It's the year of horror films, one outdoing the other. After 10 Cloverfield Lane, Conjuring 2 and Lights Out, Don't Breathe is the next frightful, claustrophobic delight to the senses.
Here's a situation: you're trapped in a house on a deserted corner of a street, trying to find a way out. There's a raging blind man with a gun on the loose inside. If he hears even a small creak, he will shoot in the direction of the sound. Your only option is to remain as silent and still as you can. In the deafening silence, would you dare to breathe?
Three petty thieves—Money, Rocky and Alex, played by Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette—have a long-time experience of breaking into houses to steal. The trio plan to rob a house that belongs to an old man (Stephen Lang), a Gulf war veteran, who was blinded during war. His daughter died in a car accident, and the wealthy family of the woman who rammed into his daughter compensated him with a lump-sum settlement amount, now hidden in the house.
It's business as usual for the three thieves. They sedate his dog, break into the house, and use gaseous chloroform to put the blind man out of his senses. When they try to break open a heavily-guarded door, all hell breaks loose. Turns out the gas did nothing to sedate the old man, who is stronger than he seems, and does not hesitate to shoot and kill. In a tense cat-and-mouse game, as the intruders try to get away from the blind man and out of the house, they stumble upon a dark secret behind the door.
You'll be forgiven if, at the beginning, you're not sure whom to root for—the old blind man who has to deal with pesky house intruders on a lonely street, or the intruders who are locked inside the house of a crazy war veteran with a horrifying secret.
After the interval (for once, in Indian theatres, this comes just at the right time), things only keep getting worse. It's a never-ending nightmare for the unsuspecting intruders. At one point in the film, the blind man cuts off power to the basement of the house, disabling the intruders who so far relied on their sight to escape from him. As they stumble around row after row of shelves, the blind man uses his sense of hearing to track them. The way this scene is shot, among many others, establishes the mastery that director Fede Alvarez (famous for the 2013 hit Evil Dead) has over the horror film genre.
Alvarez has developed a stronger understanding of what exactly will keep the audience at the edge of their seats. Usually, horror films use silence as a tool to build up to a sudden outburst for shock value; Don't Breathe relies on silence to maintain tension. A major portion of the film happens in real-time, with frequent long continuous shots, which only make us hold our breath even longer. The visually-heavy story doesn't have much to the plot, which might be a good thing.
Don't Breathe is proof that you can make a horror film without supernatural elements or scary make-up. The blind man looks like anyone you'd see on the street. Only his dog is a frothing, scary creature that seems to bite more than bark, much like its owner.
Unlike Evil Dead, this one has lesser blood and gore. Produced by Evil Dead series creator Sam Raimi (also director of Spiderman series), this twisted film about a home invasion gone terribly wrong is one you shouldn't miss, especially if you're looking for a fulfilling psychological thriller.
Film: Don't Breathe
Director: Fede Alvarez
Cast: Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Stephen Lang