While the summer has been lackluster critically and financially, the horror genre has been low key killing it all year. From indie films like Green Room to mainstream fare like Lights Out and The Conjuring 2, horror has been a big hit at the box office. With summer coming to a close we leave with one last scare with Don't Breathe.
Directed by Fede Alvarez Don't Breathe is his long-awaited followup to 2013's Evil Dead. Teaming up with actress Jane Levy and producer Sam Raimi again, this is Alvarez's chance to prove that Evil Dead wasn't a fluke. After hearing tons of good reviews from people I respect I knew I had to see it. I was lucky enough to get into a preview screening and it turns out they were right. Don't Breathe is outstanding. But if you aren't convinced here are five reasons to see Don't Breathe.
5. Fede Alvarez's Brutal Vision
In his first film since Evil Dead, writer/director Fede Alvarez absolutely delivers. As a writer he and co-writer Rodo Sayagues do a brilliant job subverting home invasion tropes. Making each character more complex than your typical horror movie cast, it makes you question who to root for while doling out some shocking revelations. As a director, Alvarez does a masterful job making every scare count while ratcheting up the tension minute by minute. Hey utilizes extended tracking shots that make the claustrophobic setting seem big, turning and making things a deadly game of cat and mouse. With a great script and excellent directing, Fede Alvarez quickly proves he's up next when it comes to masters of horror.
4. A Terrifying Stephen Lang
Perhaps best known as the villain in Avatar, Stephen Lang has a career-defining performance as The Blind Man. With seemingly superhuman senses and a ghastly look, he is more than just a blind Jason Voorhees. Silent through most of the film, he gives a compelling performance that makes you feel for the disturbed hermit. As the movie goes on and we learn more of his story, he quickly becomes one of the most brutal, terrifying horror villains in recent memory.
3. Final Girl Jane Levy
Also making their return to the horror genre is actress Jane Levy. Reuniting with Alvarez, she is put through the wringer, taking the worst that The Blind Man can dish out and proving herself to be a worthy opponent as Rocky. As good she is at the physical stuff, what makes her a great final girl is how sympathetic she is. Sure, what is doing wrong (robbing a blind guy is hardly noble), but her ability to sell why she needs the money and the lengths she will go to really make you feel for her. While co-stars Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto are perfect in their roles, it's Levy that stands out. While I'm hardly one to hand out career advice, if Jane Levy and Fede Alvarez want to make horror gold until the end of time I'll all for it.
2. The Simplicity Of It All
While not true of all films, horror tends to be an effects heavy genre. So it's interesting to see a movie be so great with such minimalist scares. There are no CGI ghosts or gallons of blood to enhance the movie. Instead, with Alvarez's Hitchcockian way of building up tension he makes things as simple as creaks in floorboards and the human need to breathe intense. One of the best scenes has Rocky and Alex (Dylan Minnette) blindly navigating a basement with The Blind Man on their trail. Watching the two try to evade danger in pitch black is one of the most nerve-wracking scenes I have seen in some time.
1. Supporting Good, Original Horror
One of the biggest complaints I hear from horror fans is the glut of remakes and sequels. When we do get original movies it is typically derivative of a more popular franchise. Any time there is a good horror movie it is usually from an independent studio and it doesn’t get the publicity it deserves. It is seemingly an endless cycle. Well, Don't Breathe provides an anomaly in that it is not only original, but also unlike anything out right now. This is the kind of movie the horror community should rally behind. Will seeing Don’t Breathe revolutionize the studio system or convince studios take more risks? I doubt it. But who knows, perhaps it'll prove to some executive that audiences care more about quality before signing off on the next generic ghost film.
As I’ve said, 2016 has been a pretty good year for horror. As a big fan of the genre, I am confident saying this has the chance to be the best horror movie of the year. If you're looking for a heart-pounding, nail-biting thriller, then Don't Breathe is the movie for you.