A Sigh of Relief
Don't Breathe is another example of what seems to be a common theme this summer: high concept horror movies that are way better than they have any right to be( the other movies that fit this description are Lights Out and The Shallows). Don't Breathe is a really good, a tightly packed horror movie that doesn't overstay it's welcome and keeps you feeling tense the whole way through
The basic premise is 3, 20-something year olds, Rocky, Alex, and Money, rob houses in the effort to escape the crumbling city that was Detroit and their dire, and for Alex, abusive living situations. They can do this because Rocky's dad works for a home security company, which gives him access to keys and security codes for the houses that they rob. They get news of a house in an almost entirely abandoned neighborhood, is owned by a blind war vet, and apparently he's sitting on 6 figures. I won't spoil why, as that'd ruin part of the plot. They break in and soon find out that the blind man is far from helpless after he kills Money, and the remaining two must try to escape without him getting his hand on them. Throw in an added twist which changes the moral dynamic (the trailer kinda spoiled it) and you have a pretty grounded, tightly packed story horror thriller.
Now the plot may not be all that complex, but it commits to his premise. This is from the same team that made the Evil Dead remake that was better than anyone had hoped for ( Fede Alvarez as director/writer, Sam Raimi as producer) so there is no worry that this movie would be technically sound. All the cinematography, editing, lighting, etc was done by people who know claustrophobic horror. The movie works because it does two thing very well; visually and audibly conveying information, and keeping a balance in the tension. One of the key scenes in the movie is when the 3 first get in the house, and we get a neat continuous shot showing the three search for the money throughout the house. To the untrained eye it's just a cool shot, but what the movie is really doing is letting the audience know the geography of the house where all the fun is a bout to take place. The space feels limited and engaging, and there is never a moment where you'd be unaware of where the characters are supposed to be. The same scene establishes the sound in the movie, which has the volume of things like footsteps, breathing, things breaking and bumping to each other uncommonly high. This in turn kinda lets the audience in on how the Blind man probably hears things. Things are loud and startling.
As for balance, the movie does a good job of not giving that much of an advantage to the Blind man or Rocky and Alex. Yes, the blind man has basically superhuman hearing and smell (not quite daredevil, so don't expect him to be listening for heartbeats) but at the same time he's older and is still blind. On the other hand neither of the protagonists have the advantage as they don't have keys to various locks, don't know the geography of the house, and aren't trained in combat. This balance keeps everything tense, as in any given scene, you don't know who will get ahead.
There isn't much else to say about this movie. It's only about 90 minutes long, so it's a quick venture, but it does what it wanted to do very well. The movie is tense, looks great, and is well acted. No real complaint other than an unnecessary twist that follows the first major twist. It comes late in the film and feels like it came out of nowhere, and tonally doesn't match. This however isn't a deal breaker by any means. The film is still very enjoyable and i'd recommend it to people who wanna see a nice, brutal, horror flick