By Darin Skaggs
The term “cheap thrills” is mostly viewed as a negative connotation. When referring to cheap thrill movies it is just something to watch, maybe find some pleasure out of the film and then move on to bigger and better things. There are horror movies like that from this year like Lights Out and The Boy which were mostly forgettable, but not all horror films apply. Fede Alvarez’s Don’t Breathe is a wild ride of intense moments and pure adrenaline that may not be compared to hauntingly beautiful, could be pretentious horror piece The Witch, but will become an underrated gem that horror fans will be sharing with one another for years to come.
In Don’t Breathe three hoodlums Money (Daniel Zovatto), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Rocky (Jane Levy) go around breaking into people’s houses, robbing them and selling the stuff for profit. They do this with the help of Alex, whose father runs a security company, so they have access to all the keys and knowledge of how the system works. They are in need of a big raid, so they can run away from their not-so-fabulous home life. The three set their sights to a blind ex-war vet’s house that apparently got a huge settlement when his daughter was hit and killed by a car. When they get there they find themselves in over their heads as the blind man is more skilled then they could ever imagine.
Like I said the man (Stephen Lang) is blind, so sound design is important and luckily it is fairly well done. Before they (attempt) to plant a chloroform bomb in his bedroom they keep extra quiet. To most horror fans we expect a jump scare with a loud noise in the score to make you jump more. There is nothing like that here. The scares come from the fact that the man has snuck up on them and has seemingly appeared out of nowhere. The blind man is a fascinating villain, at first we think he is just really good at what he does, but like some horror movies he becomes a monster that cannot be stopped. He is surely the early versions of a Michael Meyers type bad guy with a stellar performance from Lang.
In fact everyone in the film gives a great performance. Money is the most over the top character, which is probably why he is killed off so early to have the rest of the film focus on the more down to earth characters. Both of the clashing parties are bad people, Lang’s character is revealed to be much worse later on in the movie, but at first you are excited when either the kids or man get the upper hand. Near the middle of the film the lights are shut off. Our heroes are lost in a scene that is shot well. Lang however is moving quickly, touching familiar items like a fan and the top of a walkway. There Alvarez proves he knows exactly where he is as the kids wander aimlessly. The movie is filled with crazy, adrenaline filling scenes that just get crazier and crazier as they go on.
The cheap thrill aspect of this film is evident throughout, at some points some scenes are near the point of pure silliness. You have to give in to the fact that some stuff in this movie makes little logical sense. You might be asking after leaving this movie “Why didn’t this character just do this instead?” And yet, they are committed scenes and are done really well and therefor, all work. If this film has anything important to say, it is all said in the “big” scene. When you see the movie and obviously you should, you will know which one I am talking about. Near the end of the film, it becomes a rough, insane rape revenge tale. Hiding inside this crazy thriller is a dark statement on what constitutes as rape, from the monster like qualities from the assaulter and the ignorance of the prosecutors. Then after a triumphant escape from that situation the movie goes in to full monster movie mode. Don’t Breathe is a fun thriller and a great horror movie that any fan of the genre should see.