“Don’t Breathe” is a great horror film but I don’t recommend the experience. Does that make sense? Probably not. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t even know what that means.
Well, it’s a film that achieves greatness on many levels from building intensity, to incredible cinematography, to genuine scares and fantastic performances. That being said, the film is also one of the most brutally relentless films I’ve seen in years. Sometimes, a horror film steps in to some boundaries that are so disgusting and horrific that it takes you out of the film.
Now, everyone has a threshold when they watch a film. I love all kinds of films from horror (“The Shining,” “The Exorcist”) to romance (“True Romance,” “Love, Actually”) to action (“Bad Boys 2,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “The Matrix”) to films that don’t fit in to exact genres like “Pulp Fiction,” From those titles you can tell that R-Rated material doesn’t bother me. If it serves the story or it’s done it in an entertaining way, I’m all for it. The films listed above are some of my favorite movies of all time.
Sometimes though, a film goes to a place that is beyond disturbing. It takes you somewhere you haven’t thought of before and just leaves a nasty feeling in your head when you leave the movie. That’s what “Don’t Breathe” did for me. There is one particular scene with Stephen Lang that took the film to a different level. It actually left the entertainment area and entered an area of repulsiveness. Listen, I’ve seen some horrifying scenes in movies but this one is up there. Now, does that make the movie bad? No. I recognize that as an unfair way to judge a film as a review. It just reached a level that I found uncomfortable. This also happened to me when I watched the film “Irreversible” and “The Human Centipede.” Look at the “Saw” films, for example. Horrifying torture porn but it served the storyline enough that it didn’t just shock out of nowhere.
“Don’t Breathe” comes from director, Fede Alvarez. I absolutely LOVED his “Evil Dead” remake and I think he’s a visionary horror filmmaker. This film shows his true talents with an original story. Sam Raimi, who directed the original “Evil Dead” trilogy, served as a producer on “Don’t Breathe.” Raimi’s “Evil Dead” is a perfect example of a film that combines horror and comedy. It keeps a consistent tone, scaring you, making you laugh and grossing you out. Alvarez’s “Evil Dead” was just a brutally relentless horror film which is great because it took the series in a new direction and added to the classic nature of Raimi’s brilliant trilogy. While that film was extremely brutal, it served the purpose of the story.
The story line for “Don’t Breathe” is simple. It follows a group of three friends that break in to a blind man’s house to potentially steal $300,000. The blind man, played by Stephen Lang, is a war veteran whose daughter was killed in a car accident. This resulted in the large sum of money he possibly keeps in his house. The three friends, who are played by Jane Levy (“Evil Dead”), Dylan Minnette (“Goosebumps”) and Daniel Zovatto (“It Follows”), want to start a new life and think this house could be their jackpot. Well, this turns out to be their worst nightmare as this blind man terrorizes them throughout the film.
The performances are fantastic. Lang really became this character. He’s beyond terrifying and commands such a dark presence. Jane Levy, who was phenomenal in “Evil Dead,” gives such an interesting level of emotion to a character in such a short period of time. Right as she enters the screen, you feel her sadness and the life she is living. She’s so magnetic and she draws great performances from her co-stars.
The film is masterfully shot. The cinematography from the overview shots to the brilliant use of the classic “Vertigo” shots all serve an intense purpose. The movie builds extremely well and earns every single one it’s scares. I generally don’t like jump scares because they feel manipulative to the audience but there is one in this film that worked so well. It involves a dog and that’s all I will say.
The movie just keeps pushing and pushing. While it only runs 88 minutes, the terror for these three friends never seems to end. When you think the movie is over and everyone is safe, you are 100% wrong. That’s all towards the positive quality of the filmmaking.
Like I said, it’s a great horror film. Though, I will never watch it again. I know that sounds like a leasable headline that makes you want to watch the movie but that’s just how I felt. It’s hard to explain because I saw so much greatness in the movie and I really don’t have any issues with it’s filmmaking. I’m giving the film a 4/5. I’m very curious to see what you think.
Please email me at Kevin.McCarthy@foxtv.com with your thoughts. Did that one scene take you out of the film?
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