Horror-thon Day #10: Don’t Breathe

Day #10 of the horror-thon brings us to 2016’s Don’t Breathe, a home invasion psychological horror with some interesting (and gross) twists and turns. It’s an effective film, always keeping you on the edge of your seat and creating a strong feeling of tension with minimal dialogue, strong visuals and playing with your senses.

The film follows a group of young adults who make money on the side by robbing houses. This seems to go well for them for the most part. So much so that they’re kind of overconfident in their skills. We have ‘Money’ the leader who is an arrogant tit, Alex who is probably the most likeable member of the team (and ironically trying to pay for law school and/or run away) and finally we have Rocky, a young woman determined to take her sister away from their abusive household so that they can have a better life.

These are not good characters. We’re not told that they are either, whilst we’re given some redeeming qualities for Alex and Rocky to endear them to us (Alex is in love with Rocky and Rocky just wants to give her sister better circumstances), they’re presented initially as the bad guys of the film.

Especially when Money decides that they should rob the house of a blind man whom he believes has a stash of around $300k – more than enough for them to quit their robbing ways. With Alex’s father working for a security company and the Blind Man (Stephen Lang) being covered, they have a convenient in with a key (nicked from Alex’s dad’s bureau drawer). Whilst entry to the house seems to go well (including the drugging of a very good doggo who is just doing his best to keep his home safe), it all goes wrong when Money decides to shoot the lock off a door, waking the house’s inhabitant.

The cast here is absolutely fantastic. They all play their parts incredibly well, with particular mention going to Stephen Lang as the Blind Man and Jane Levy as Rocky. Their performances were strong, believable and they were able to play these morally dubious characters with balance – highlighting their strengths and weaknesses and giving them complexity.

The Blind Man is initially presented to us as the victim – these people are breaking into his house and trying to steal his money after all, but as the group try and escape they stumble upon something sinister being kept in the basement, giving us a much more rounded, darker character than we initially believe. Rocky is a great character, she’s so determined to better her life that there’s nothing she won’t do to get the money, but when it comes to walking away from what’s in the basement, she just can’t, endangering them all. Levy gives Rocky a vulnerability which is delightful – its all there behind the eyes. Though she’s an upfront fighter with a strong sense of retribution, she’s scared of losing her chance at freedom. The whole cast were wonderful, but Lang and Levy were really the highlights for me.

Now the cinematography on this film is gorgeous.

Primarily set in one location, the Blind Man’s house, we’re given a cramped, claustrophobic feel the whole time the characters are trying to navigate their way out. Each time they hide, they’re forced into a corner, or forced to be so still and not to breathe that its stifling. Rocky in particular has to suffer this horrible constriction throughout – from travelling through air vents to being trapped in cars and a rather horrific moment in the basement – it’s presented to us as her personal struggle about the ties that bind her to her current life and symbolic of her desire to escape – unnoticed.

We’re given a feast for the senses in Don’t Breathe. As our main antagonist is blind, he touches things, he smells them and relies on his hearing so much more. As such, when he’s around, there’s no score, really emphasising how what he hears can affect the outcome of the characters and really invokes a heart pounding sensation inside the audience. There’s a brilliant moment when he evens the playing field by shutting off the lights, triggering a heart racing sequence that was incredibly effective. The colours are dull, save for Rocky’s red backpack which contains the money they’ve stolen – anchoring it as what she considers worth dying for. We’re given lush green plants, but only in the basement, representing new life because of…well. Watch the film.

I honestly don’t want to ruin it for you because if you haven’t seen it, then it’s a reveal that genuinely changes the entire direction of the film.

I had a great time with this and although I wanted to punch the characters at several points for being so fucking stupid, it was a thrill to watch and I’d certainly do so again – icky parts and all.

Next up will be The Girl With All The Gifts.

See you guys soon!

Rating: 9 out of 10.

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