By: Brett Slaughenhaupt – Movie Columnist
“Don’t Breathe” brings fresh air to the recent onslaught of films, opting for the low budget realism, high quality experience this summer has been missing. The film gives only 88 minutes to the conflict, no time is wasted with just the right amount of backstory given to clue the audience in on the characters. Performances are pitch perfect, which will leave you with an uneasy stomach and sore fingers from clenching the armrests.
Let me just say that I love horror films. I grew up with the classics (Kubrick, Craven, Carpenter, Hooper) and have experienced the newest, goriest releases (Saw, Evil Dead, Scre4m). I was still wholly unprepared for the relentlessly suspenseful ride this film put its audience through.
Three teens/young adults, in a ruse to get enough money to move from the fallen city of Detroit to California: the land of possibilities. They break into a blind veteran’s house and rob him of his money. Unsurprisingly, things do not go well. The characters are subjected to a multitude of impossible tasks (hiding from a blind man, making their way blindly through his basement, not getting impregnated, etc.) and the whole time it feels like the audience is right there with them. The directorial choices are seamless; the experience becomes more and more visceral from the moment they enter the house until the very end of the film. No comic relief, no ease of tension, no chance to breathe.
The film is artless in its procedure, and that is its biggest strength. The music and sound effect-usage is minimal but effective when it does manifest. A scene near the beginning of the break-in treats us to an interesting one-shot winding through the house. Other than that small instance, the audience is never given anything to distract itself from the horrors on screen as the characters remain centered on the screen as they fight for their lives, it becomes so hypnotic and horrific. Every bump, bruise, scratch they feel? The audience feels it, too.
This film probably won’t win any awards, but that does not mean it is not perfect at what it aims to do. I wouldn’t be surprised to find this on many end-of-year best lists, nor would I be to see this join the ranks of other great horror films.