The spirit of 1967 nail-biter Wait Until Dark lingers in Don’t Breathe, one of the surprise horror hits of the year. To be honest it isn’t as amazing as some reviews have made out, but director Fede Alvarez nonetheless has crafted an efficiently tense piece of genre filmmaking.
Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are three thieves breaking into various homes with keys stolen by Alex, whose unsuspecting father has sold security systems to the homes they break into. Upon learning of a potentially big score with an old blind man (Stephen Lang) living in a run-down area of Detroit, they decide to risk breaking in whilst he is still asleep. However, they get considerably more than they bargained for when the old man turns out to be a much more formidable opponent than expected.
Performances are good, particularly from Lang whose menacing physical presence really amps up the sense of threat. The often brutally violent games of cat and mouse that ensue are well staged by Alvarez, who references the afore-mentioned Wait Until Dark in a sequence where the thieves are plunged into darkness in a basement whilst the blind man stalks them. Speaking of violence, it’s worth adding warnings for that, as well as swearing and a rather distasteful, disturbing plot turn in the final act that will have many in the audience squirming.
I can’t say I particularly cared about the protagonists, despite the screenplay assigning Rocky a background involving a little sister designed to get the viewer on her side. That said, on the whole Don’t Breathe is a well-crafted bit of suspense that delivers the goods. Just don’t expect anything radical, or expect it to be as good as Wait Until Dark.