Half lit hallways and gloomy basements are standard backdrops for spooky stories. “Don’t Breathe” makes good use of them, playing on our primal fear of the dark in a topsy turvy home invasion story that sees the invaders terrorized by the man who was meant to be their victim.
Set in Detroit, the movie follows Alex (Dylan Minnette), Rocky (Jane Levy) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) as they hatch a plan to rob the house of a blind military vet (Stephen Lang). “I got our ticket outta here,” says Money. “Rumour is, this guy is sitting on at least three hundred K.” Their goal is to grab the stack of cash The Blind Man won in a wrongful death settlement when his only child was killed and hightail it to California to start new lives. Despite Alex’s reservations—“It’s pretty messed up to rob a blind guy, isnt’ it?”—the trio go to the man’s house on an abandoned block of the city’s downtown, drug the guard dog and search for the money. Their easy score proves elusive when their victim turns the table, and hunts them in the dark.
“Don’t Breathe” presents a conundrum. Who do you root for the bad people who broke into the house or the bad man who lives in the house? Either way, one thing is clear, you don’t need to be afraid of the dark, you need to be afraid of what’s in the dark. “Evil Dead” rebooter Fede Alvarez combines the primal scares that come along with claustrophobic, dark spaces with a weird anxiety inducing soundtrack a slow building sense a=of dread and some of the best bug-eyed acting I’ve seen in a horror film in some time to create a down-‘n-dirty horror flick.
From Lang sniffing, as though tracking his prey through scent to Levy’s large expressive eyes to the prerequisite gore—although the film gets more violent than clever near the end—“Don’t Breathe” is suspenseful and unpredictable, just like whatever is out there hiding in the dark.