I want to begin with a warning to would-be viewers. This is a minor spoiler, but I will word it in a way that does not give anything away. If you are sensitive about media that features horrible acts against women, avoid Don’t Breathe like the plague. It takes a lot to make me uncomfortable because I am used to extremes in what I watch. This does not scare me, this makes me think, and this makes me laugh. However, when a movie involves unpleasant things happening to women (and animals), implied or otherwise I cannot stand it. It is simply uncomfortable and I had to take a shower after I got home. With that said, was Breathe exceptional horror film or total garbage?
In an attempt to escape the desolation of Detroit Rocky, played by Jane Levy, and her fellow burglars break into the home of Blind Man, played by Stephen Lang, following a tip that he has a hefty sum of cash. After they infiltrate the residence, they find robbing the blind is more dangerous than they thought.
While I have a problem with the aforementioned subject matter, it uses it to enhance the horror. You are supposed to be scared or have an adverse reaction. To creep people out you must consider all the variables of audio and visual media. A big part is subject and Breathe shook me like It Follows from last year. In that way it succeeds where contemporary horror completely fails.
Breathe is also technically very well put together in the sound department. Except for some sparse orchestra stings, the scares are indicated by environmental noise like loud footsteps, doors, and general banging. Sound is also important to the story where our “heroes” must stay quiet or they will be discovered. The use of silence works in tandem by building up the tension of the situation for some intense moments throughout.
Another point to consider is the morally ambiguous characters. Everyone has a very personal reason for doing what they do. How you see said reasons is up to you, but they come from a sympathetic place. The characters’ actions, however, create a strong negative alignment. It is difficult to really care about their problems when they are doing bad things selfishly. Then you have to question if any of them are worth caring about.
Lang is the best part by far. I have no idea why he is not in more movies or bigger ones for that matter. He has a screen presence personified by badass like an old fashion action lead. Here he takes on qualities of a predator hunting trespassers in his territory, using his body language and other senses to track down them down. He sniffs aloud and touches things like one of the creatures from The Descent and it was great.
Don’t Breathe is not a revelation in terms of contemporary horror, but it has a cool premise that uses theme and technique appropriately. Give it a look if you are a fan of the genre and have been yearning for something watchable. Before you do so, please consider the content involving women. If you are shaken as easily as I am, stay home and watch It Follows.