Don’t Breathe review: by Rob Stoakes
UK certification: 15
If there’s one thing that the horror genre teaches us, it’s that disabled people are more evil than the hypothetical lovechild of Ernst Blofeld, Skeletor and an angler fish. Deliverance, Saw VI, Don’t Look Now, all of these films teach us that the disabled are to be feared and distrusted. When they aren’t asking you for help up the stairs, they’re stabbing you to death. Trick R Treat is the only time the disabled are at all treat sympathetically, and that’s only the one, and the rest of them turn into autistic murder zombies, which incidentally is also the name of my university black metal band.
Now horror seeks to warn us of the dangers of seventy year old blind war veterans. One such man loses his daughter in a car accident and got a $300,000 settlement out of it, and now three young doofuses of varying degrees of callousness decide to steal it from him. Of course, the doofuses are the good guys in this motion picture.
Just in case you’re thinking that a film were a blind man uses his doctorate in badassery to hit ASBOs with a hammer can’t be that scary, then buy your best pair of brown trousers before watching this because it’s running ahead of the rest of its horror peers like a rage-virus infected Usain Bolt, and while not precisely a modern horror classic, Don’t Breathe is the breath of fresh air (pun entirely intended) that the genre has needed for a while now.
For one, it’s a horror that actually has suspense. Most other horror films are like children, so eager to show you their nice pictures of scraggly homeless people, that they jump at you and shove their horror in your face begging for approval, despite how laughable the creation is and how stupid children are. You can tell I’m a wonderful teacher. But Don’t Breathe exercises restraint, taking a long time to build each scare and only occasionally using jump scares to release tension.
The scares themselves are very well controlled, too. The film is, at heart, one long game of tig were being ‘it’ means being shot, and so the first act ends with one long travelling shot throughout the home, showing the audience exactly what is where and in which room. It sets up a lot of nerve-wracking scenes where the baddy knows where the goodies are, the audience knows where they are but, most important, the goodies don’t know, so you start screaming “it’s behind you!” at the screen like a demented pantomime crowd, and occasionally Madame Twinky runs in and hacks at someone’s neck with a crowbar. Or maybe I saw the wrong film.
And now to make sure the filmmakers don’t get complacent I’m going to kick this film for its stupider moments. Besides the blind man the characters can best be summed up as “the wimp who hasn’t hit puberty yet”, “the berk so thunderously stupid that you’re happy when he inevitably dies” and “the one with boobies”, and the Fatal Attraction style ‘dead monster gets back up’ trick is pulled so many times that by the film’s end it’s really the characters’ fault for being surprised. Either they’re so weak they can’t break bread with a sledgehammer or this actually some messed-up Wolverine sequel.
I’ve gone big discussing the scary bits of the film and not mentioned much of everything else, but that’s how long it’s been since a modern spooky film actually got to me. And every other element is just good enough to serve the spookiness, such as the great sound design, the at-worst-meh acting, the claustrophobic cinematography, while not getting in the way. Horror enthusiasts everywhere, hunt this film down where you can.
Budget: $9.9 million/Music: Roque Baños/Running Time: 88 minutes