Don’t Breathe, directed by Fede Alvarez, is an interesting one; on one hand this film surprised me with some of its twists, and it also engaged me with its simple concept. But on the other hand it left me rolling my eyes at some of the over-played plot devices and it also left me desperate for so much more from its characters. I’ll be intrigued to see how this film shapes up in my review – so let’s get on with it.
The story sees three teens, Rocky – played by Jane Levy – Alex – played by Dylan Minnette – and Money (yes that’s his name) – played by Daniel Zovatto – hatch a plan to break into the home of a former soldier who has been left blind by his time-serving and steal a large amount of cash that he is believed to have (I’ll let the film explain to where the money came from). However, what seems like an easy smash and grab turns into the worst night of these teenagers’ lives.
So the most interesting thing for me in ‘Don’t Breathe’ was how it simultaneously surprised me but also had me predicting some of the major plot points outcomes – that sounds weird I know, so let me try to break it down. Before going any further I want to say that I never saw the trailer for this film and so I didn’t have any pre-conceived ideas of how things might play out. So with that being said, ‘Don’t Breathe’ certainly through a couple of curve balls; moments that shocked me and more than perked my interest in how things proceeded. Just as I thought I had the overall thrust of the film figured out, it through something at me that I absolutely did not see coming – it was something that unsettled me to the core, and completely changed how I engaged with the film.
But then there were also moments that I called from a mile away; an attempted escape that I knew where it would lead, a plan that I could already see how it would fall apart. I was in this middle-space with the film where certain elements of the plot had me on-board and other elements that had me rolling my eyes. It was an interesting experience for sure.
Though what all of those curveballs ended up causing was a seesaw effect with my moral-compass. Just as I had picked a side and was settling in to see the other side hopefully lose, the film would flip the viewpoint on me; introduce something that completely altered how I looked at that side I had once supported. This was perhaps the greatest achievement of ‘Don’t Breathe’; to keep the audience second guessing themselves, to keep them in a state of unsurety when it came down to just who exactly was the worst person in this house – that was a level of engagement I was not expecting and I wholly loved it – no matter how disturbing it was.
But while the film had me morally engaged, it did not have me fully on-board with all of its characters. The three teenagers who decide to break into the house were so desperately in need of more development. We are given scraps, and these scraps are supposed to give us some sense of connection to them, and for me it didn’t work. Going into that house, I had no care for any of them. It’s only when the film introduces some of its more twisted revelations that I started to want to root for them. But that was quite a way into the film, which only served to harm my initial investment in ‘Don’t Breathe’. Meanwhile the blind owner of the house – played by Stephen Lang – had me fascinated in what made him tick. Simply through the time we spend running our way through is house (fort) I was able to get a good sense of who he was and what “unique” state of mind he was in.; not only a good performance, but also a character that was layered.
An interesting point I want to touch upon for ‘Don’t Breathe’ is the classification that people have been throwing around for the film: a horror film. Now if you asked: “Yes or No, is Don’t Breathe a horror film?” I’d have to answer by saying no. The film is certainly a thriller, one that will get your heart racing and also get a few jumps out of you – which as an aside, this film has one-or-two pretty cheap jump-scares and I personally find them to be tedious. Not because I’m a scaredy-cat but because there is a lack of thought or intelligence within them and I prefer ones that get me because the filmmaker made an effort. ‘Don’t Breathe isn’t burdened by them, I just would have preferred less of the cheap ones. But back to what I was saying; no the film isn’t a horror, but interestingly, it does employ some of the techniques that are usually found in modern horror films. Now these don’t dominate or direct the tone of the film, but they certainly do make up some of the underlying motivators in ‘Don’t Breathe’. I can kind of see why some people might see the film as a horror, but for me personally, it never gave off that vibe.
So I’m in an interesting mind-set with this film. On one hand it felt very similar to other films I’ve seen before, but then on the other hand it injected some really surprising and brain-engaging elements; one’s that really elevated my enjoyment of the film. But was it enough? I think when I weigh it all up; my overall experience with the film and what it left me thinking about… it was.
I’m going to recommend ‘Don’t Breathe’. While the film won’t give you anything that is overwhelmingly new or different, it does have something to it that makes it worth experiencing.
I’d be really interested to know what you thought of Don’t Breathe? Feel free to leave any thoughts or opinions down below. If you’d like to keep up-to-date on my other ramblings, perhaps either follow this blog directly, or follow me over on Twitter – @GavinsTurtle. Thank you for taking any of your time and dedicating it to reading this. It means so much!