Don’t Breathe is such a fitting title for Fede Alvarez’s latest horror-thriller, a film which is so muscle-cleancingly tense that you’ll find yourself constantly holding your breath without even realising it. A home invasion story with a difference, the director who is most famous for his 2013 re-imagining of Evil Dead, has made one of the most relentlessly exciting, heart-pounding films I’ve seen this year.
The concept is beautifully simple. Three youths who have taken to burglary, are given a hot tip that could prove so lucrative that they may never need to steal again. The target is an elderly former soldier who has been sat on a three-figure compensation payout for years, and who also happens to be blind. What sounds straight forward turns out to be far from it, however, when the old blind man turns out to be far from a victim and in fact a deadly adversary.
Part of the genius of Alvarez’s script is that, despite the simplicity of the concept, it rather cleverly plays your perception of its three main characters. There’s an ambiguity surrounding who we’re supposed to be rooting for; Rocky, the secret leader of the criminal trio, is given just enough development for us to at least understand why she may want to steal enough money to leave her dysfunctional home, whilst you can’t help but feel sorry for their victim, who has lost someone who was dearly close to him.
It isn’t until a twist mid-way through the narrative, that you begin to fully invest in Rocky and her friend Alex, a resident of the “friend-zone” who desperately wants to be more than that. The twist itself is one which has already steeped the film in controversy, and understandably so, due to the uncomfortable nature of the film’s most twisted sequence; a scene which involves Rocky being harnessed in a basement, where she is subjected to the sexual advances of the supposedly innocent blind man.
Even that description doesn’t do the genuinely unnerving moment justice. Whereas I take some issue with this scene and question the necessity of it, it is quite clear at the same time that Alvarez is trying to replicate the type of shocks that were part and parcel of horror films from the ’70s and ’80s. If that was indeed his intention, he’s certainly succeeded in that Don’t Breathe feels like it is from that time period, not just in terms of its story and scares, but in terms of the film’s grainy look as well.
The cinematography gives it a strangely ageless kind of quality, which feels appropriate considering that it has all the makings for a future cult-classic. It is the type of film which is an experience – one which rattles you like a rollercoaster and which has layer upon layer of body-twisting, jump-out-of-your-seat thrills as you take a trip through Alvarez’s house of horrors. Guaranteed to terrify audiences for years to come, I just hope and pray there isn’t a sequel, if only for its own good.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com