Movie #194 2021: Don’t Breathe (2016)

Isn’t it a good surprise when a film presents as one thing but ends up being another? With Don’t Breathe, everything about the promotional pictures and trailers says ‘horror’, right? What it ends up being is much, much more, as it twists the lines of genre in a pretty expert way to force itself more into the ‘thriller’ category. True horror buffs would probably feel disappointed with that, but for the average movie-goer, it’s a pretty cool left turn.

Don’t Breathe stars a pre-13 Reasons Why Dylan Minnette and future starlet Jane Levy as part of a trio of young criminals who resort to stealing in order to stay above water. When an old ex-military officer catches their eye, they find out that he was awarded a hefty lump sum as compensation for his injuries. Not only is he rich, but the man is also blind, and they quickly come to the conclusion that robbing him would be the perfect crime. Before long however, their lack of foresight proves to be their downfall, and they uncover things in the old man’s house that was beyond their wildest dreams.

Don't Breathe (2016) - IMDb

Turning the home invasion horror genre on his head? Nice. Here for it. As I said, it won’t be for everyone, but stick with it and you may just be pleasantly surprised.

At first, I really was not interested in anything that was going on. Why should I care about these annoying teenagers? The answer to that question was very unclear. Then the tension kicked in. Props mainly need to go to the sound mixing department and the foley artists here because without them, this film would be some pretty bog standard horror. Because of their efforts though, I really began to hate these stupid characters even more, but for a valid reason: because they make SO MUCH FUCKING NOISE. And I think that might exactly be the point. 

Don't Breathe (2016) - IMDb

Although I wasn’t exactly invested in the story as a whole, Don’t Breathe has some really unique plot twists that set it apart from similar movies and – thankfully – it isn’t over-reliant on jump scares. Most pleasantly surprising however was the quality of the acting, particularly from our troubled antagonist played by Stephen Lang. Whilst he barely speaks a word of dialogue, he is so expressive and wildly terrifying, even if you’re forced to side with him at times. He proves his talent with ease.

I may keep banging on about this, but the weird thing is, I came into this movie under the impression that it was a typical horror film and then it evolved unexpectedly into a sort of action thriller, which was not unwelcome. Don’t think Taken or Die Hard exactly, but I’d be lying if there weren’t some elements of classic action movies here.

Though I’m not in a rush to go and see the newly released sequel, watching Don’t Breathe was a decent way to spend my afternoon off and it was certainly much better than I was expecting. There’s really nothing particularly memorable other than some rather good performances, but it does have some interesting lessons in building tension in film.

Don’t Breathe is available to rent on Amazon and the Google Play Store for £1.99 in the UK.

TQR Category Ratings:

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Overall Rating: ½

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