Don't Breathe, the 2016 sleeper hit movie by director Fede Alvarez reminded me of two superb but harrowing films that I watched recently. The first is Room, an award winning movie about a mother and her kid imprisoned in a tiny room. The second is 10 Cloverfield Lane in which a lady is forced to stay in an underground bunker along with two characters of seemingly dubious intentions. While the first movie was more sober and not at all about thrills, the second fizzled out in its extended third act, precisely the moment that the aliens entered.
Like these two movies, Don't Breathe also is about somebody who are forced into captivity and as harrowing and claustrophobic, if not more. Though billed as a horror flick, it is actually a home invasion movie. The factor that separates it from other movies of the genre is that it reverses the regular plot somewhat.
Here, we have three thieves, who are pretty likeable and who usually never steal cash and doesn't resort to violence, deciding to make an old blind veteran the victim of their next crime. But once inside the house, they realise that they bit much more than they can chew. The old man or the house is not what it seemed from outside. Now it becomes a fight to get out alive.
The narrative structure of the movie is very simple and basic. Though, as I mentioned earlier it features a reversal of generic plot, the movie thankfully never tries to play it on our face. It's very restrained in its style. The atmosphere of suspense and intrigue that is set the moment our three friendly thieves enter the house, never gets lifted till the climax plays out. The audience never get a moment of respite even though every plot twist is easily decipherable to genre fans. That is the strength of the movie.
That, and Stephen Lang who played the blind old man. He was able to convey limitless menace into the minds of viewers. Most of the latter part of the movie is shouldered effectively by him. One can find fault with the characterisation and accuse that most of the characters have the personality of mere cardboard cut-outs. But I believe any more deliberation on characters would have severely affected the core strength of the film- suspense.
Painful and clichéd attempt to setup a sequel in the last moments is one huge turn-off. But if the sequel has any chance to be as good as Don't Breathe, I think I can overlook it.