Don’t Breathe

Cinemaster Score: 8.5/10

Overall Review

Don’t Breathe is a great horror film in many aspects. The acting is top tier – from the main protagonist and her friends, to the menacing villain whose very presence illicits fear. These characters are phenomenal and extremely likable, (save for one exception), and that’s mainly because of the excellent script driving this film. It asks questions about morality that most other horror films are too afraid to ask and as such Don’t Breathe is highly enjoyable. Its questions are interesting and the way the film presents them is both controversial and somewhat surreal. Director Fede Álvarez took what he learned from Evil Dead (2013) and used it to create a memorable horror film, unique in its concept and execution. Don’t Breathe is a well crafted film, with a long list of unforgettable situations, and a climax that is both brutal and entertaining. Each of these elements are beautifully balanced and perfectly paced, making for one of the most interesting movie experiences ever had. Don’t Breathe is not only a strong horror film, but also a movie that dares to ask its viewer about the complexities of morality.

The Breakdown

Acting; Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, and Stephen Lang make up the primary cast of characters. Each of them do excellent jobs in their respective roles, crafting in depth in characters who we both care for and hate. Stephen Lang as the main antagonist is perfect casting as he brings a menacing demeanor that amplifies his presence greatly. He plays a blind man and does so with great skill as to make the performance very believable. Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette in particular are stellar in this film. While playing characters that aren’t good-natured at all, they still manage to make us root for them throughout their situation. The remainder of the cast have relatively small roles that do little to impact the majority of the film. Nonetheless, each actor does well with the material they were given and create memorable characters who are both relatable and consistently entertaining.

Script; Despite this movie’s title, the dialogue within Don’t Breathe is one of its best parts. In Don’t Breathe, the first act has a script that gives our characters life. Since the story isn’t concerned about showing their origins and what the main cast is like, the writing must tell us. The characters argue and interact even early into the runtime in ways that make you subconsciously decide who you do and don’t care for. The writing behind Don’t Breathe is, really, like an intricate piece of art. Writing like this is hard to come by and the script here is key to the movie’s success. It goes way beyond just building characters and their backgrounds, though. It reveals the biggest story twists and even gives you an ethical question of who the real antagonist is. Don’t Breathe surely is a great flick, thanks in large part to the written aspect.

Characters; The characters in Don’t Breathe are very complex and intriguing. For example, the main “protagonists” (Money, Alex, and Rocky) we should root for are literally invading a blind man’s home to rob him. Money is a classic jerk who is clearly supposed to be unlikable. Rocky (Money’s girlfriend) is better than him and easier to sympathize with. Then there’s Alex, who’s just a nice guy in a rough spot. All three together create a tense dynamic, especially when doing something so questionable and risky together. But don’t forget their victim, the blind man. He is a seemingly helpless man that turns out to have a darker reality and is much more than the protagonists had bargained for. All four of these characters have such conflicting and profound inner divisions that make the movie’s entirety so much better.

Direction; Fede Álvarez is best know for his work on the 2013 Evil Dead remake, which is definitely good. Don’t Breathe is his follow up feature, which surpasses his previous work in nearly every aspect. He leads the film’s actors through a claustrophobic thriller that never ceases to entertain and makes a horror movie monster that feels much too real. Álvarez takes the home invasion genre to a new level, crafting a memorable story around a unique concept and presenting it in an interesting way. He takes all the best horror elements of classics before it to make a smart, suspenseful film, filled with tense moments, and an unforgettable finale. In doing so, Álvarez has shown he is a capable director, and we hope to see more of him.

Story; The plot of Don’t Breathe revolves around a group of thieves who break into a man’s house expecting a big score, only to find a blind war veteran who doesn’t take kindly to uninvited guests. The story progressively gets more intense and complex as the film moves along, with elaborate twists and scenarios for the characters to experience. At first, the movie’s plot starts out slow – introducing us to the setting and those in it – until they reach the antagonist’s house. From then on, the movie doesn’t let up, with each moment leading seamlessly to the next. These moments lead to the film’s climax, which is a controversial one to say the least. Overall Don’t Breathe is a competent horror film with an intriguing plot full of tense situations and great characters.

Enjoyment; Don’t Breathe is similar to many horror movies in the sense that it isn’t so enjoyable. However, if you’re watching this genre it’s likely you expect to get some gruesome moments and dark tones. If that is to be true then Don’t Breathe is enjoyable, indeed. There aren’t so many characters to watch but those around feel real. The story altogether is a very compelling one, making it hard for viewers to look away. The tension built sits with the audience in nearly a palpable form. The twists catch you off-guard and keep you on the edge of your seat. Don’t Breathe is a very entertaining film, too. The action is put together in a way that doesn’t take from the rest of the flick, but doesn’t leave you desiring too much more. Not to forget this flick’s moments of pure absurdity, though. Don’t Breathe isn’t afraid to be brutal and almost surreal in the delivery of its more disturbing revelations – even a bit over the line at times. All-in-all, Don’t Breathe is enjoyable as far as horror movies go and is bound to blow away new viewers’ expectations.

Personal Review

David: “Personally, I think Don’t Breathe is a breath of fresh air in the horror genre. Its questions of morality make it all the more rewatchable for me and I love it every time. It’s acting may not be top-notch, but the story is an interesting one and it keeps me on the edge of my seat every time. However, you should beware of some scenes that may make you squeamish. Unless that is exactly what you were looking for.”

JP: “In my opinion, Don’t Breathe is a massively underrated film that deserves to be viewed by more people. It is an excellent tension builder, and one of my all time favorite horror films. At times, it may seem a little too over the top and may perhaps turn off some viewers – but that’s part of its charm. Watch this movie if you’re looking for a unique kind of horror film that never feels boring.”

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