Comic-Con 2016 Review | ‘Don’t Breathe’ Will Scare The Shh Out Of You

The horror genre is built on bad choices and tons of karo syrup. At the heart of practically every scary story ever written is a protagonist who should have known better, but who did something anyway, and who suffered some truly terrible consequences as a result. It doesn’t matter if they raised the dead, picked up a hitchhiker, pranked that one weird kid at summer camp or said “Candyman” one too many times in front of a mirror. They know they screwed up, and we know it too, and the repercussions are coming whether any of us like it or not.

It doesn’t take long for the kids in Don’t Breathe to make their fateful error. Alex (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (Jane Levy) and “Money” (Daniel Zovatto) are living in a hollowed out Detroit, breaking into homes and stealing whatever they can to build up a nest egg and move the hell out of there. When they learn about a blind war veteran who came into a six-figure settlement deal, after the untimely death of his daughter, they decide to throw all caution to the wind and sneak inside his isolated house, while he’s still inside.

We know it’s a mistake, and at least one of our “heroes” does too. And as they crawl through the windows and creak through the doors, director Fede Alvarez carefully calls our attention to some very important details amongst their surroundings. The sledgehammer on the wall. The gun under the bed. The crawlspace. The easily broken glass. Their uppance is coming, and it’s coming twice filled.

Screen Gems

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Don’t Breathe is a fierce and frightening thriller, carefully constructed and smartly filmed. A group of young ne’er-do-wells trapped in a house with a blind man, one who completely turns the tables on his would-be attackers, is rife with possibilities. Alvarez seemingly films them all, and plunges his audience into a high concept nightmare of forced silences, randomly aimed gunfire, and shocking developments. The blind man’s house becomes a Rube Goldberg machine of suffering, for just about everybody, and it’s a twisted delight to watch that chain of events unfold.

Fans of the horror genre will recognize that Don’t Breathe is an excellent film, but they will also probably notice that this concept has been done before. The premise is incredibly similar to Wes Craven’s underrated thriller The People Under The Stairs, which turns 25 this year, and which used the same basic plot to make harsh accusations about class warfare and social hypocrisy. And yet despite its real-world implications, The People Under The Stairs feels like the stranger film in comparison to Don’t Breathe, a film that relies on sly efficiency more than thoughtful commentary. The film has some truly disturbing moments, but it always feels plausible, and that makes Don’t Breathe almost unbearably tense.

Stephen Lang bristles and muscles his way through Fede Alvarez’s violent thriller, and segues almost imperceptibly from victim to menace. He’s the MVP of a film with nothing but valuable players. Don’t Breathe is a lean film, and perhaps a little lacking in depth, but it is a masterfully produced exercise in terror. The characters may have made some mistakes, but the filmmakers did just about everything right.

Top Photo: Screen Gems

William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and Canceled Too Soon, and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved, Rapid Reviews and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.