Review: Don’t Breathe (2016)

In the land of the dark, the silver screen is king.

By Iñaki Oñate

Uruguayan film director (and Sam Raimi prótegé) Federico Álvarez reminds us of the power of cinema with an outstanding horror film that reinvigorates not only the genre but the possibilities of storytelling.

When we get into a movie theater and the lights go out, we make a pact… A pact between the film we have chosen and our most intimate fears and desires. If it’s a love story we want the lovers to consummate their bond at the end of the ride for all eternity and if it’s a horror story we surely want lots of mayhem and a sexy bimbo running around in the woods, screaming and encountering her demise at the end of the trail.

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What we also want is a clear definition of good and evil, with the help of an extraordinary antagonist, monster, ghost, psychopath.

And this is the key that installs Don’t Breathe (2016) in a new realm of horror films. Where good and evil operate within their own private ethical boundaries and where the antagonist is somewhat entitled to punish the others, innocent or not. This brilliant story written by Álvarez and Rodo Sayagues puts you in the strange place of having empathy for both the victim and the victimary.

Of course, some ethics are more tangled than others but the bottom line is that this movie is about the consequences of invading someone else’s territory and paying the price.

Rocky, Alex and Money are a group of young misfits who function as a tight house-robbing-gang. Rocky, radiantly portrayed by Jane Levy, is in the particular position of wanting to escape from a rotten family scenario in search of a new start.

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With this and other motivations in their hearts and minds, the gang sets out to steal from an apparently easy target. A frail blind man (played by Stephen Lang) who lives accompanied by his guardian dog. Little does the gang know that behind that blind man’s milky broken eyes a lethal bountiful of secrets lie.

This is no ordinary horror film. An impeccable handling of the visuals and the sound design allows us to enjoy fully the skirmishes that any good horror film has to deliver but, at the same time, you have a story that generates its horror from the human condition. No need for superpowers, Japanese ghost girls or supernatural forces for there is nothing scarier than a person motivated by a relentless will of self-preservation.

Season-packed entertainment and false prophets may be the currency but from time to time we need an intelligently synthesized and amusing mirror of ourselves. Don’t Breathe manages to do that conveying a dark and violent reflection upon human ambition and admonishes us that in this land of darkness there is only one truth, one projecting light that might show us the way: cinema has done it again.


IñaIñaki Oñate / Writer (Quito, Ecuador – 1988) Iñaki resides in Buenos Aires, where he studied film directing at Universidad del Cine. His short films have been part of the official selection at the New York, La Habana and Cannes festivals. He’s currently developing his first feature film with his own independent production company, Undergofilms. He also works in music and art illustration.

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