Remember to Breathe During Don't Breathe
What is Don’t Breathe? Is it a horror film? Is it an action film? A suspense thriller? Well, in short, it’s all of them. It’s an amalgamation of subgenres that bends the reality you’re viewing. Let me elaborate a little more on that so it doesn’t sound like an empty premise. Don’t Breathe takes itself very seriously, probably more serious than it has any right to, and that makes it a frightening and uncomfortable journey to sit through, in a very powerful way. The film, like its premise, quietly snuck up on most people and took theaters by surprise. Don’t Breathe has some very deep-seated issues that need to be acknowledged and it wants its viewers to understand that it isn’t just one premise that makes up the film, it’s a couple.
The city feels post-apocalyptic and eerie; a very rough combination of what Detroit truly is in most places.
The setting of Don’t Breathe needs to be discussed. It takes the broken down, industrial tundra of Detroit and turns it into a character on its own. The environment of the nearly desolate Detroit city wasteland plays as much a part in the film as the characters do. In fact, it’s one of the main reasons the characters have resorted to robbing from families. The city feels post-apocalyptic and eerie; a very rough combination of what Detroit truly is in most places. The best way to describe the scenery and the environment of the film as a whole is creepy. Everything that thrives in Don’t Breathe is just damn creepy.
Our characters are real, they’re average, they’re normal. There’s nothing overtly scripted about their lives or personalities. They feel like people you’ve met before, not read before, and that’s a very important distinction to have in a film like this. There’s a strange documentary style to the film. I don’t mean in how it’s shot; I just mean in how its acted. The realism within these characters, the environment, and motive is palpable. The film flows so well I found myself wiping at my brow in anticipation of sweat trickling from my forehead. You are in the house with the characters, you’re in the trenches while they fight to survive. You are a part of this crew and you absolutely do not want to be.
They [our characters] feel like people you’ve met before, not read before, and that’s a very important distinction to have in a film like this.
Our two lead protagonists are fundamentally good. They’ve been stuck in a terrible situation with Detroit and just want to get out. Even the somewhat annoying boyfriend of our lead, Rocky, played by Jane Levy, is deep down a good guy. All he wants to do is take her away from this city and start a fresh life for her and her daughter. They all have redeeming qualities that don’t feel too preachy or condescending. Again, they feel real. Throughout the film I really did find myself audibly rooting for them to make it out of the house they were trapped in. I don’t know if I can recall the last time I was so involved in a storyline to feel like I was actually watching the Yankees trying to clinch the pennant.
When it comes to our antagonist, portrayed absolutely beautifully by Stephen Lang, you will squirm. You will wriggle and fight. You will feel a discomfort like you’ve never felt before. You will want to leave your seat and run outside to breathe in some fresh air. You will feel and want all these things but you won’t move. Lang’s performance will keep you in a dirty trance while a strange unwarranted guilt rinses over your skin. He’s just that powerful. The character, credited only as The Blind Man, is a villain for the books. He’s one to go down in history.
Lang’s performance will keep you in a dirty trance while a strange unwarranted guilt rinses over your skin.
Fede Alvarez, the director of the film, has found a way to encapsulate a whole lot of genres into an 88-minute run time. Don’t Breathe paces itself gracefully, keeping you from steadying your breath at every given moment. There’s never time to sit and recuperate from what you just saw or truly give you a moment to understand the severity of the situation. Moment after moment, scene after scene, Don’t Breathe will have your chest pounding and hopefully you’ll love every second of it.
What Don’t Breathe will do to you may resemble some form of PTSD. Sometimes I sit up at night still thinking about this movie as a whole, still thinking about the levels of emotion it forced out of me. Fede Alvarez accomplished something highly unique with Don’t Breathe, something that feels new and refreshing, no pun intended. This movie will sit with you for a long time, it’ll have you second guessing its every motive, its every turn, jump, or twist. It will have your heart racing and your eyes chasing. Don’t Breathe is something to experience, in more ways than one.