What separates Fede Alvarez’s “Don’t Breathe” from a standard-issue horror flick? Technical proficiency, primarily. It’s hard to watch the film and not be aware of the way sound, image and camera movement are being used to produce an aura of fear and dread. But therein lies the issue with its effectiveness: I was so cognizant of the ways in which I was being manipulated that I could never fully let the atmosphere overtake me.
At this level of critical distance, it’s easy to see the film for what it is: an average heist film, a run-of-the-mill haunted house flick and a mediocre final girl narrative. Said survivor Rocky (Jane Levy) is among a band of robbers in Detroit who preys on easy targets to make some cash. It’s a classic case of doing the wrong thing for a noble reason since Rocky’s ultimate goal is to escape from a horrible family situation – her mom’s boyfriend has a swastika tattooed on his hand – with her much younger sister.
But she and her pals meet their match when they rob a blind army veteran (Stephen Lang) whose home has its fair share of surprises. Perhaps it was my loss not to experience it as intended in the dark of a theater, but “Don’t Breathe” hardly affected my respiratory system. Alvarez clearly knows what he’s doing, though he lost me somewhat by showing what he’s doing. C+ /