Movie Review: Don’t Breathe

Don’t Breathe is an engrossing thriller filled with relentless peril that will have you holding your breath, but what started as a clever idea is marred by lazy writing.

A trio of friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.

The enjoyable thrillers of 2016 has proven that less is sometimes more. The Green Room, Midnight Special and – if you have low expectations – The Shallows, all operate on simple plot structures.

Don’t Breathe uses the same approach with an interesting twist – the hunter becomes the hunted.

The plot becomes a suspenseful cat and mouse game that subverts the typical horror trope of monsters chasing their victims with no exit in sight. Here, the predator only needs to wait and let the prey come within the reach. This clever idea enables the movie to sustain relentless peril.

Lighting, camerawork and score creates a sense of claustrophobic dread and immerses the audience into the blind man’s world. When the thieves turned victims stumble around in the dark, there’s a perceptible feeling that you are stumbling along with them.

The cast delivers a good performance in inducing empathy from the audience. Despite their thin characterizations, you will be curious if they can manage to escape.

Unfortunately though, Don’t Breathe eventually succumbs to lazy writing which includes using rape as a plot device and shock value.

While it’s expected for horror movies to have nifty contrivances, the premise of Don’t Breathe is plausible, too real in fact. So when you have three characters that are conveniently shaped for the narrative, the suspension of belief cracks. Rocky has enough motivation even though her white trash background is stereotypical. But next to an over the top faux gangster (who’ll eventually do something stupid) and a kid from what looks like a normal household (who has the keys), it’s unclear why they’re friends.

Instead of using its smart set-up to have a showdown that could potentially challenge our perspective on morality, Don’t Breathe pulls a GOT and jumps the shark with a twist that involves a sadly too common trope. The revelation has no build-up whatsoever and appears out of nowhere. Women in this film are either possessions or destroys people’s lives.

In the end, whatever clever conceit it had in the first half is tainted by a gross attempt to raise the stakes. Don’t Breathe does offer genuine thrills but looses its footing towards the end as it wastes a clever premise to rely on a lazy trope that’s unnecessary in the first place.

My Rating: 7/10

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