, Don’t Breathe is one of the most delightful surprises of the year that’s fabulously directed, smartly scripted, masterly photographed, tightly edited, effectually scored & sincerely performed. Even though it isn’t without its shortcomings, the positives here do outweigh the negatives by a considerable margin. Making outstanding use of all its elements to deliver maximum chills, and leaving its viewers breathless at times, Don’t Breathe is one of the best films to surface on the big screen this year, is one of the finest entries in home-invasion subgenre of horror, and is absolutely destined to garner a cult following.

  • ★★★★ review by Alice Bishop on Letterboxd

    Everyone has secrets behind closed doors and Don’t Breathe couldn’t be more brutal in its lack of morality. The film pits bad against bad, villain against villain, as bullets ricochet in an enclosed death trap which transforms the hunters into the hunted. The movie is an unyielding backdoor thriller with a plot that does a screeching 180 turn after its criminal protagonists fall victim to the brutal resistance tactics of a blind war veteran.

    Read the full review here.

  • ★★★★½ review by Wesley R. Ball on Letterboxd

    Fede Alvarez really needs to direct more horror movies. His first original outing as a director with Don't Breathe shows marvelous potential for what he could do in the future for the genre. The cinematography is fast and sweeping, rushing about fluidly yet as frantically as the plot's pacing needs it to be. There's no need for setup or extensive introductions- Alvarez takes us almost directly to the meat of the plot without wading through unnecessary side stories or supplemental conversations. The moment they enter the house incites a tense sweep of the stage that this nerve-racking joyride plays out on, ensuring that there's plenty of hints and foreshadowing as to what will happen without giving too much away at the start.

    Don't Breathe is also yet another prime example of a film that overcame its turnoff promotional material to become something completely different from what it was made out to be. I don't really know what changed between the (spoiler-plagued) trailers, TV spots, and the final cut, but it almost felt like the marketing team was trying to make sure that the film looked as unappealing as possible. What I got, instead of a cheesy reverse home invasion horror film reliant on verbal narration, was an unbelievably tense experience that relied on unconventional methods to deliver its horror instead of the same cues that plague the common rabble of the genre. It doesn't tell you when you're supposed to be scared, it just lets the feeling slowly creep in until you let it overpower your senses. It's a unique type of horror experience that is so rarely found in mainstream films of the genre. I don't know if the modern horror genre is slowly getting better or if I've just started to pay more attention to it recently, but I'm satisfied either way.

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