There’s been a recent trend in horror films to make the protagonists incredibly unlikable so that we will them to be killed. While this could be potentially a clever way to make us think over why we enjoy these types of movies, it’s instead just the filmmakers not wanting to feel guilt for having teenagers get their heads chopped off. It also makes films incredibly unscary as if we don’t want to the characters to pull through and survive, you aren’t going to be scared if there’s a monster nearby that wants to finish them off. Don’t Breathe seems to be another one of these sort of horror films, but can it be better than the rest of its ilk?
A trio of young adults named Rocky (Jane Levy, Evil Dead), Alex (Dylan Minnette, Prisoners) and Money (Daniel Zovatto, It Follows) all make their money by robbing homes. However they discover a house that has £300,000 in it and believe it could be one final heist for them. However when inside, they encounter a blind man (Stephen Lang, Avatar) who plans to kill them all for entering his house.
So it seems from first glance, this is just another horror film where we are meant to enjoy the protagonists getting killed by the villain. Robbers Vs Blind Man, it seems like it should be easy to pick a team. But the film makers are clever by making the characters a bit different from what you’d expect. Rocky may be a robber but she isn’t just doing it for greed, she is trying to get her sister Diddy, (Emma Bercovici, First Feature Film) a very bad child actor performance by the way, away from her abusive mother. Yes that’s clichéd, but it works here. And the blind man isn’t just some innocent fella, he’s got his own dark secrets which show that he perhaps deserves this. It marks the film out as different from the tired horror films we’ve had for a long time.
It’s also a cool twist on the home invasion genre. The idea of villains coming into your house to kill has been done so much there’s already a few cool inversions on it, thinking of You’re Next here, but to have the invaders as the one who end up being terrified and at risk of dying is a cool little twist. I’m sure it’s been done before, heck you could argue Home Alone is one, but this twist does make things a bit more fresh and a bit more enjoyable. The battle here is to get out of the house alive and maybe even with the money they came for, hey a bit of moral question ability I like that, and it makes for a fun film.
Of course our prototype ‘monster’ must be talked about and that is the Blind Man. He is a stereotypical blind man as while the film doesn’t say it, it’s obvious that this is a take on the sort of/maybe true myth of being blind enhances all your other senses. And yeah, that’s incredibly cool. It means that to begin with, the protagonists are a bit cocky and think it’ll be easy before realising what they have got themselves into. And its a credit to the presence that Lang brings to this role that he is threatening even when he doesn’t have the advantage. And then the film has all the fun it can have with this concept which ramps up the tension and horror.
However while this film does dole out the scares, most notably one ripped straight out of The Lost World: Jurassic Park and another when the lights go out, I don’t think it has enough. I feel this may be down to a mixture of high expectations and personal preference, but I was never on the edge of my seat enough. I feel very cruel saying this because there’s a lot here I should like, there’s decent build up and very few jump scares other though I hate the cheap one towards the beginning, and it’s stuff I want to see more of in horror films, it just didn’t connect with me this time for parts of the movie. That said, there is still some very effective stuff.
The last ten minutes are also a drop in quality. With this film only being 88 minutes long, you get the feeling that the director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) originally produced a film that was too short and needed some more material so instead of messing with the pace by adding to earlier scenes, just put in this unnecessary segment. This part adds nothing new to the film, no cool twists and no twists on the stuff they’ve already given us. Just a repeat of what we’ve seen before. I understand why this stuff exists, I just don’t like it.
I’m getting a bit down on Don’t Breathe here and that’s very unfair as it’s a very good horror film. In a year that has also given us the delightfully terrifying The Witch and Lights Out, this film stands as another very good example that the genre is at last making a comeback and that new classics are starting to be made. In fact, the only thing more scary than 2016’s horror films has been 2016 itself.