Don’t Breathe: Wait Until Dark, by Rudie Obias
In 2013, Fede Alvarez made his directorial debut with The Evil Dead remake. While most remakes lazily follow the same template as the original, Alvarez brought a certain sense of tension and dread while building on top of what Sam Raimi did in 1981. For his new film Don’t Breathe, Fede Alvarez takes that same sense of tension and dread while tightly building something original and all his own.
The new horror film follows Rocky (Jane Levy), her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto), and their friend and greaseman Alex (Dylan Minnette), a trio of small-time burglars who break into houses with security systems that can be easily disabled with the right kind of access. But when they come across a grizzled blind man (Stephen Lang) who is sitting on $300,000 from a settlement after a car accident, the trio thinks it will be an easy score, but looks can be deceiving. They soon realize that the man’s house is built like a fortress and the man himself is an ex-soldier who lost his sight during the Iraq War. And like most robberies-gone-wrong and home invasion movies, the trio gets trapped in the house, while they have to try to escape with the money or their lives.
The premise for Don’t Breathe is quite simple but the movie is far from an easy sit. Alvarez creates so much high tension and scares that it’s almost impossible to watch this movie without getting frightened and leaping out of your seat altogether. Simply put, Don’t Breathe is a tight, well-constructed genre movie with so many great little set pieces that build towards an exhilarating and tension-filled movie-watching experience. In lesser hands, the film might seem like a gimmick, but Alvarez handles the material with a sharp clarity and vision. There’s nothing cheap about the reactions or jump scares this movie gets out of an audience.
At times, Don’t Breathe feels like David Fincher’s Panic Room, which was influenced by Alfred Hitchcock’s work. The cinematic geography of the blind man’s house is something to note. Alvarez guides the audience through its hallways, closets, and rooms in one fluid camera move and shot. As the movie unfolds, we’re aware of how the characters are moving through the house, how one room leads into another, and how tension is created when we know someone is on the other side of a door. Even the character Money is reminiscent of Jared Leto’s cornrow-style character from Panic Room. It’s remarkable that a small film with a simple premise can work in so much complexity with its story and camerawork, even though most of the film takes place in the dark.
There’s one sequence that takes place in the blackout dark where we can only hear the characters’ heavy breathing. Once we get a sense of the darkness, the scene shifts to night vision, as we can see how the characters are moving through it. We can see what’s going on in the scene, while the characters can’t. It’s the very definition of Hitchcock’s view of surprise and suspense. We’re waiting for something big to happen and every minute that the characters don’t see it coming, the suspense and tension increases more and more.
Don’t Breathe is a movie to experience in the theater with a big audience. This is one of the few times I’ve seen a movie where you can just feel the entire audience on the edge of their seats, sitting in silence, while holding their breaths until a scene pops. Fede Alvarez does a really good job with the film’s twists-and-turns and making the characters’ actions believable. He also does a really good job fucking around with an audience for a good time at the movies. Just remember to breathe when you’re watching it.