“Don’t Breathe” served as a breath of fresh air

Jack Johnson is a columnist for the College Heights Herald.

Jack Johnson

Horror films are hard to get right. They have to walk the line between the terrifying, and the believable. As a child, I remember thinking that things were intrinsically scarier when you could not easily see them; when you could not easily relate to them. Or, maybe you could, and that is the part that is meant to unnerve you.

Fede Alvarez’s “Don’t Breathe” takes note of this fact, but in a different sort of way. While most horror/thriller films take time to make the audience sympathize with the protagonists of a story, “Don’t Breathe” follows a more gray route; at least, for most of the story.

The film stars Jane Levy as Rocky, one third of a band of petty thieves living in Detroit just trying to get by. Rocky is joined alongside by Money, the leader of the group played by Daniel Zovatto, and Alex, played by Dylan Minnette.

The film opens with the trio’s latest operation –– stealing jewelry and other valuables, but never money for some reason. Money receives a tip that a Blind Man living nearby has been sitting on $300,000 as part of a legal settlement.

So begins our film. The following night, the three break into the Blind Man’s house, predictably being loud. Isn’t it common knowledge that basically all blind folk have super-hearing? Come on, guys. Anyway, this earns them an “F” on the quiet test, because the old man wakes up and realizes there are intruders –– specifically, Money.

Alas, poor Money, we knew him, a fellow of infinite dumb. After taking him out, the Blind Man boards up the back door, locking the remaining thieves in his home. The thrill ensues.

Let me just say this about the film –– it’s a whole package. Everything seems to play a role in the grand scheme of “Don’t Breathe.” The little details are littered everywhere. Early on, before the Blind Man is aware of the intruders, there’s a shot that follows one of the protagonists, they duck, and the scene is left to focus on a hammer in the middle of a tool rack.

As I was watching, I knew that hammer would be getting some serious action later on in the movie, and I was right. It did, in fact, get some serious action. Little details like this make this film unique –– everything the audience is shown has a purpose for being there.

I won’t forget to mention Stephen Lang as the Blind Man, either –– this guy is terrifying. To say that he is the focusing presence of the film is an understatement.

Altogether, his character has less than fifteen lines in the whole movie, but every one of them stick out. Another facet to this movie is the break from tradition –– usually, the horror movie trope is as follows: intruders break into house, the person living in the house is the victim.

“Don’t Breathe” flips this on its head; the intruders quickly become the hunted in this flick. It’s nuts to think that this movie made me legitimately fear for characters I had such little care for, especially when their primary threat is an old blind man.

“Don’t Breathe” is a good thriller. It’s nice to see a refreshing, organic horror film come out that doesn’t muddle itself with spooky dolls or found-footage ghosts. It does make me a little warier of Stevie Wonder, though.