Director Fede Alvarez's film "Don't Breathe" is a skilfully crafted psychotic drama that gives you an immersive theatrical experience of a horror thriller with nail-biting suspense, gore and immorality.
It is a simple story of a burglary going awry.
The narrative follows three amateur burglars, Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto), who after a series of small thefts, decide to hit it big by committing burglary in the house of a recluse old blind man (Stephen Lang), who they believe has a stack full of cash which he received from the insurance company after he lost his daughter in an accident.
Unfortunately for Rocky, Money and Alex, they bite off more than they bargained for as they fall prey to their victim, who has secrets of his own.
The man is more than they anticipated: A war veteran, blinded in combat, who despite his blindness was well-tuned to his surroundings and could take care of himself and his belongings during the gravest of situations.
It is how the tables get turned where the hunter becomes the hunted and the Blind Man pursues his intruders without mercy, forms the crux of the narrative.
With minimalistic dialogues, the major strength of the film lies in its plot and camera work. The story is very tight and compact as we see a large chunk of the narrative take place within the small house in a sparsely populated area of the town.
The film does have its share of unanswered questions, which can be overlooked.
Despite the narrative bookends with a gruesome scene of a man dragging a girl by her hair, the plot is tense without having to lower itself to gimmicks of the horror tropes. The different shades of morality and purpose among the four characters give them more depth than most jump-scare horror films.
The characters are developed through the small scenes of exposition as well as their actions. And, as the story progresses, despite the old man's handicap, you actually root and worry, for the burglars. The drama is tightly woven, intensely pulsating and gory in parts that you get the feeling of claustrophobia and you experience your pressure rising almost throughout the film. You also hope the film winds up fast.
The actors are all natural and sincere in their performances that make the film look authentic. Their anticipation along with their mounting anxiety and fear are all immensely palpable. But it is Stephen Lang, who stands out as the terrifying Blind Man. He adds suspense and terror to the film that you can't cast your eyes off the screen.
The film is visually stimulating as it moves at a dramatic pace. Cinematographer Pedro Luque's manipulative camera work shifts from one point of view to the next, giving the appearance that most of the film is one continuous, seamless long take. Also the scene which involves night vision is so expertly executed that you will be on the edge of your seat throughout the scene.
The background score along with the bouts of silences, elevates the viewing experience.
Overall the film succeeds in offering something special and original. And, Fede Alvarez is a director to watch out for.