There’s been a resurgence of quality horror/thriller films in recent years, despite the general quality of the film industry appearing to fade. Films like “The Witch,” “It Follows,” “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night” and “The Babadook” have all taken tradition horror themes and adapted with innovative storytelling, subsequently creating an atmosphere of modern horror that we haven’t seen much before.
Now that’s not to say that there aren’t still bad horror films out there, because there are many rotten eggs still floating around. The recent film “Rings” was so underwhelming I don’t even want to write a review for it (consider this my warning to stay away from it). I don’t normally love horror films as a whole, but even I have to admit there has been some quality products in the past couple years that I recommend every give a chance. But the one area we haven’t really gotten a chance to explore in a while is the home invasion film.
Growing up the first real thriller film I watched was Shia LaBeouf’s “Disturbia,” a film about a young man on home arrest who thinks his neighbor is a murderer and breaks into his home to find out. It wasn’t the most amazing cinema of all time, but it was definitely above average and will always hold a special place in my heart, as I’m sure it does for other viewers around my age. But since then, the only major home invasion films we’ve had are “The Strangers” (which was average) and “You’re Next” (which was decent but had it’s faults).
With “Don’t Breath,” though, we finally get a home invasion film that stands up the quality of other recent American horror/thrillers. “Don’t Breathe” focuses around a group of three friends who decide to rob a man who lives on a quiet street, and go in with confidence based on the knowledge that the owner of the house is blind and aging.
After assuming they had used gas to make the unnamed “Blind Man” unconscious, the three aren’t as concerned with being quiet, but carelessly wake the Blind Man up. After tragic events occur, we realize just how dangerous and crazy this Blind Man is, and the hunt begins.
This film adds interesting elements to the home invasion genre with its heightened sense of suspense. Having a character that can hear you but cannot see you adds drawn out suspense to shots you wouldn’t be able to have under certain circumstances. In other home invasion films, the main character spends their time hiding, but in this film, the characters often share the same room as the Blind Man and the question of whether or not they will be noticed is dragged out in heart-pulsing fashion.
At the core it’s a very innovative storyline, but I was concerned that it would develop into a repetitive routine of try to escape, get found, tension, survive (or not), repeat but this film’s story has a surprisingly level of depth. Twists you don’t expect and added complications give this film a far more satisfying story arc that easily holds the audience engaged for entire run time. Plus there’s actually some life written in these characters as well, which is more than can be said for many horror films.
It’s creative, engaging, and shot with the perfect amount of lingering shots to build up tension without making the movie feel as if it’s moving too slowly. Your heart is pumping the entire time and the story knows not to overstay it’s welcome. “Don’t Breathe” is a modern American horror classic and is able to compete with “It Follows,” “The Witch,” and “The Babadook” for the title of best horror film in recent years.
Don’t Breathe (2016): 3.5/4 stars