The last couple of years has been good for horror fans. Not only have we seen plenty of the standard ghost and paranormal stories told in new and interesting ways, we’ve also seen an uptick in the home invasion scenario.
Hush is a great example of what I am talking about here. If you haven’t had the chance, Hush is a 2015 horror story about a deaf woman who has secluded herself out in a cabin to finish writing a novel. When her neighbor who had just stopped by for a quick chat is murdered right outside of her kitchen door, a mere few feet from her as she cooks, the mysterious murderer realizes that she cannot hear a thing. This leads to a series of cat and mouse style games as he terrorizes her in her own home. The use of sound in this film sets it apart and is a fresh and new way to bring tension to the viewers. It is this aspect that is mirrored in Don’t Breathe.
Where Hush puts you in the shoes of a deaf woman by muting sounds and playing with silence as a tool to portray what she was feeling, Don’t Breathe spins this around and uses silence in a completely different way.
Don’t Breathe follows three young robbers as they sneak into the house of a war veteran who received a massive cash settlement when his daughter was killed in a car crash. The twist of it is that this old man is blind… and in the house.
So, naturally, silence is the name of the game. The first wave of tension comes as we watch the trio sneak into this oddly fortified building that is in an entirely empty section of the town. Creaky floorboards, broken glass sticking to their shoes and making tiny screeches, and heavy breathing will draw you to the edge of your seat.
Of course, the old man ends up awake, and then things get interesting. Imagine a blind cat in an enclosed area with three mice. This is the best analogy I can think to describe the moments when the man comes down the stairs and enters the room where the three were searching. A dead silence settles down, and the only thing you can hear is your heart racing as you watch each of them struggle to not make even the slightest sound.
The fear and anxiety on their faces is extremely real, and you will feel as they do. Unfortunately for them, though, a tiny little slip alerts the vet to the presence of intruders. This leads to the meat of the film. The old man does not know how many people are in the house, but is able to lock them in. Barred windows and multiple locks on each door prevent the kids from escaping, and his silent patrol of the house makes it hard for them to look for a way out; and soon they discover that this man is far from just a blind old veteran with a stash of money…
Not only is this old man a strong, vicious, and frightening blind man in a home invasion, he has a seriously messed up secret to hide and protect. This secret extends beyond what you would expect going into the film as well. The trailers give off a bit of a homicidal tendency to the man, which I had originally thought to be a spoiler. But looking back now I can say that the real twist to his story is even more menacing than I would have imagined.
The acting across the board is fantastic: the fear, anger, and panic that every character expresses is genuine. The rollercoaster of emotions you go through is unreal, as you will feel sympathy for each character as well as despise them to some extent.
And don’t forget the use of sound. Not only is this story top notch, the way it is told is fresh and exciting. Very rarely are completely silent scenes so impactful as they are whena blind veteran with a secret to hide is stalking his basement looking for robbers, or while two young intruders try as hard as they can to not gasp for breath as they stand utterly still when the vet walks inches away from them.
It seems to me that home invasion films are back in a big way. Or maybe they never left and we are just seeing two really fresh takes on the genre. Either way, if you want to feel less safe at home, you better get to the theatre and see Don’t Breathe.