“There is nothing a man cannot do once he accepts the fact that there is no god”
After a series of horror shorts, director Fede Alvarez was finally given his big break into feature length filmmaking by being tasked with reworking the cult classic horror Evil Dead. This also brought the backing of the original film’s director and star, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell who took producer duties. It was a huge task for Alvarez to undertake and although it worked for some, it happened to be one of the worst films I had the misfortune to see in 2013. With Don’t Breathe, however, Alvarez has managed to claw back some respect.
Plot: A trio of teens, who make money breaking into people’s homes, target the residence of an old blind man (Stephen Lang). The blind man isn’t as helpless as he seems, though, and what should have been an easy job turns out to be fight for survival.
The premise of Don’t Breathe is a simple one. And sometimes simple is best. Alvarez seems to be aware that all he has to do is set the scene and then let the thrills flow. And for the first half of the film, he does just that. This really is edge of your seat stuff and provides several moments where you take the title of the film quite literally. He doesn’t waste any time in getting down to the nitty gritty and employs an effective fast pace that keeps the tension flowing with ease. This, in turn, lends the film a genuine unpredictability and makes for hugely enjoyable and claustrophobic entertainment.
However, it stretches credulity past the halfway mark and veers off into territory that almost undoes the great build-up work. What was a solid cat-and-mouse thriller, soon descends into macabre and garish horror. Needless to say, it also abandons its tight and simplistic narrative at this point and chooses, instead, to focus on ridiculous and overly convenient plot points. There’s a distinct feeling that the well ran dry and Alvarez had no idea how to bring it to a satisfactory end. That said, it’s well shot and Alvarez certainly handles the set-pieces very well.
Although it’s been marketed as a horror – and it does have elements of this – it’s more of a suspenseful thriller that’s brushed past some horror tropes. If you can forgive the latter half’s incongruous absurdity, then there’s much to recommend it.
Trivia: Stephen Lang wore contact lenses that greatly restricted his vision, particularly in low light. The other actors, in the scene taking place in the dark, wore lenses that made them look like they had dilated pupils but also greatly restricted their vision.