Don’t Breathe makes sound the ultimate villain

Don’t Breathe cuts through the horror movie chaff and gets to the good stuff

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Don’t Breathe is a movie that is clearly excited by its own premise, the movie cannot wait to get its audience into the blind man’s house and let the hunt begin. We get as few scenes as possible to identify with our characters before we are locked in to the house and the real story can begin. When the house is broken into all senses are heightened and dialogue is all but thrown out the window. Putting pressure on the non-verbal elements of the film to carry the audience’s attention. It’s a film that succeeds in visual storytelling, keeping viewers aware enough to piece together the narrative without feeling slow or removing any of the mystique.

The film cuts through the horror movie chaff and gets to the good stuff by limiting its clunky dialogue as much as possible. Each silent moment is both a breath of fresh air and a step up a ladder that could be knocked down at any moment. Don’t Breathe treats its disabled antagonist in the way that horror movie monster’s should be treated, keeping him in darkness and in doorways, shrouded in black and hulking over cowering victims, grunting and growling under his breath like an animal. The effect of his blindness lends him an uneasy air as he stands staring just to the left or right of where he should be, making his presence in the scene seem surreal and misplaced.

The movie should be commended for its simplicity, it takes a simple concept and runs with it for as long as it can. Taking place almost entirely in one location, it squeezes as much as it can out of the woodwork of the house, crawling through crawl spaces and checking every window for an escape. The interior of the house is magnificently introduced to us through one long sweeping take which winks to the audience so hard it could burst a blood vessel, pointing out narrative devices with every pan. The film does seem more self-aware than would be expected, it takes its characters to their extremes, imbibing its blind villain with what is essentially sonar, its situations an ever increasing farce of missed chances and close calls. At times almost devolving into silent comedy routines.

Far from being perfect the film does seem to lose steam with its central premise, adding an extra level of villainy to the blind man that feels somewhat tacked on just to prevent every audience member from rooting for brutal murder. The characters are as thinly defined as can be expected from a typical horror movie and the film seems to end four or five times (each less satisfying than the last), but you shouldn’t go to see Don’t Breathe to see a character study, it is an exercise in teeth grinding suspense and in that it succeeds.

Recommendation

A great pick to see while it is still in cinemas. As most people watching will be holding their breath you should avoid people talking during the film.

The film is easy to digest and sink into. Tense from the minute that it wants to be, slow but not boring. Excellently crafted; it is a simple, entertaining and trashy thriller.

 

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