Say what you want about the year 2016, there were some great movies this year. From your Disney hits like Zootopia and Moana, to box office smashes like Captain America: Civil War and Rogue One, there was a plethora of high budget blockbusters that ruled the cinemas this year.
But what about the smaller budget indie movies? Well, if you are a fan of those, then 2016 came through for you as well. From movies like Sing Street to Green Room, there were plenty of smaller movies that had a bigger impact of audiences. But there is one movie that came out of nowhere this summer, and was a big hit. This movie was a small budget horror movie that turned out better than anyone could have possibly expected, including myself. And by reading the title of this article, you know that the movie is #SonyPictures' Don't Breathe.
Don't Breathe came out in cinemas in late August, and had a budget of just barely under $10 million. Now, for those who aren't familiar with movie budgets, a high budget blockbuster film, like Rogue One for example, took about $200 million to make. Now, compare that to Don't Breathe, and you can tell there is quite the difference in how much was spent for either movie. And while Rogue One barely made back the $200 million opening weekend, Don't Breathe made almost three times the amount it cost to make the movie!
But now, economics and business data aside, let's talk about what really made this movie as good as it was.
Whether you are doing a low budget horror film, or a high budget Marvel movie, the real challenge is to give your viewers something they have never seen before. They want to see something that will blow their minds, and not something they've seen hundreds of times. You want your audience to walk out their theater ecstatic about what they just saw. You want them to talk about your movie for days, weeks, even months to come!
And while many movies struggle with originality, there are the select few, like Don't Breathe that stand out in terms of giving the audience something new. The story goes that three teenage burglars are set to make their biggest heist yet. They are set to rob an old blind man who has a fortune hiding somewhere in his house. Little do they know that this old blind man, played by Stephen Lang, is a merciless badass who won't let them leave alive.
For the trio, getting in was the easy part. It's getting out that becomes a challenge. Because once the blind man finds out they're inside, their lives are immediately put more of a risk than it already was. Because little do they know that this man is a trained, cold-hearted killer who will do whatever it takes to protect not only his fortune, but a deep, dark secret hiding in the basement. And even though it might sound rather cliche, the way the story is told makes it feel like something not seen before, especially when it comes to the plot twist at the climax of the movie. To reduce the risk of spoiling it, if you haven't seen Don't Breathe, then I highly recommend you go and watch it.
Suspense: Better Than Terror
One of the best things that this movie does is set the tone of what it will be. Nowadays, the horror genre is done not poorly, just rather disappointing. Most horror movies now follow the same sort of patterns, which include the dumb hot girl who generally dies either first or last, the couple who has sex right before they die, and of course, cheap jump-scares. The jump-scare is a horror movie's bread and butter. But much like bread and butter, jump-scares are good only in moderation, and become sloppy if used too much.
That is where Don't Breathe gains the upper hand over many other horror movies. The movie has very few jump-scares in it, and when they do happen, they work! But it is not things like jump-scares that make Don't Breathe so terrifying. Instead, it uses a different mechanic that works in it's favor: suspense.
The official definition for suspense is as follows:
A state or feeling of excited or anxious uncertainty about what may happen.
And there is honestly no better way to describe Don't Breathe than that definition. Most of the time, you're sitting on the edge of your seat, just hoping the characters don't get caught. This suspense is also enhanced by the fact that the man is blind and cannot see when the characters are literally standing a few feet away from him. Moments like this will keep viewers on the edge of their seats, to the point where if they get scared, they'll fall out.
But there is one moment that raises the suspense factor even higher in Don't Breathe, and that is when the house goes dark. And that is no exaggeration either. At one point, the group is in the basement, and the blind man cuts the power, killing all of the lights. This ends up not only making the room dark, but absolutely pitch black. This raises the fear and suspense in not just the audience. You can see it in the characters as well. As the room becomes dark, you can see how the characters' pupils begin to dilate.
Not only that, but it's dead silent as well. So when you combine the silence with the darkness, you begin to feel the character's fear, as once again, you begin to hope that they don't get caught like this. It's a moment that shows that you can use methods other than the generic, cliche horror tropes to terrify an audience.
Don't Breathe was a movie that easily became one of the best of 2016 because of two things, original storytelling and the mood of suspense. You also can't forget to mention the fact that it was all done on a low budget. 2016 proved with both Don't Breathe and Lights Out that it is possible to make a low budget horror movie that stands out from so many others. Simply by using suspense rather than straight terror, you can use it to give your audience something they will remember. And because Don't Breathe was something different, it is not only a movie that is remembered, but also considered one of the best movies of 2016.
So what do you think? Did you like Don't Breathe? Would you consider it one of the best of 2016? Leave your thoughts down below!