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Non-Review: Don’t Breathe

Don’t Breathe works reasonably well for about two thirds of its runtime.

The premise of Fede Alvarez’s Detroit-based horror is quite clever, a stew of familiar ideas thrown into a blender and delivered in a very stylish manner. Don’t Breathe is a film that begs to be summarised in pithy one-liners that bridge movie titles using the dreaded “… with …” In those terms, Don’t Breathe is Home Alone meets Halloween, Wait Until Dark meets The Bling Ring, Panic Room meets Saw. The combinations are infinite, as are the influences. And there is a charm to that.

Firing blind.

Firing blind.

Horror is a visceral genre; doing something new is great, but so is doing something familiar in a novel way. For its first two thirds, Don’t Breathe is an exciting and tense horror movie with an ingenious high concept and with a number of reliable jump scares. Fede Alvarez does not necessarily innovate, but he understands how to pace a sequence for maximum tension and he has a great eye for cinematic influences. Contemporary culture can often feel like “remix” culture, mashing old ideas together to create something interesting. Don’t Breathe fits with that.

The problem comes during the movie’s third act, when the thrills and horror slow down just long enough to flesh out the “monster” at the centre of the film. As it pushes into its climax, Don’t Breathe becomes a lot less intriguing and effective. In those final twenty minutes, Don’t Breathe indulges the baser impulses of the horror genre in a manner that is crass and cheap. Don’t Breathe begins as a series of inventive homages to the best that horror genre has to offer. Unfortunately, it ends as a demonstration of the genre’s worst attributes.

Setting his (gun) sight on them.

Setting his (gun) sight on them.

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