Don’t Breathe uses a simple approach with an interesting twist.
The plot becomes a suspenseful cat and mouse game that subverts the typical horror trope of monsters chasing their victims. Here, the predator only needs to wait and let the prey come within the reach. This clever idea enables the movie to sustain relentless peril.
Lighting, camera work, and sound design create a sense of claustrophobia and immerses the audience into a blind man’s world. When the thieves turned victims stumble around in the dark, there’s a perceptible feeling that you are stumbling along with them.
The cast delivers a good performance in inducing empathy from the audience. Despite their thin characterizations, you will be curious if they can manage to escape.
Unfortunately, though, Don’t Breathe eventually succumbs to lazy writing that depends on shock value.
When you have three characters that are conveniently shaped for the narrative, the suspension of belief cracks. Rocky has enough motivation even though her white trash background is stereotypical. But next to an over the top faux gangster (who’ll eventually do something stupid) and a kid from what looks like a normal household (who has the keys), it’s unclear why they’re friends.
Instead of using its smart set-up to have a showdown that could potentially challenge our perspective on morality, Don’t Breathe uses rape as a plot device. The revelation has no build-up whatsoever and appears out of nowhere. Women in this film are either property or destroy people’s lives.
In the end, whatever clever conceit it had in the first half is tainted by a gross attempt to raise the stakes. Don’t Breathe offers genuine thrills but wastes a clever premise to rely on a lazy trope that’s unnecessary in the first place.
Don't Breathe is an engrossing thriller stained by an awful plot twist.