Ryster’s review published on Letterboxd:
Here's the thing with Don't Breathe, it's a well crafted, smart thriller that just so happens to scare you. Fede Alvarez grabbed my attention as a director after he made the Evil Dead remake. I really liked that film and I thought it was a great, fun little horror film. I didn't know what film he was working on or if he was working on one at all, then I saw a trailer for Don't Breathe. To say I was excited was an understatement. This was the film I was looking forward to. The premise felt original to me, the trailer featured some incredible cinematography and it seemed like it would be intense. After that I didn't read anything or even watch the trailer again. I went to the cinema with a few friends and the film started. This was one of the best cinema experiences I've had. You could literally hear a pin drop at parts. Everyone was dead silent and you could tell everyone was held in suspense. I was scared, disturbed and thrilled. It's exactly what I wanted and more.
Rocky, Alex and Money are three young robbers that want to get out of Detroit. They break in to people's houses, steal items and then sell them for money however it's not nearly enough. Money hears about a blind ex-army veteran that has inherited a ton of money and decides that if they wanted to stop the whole robbing business then this is how they do it. It seems like it'll be easy but as the night goes on, the three of them soon find out that they are in for a night of hell.
Stephen Lang plays the appropriately named Blind Man and he's fantastic. I thought he was terrifying. For most of the film he's a man that we should be rooting for because it's his house that's broken into and its him that's threatened but his performance is just chilling. He's portrayed realistically. He's a monster but he's still human. Every single time he's on screen, it's intense. His presence is what makes this film thrilling. The third act comes along and I won't spoil anything but he becomes the character that you most certainly don't want to root for and I thought he did an excellent job in being menacing there as well. Jane Levy also does a great job. Even though she's a criminal and is in the wrong to start with, I still liked her and wanted her to escape. The reason she's stealing in the first place allows the audience to like her more than say Money. When the horror started going down though she was excellent. Her reactions didn't seem fake and she became more likeable. When the third act comes along she continues to be excellent in the acting department. Dylan Minnette plays Alex and he might've been my favourite character. His character is written in a way that he doesn't want to do the robberies and all he wants is to get out. He wants the best for his friends. He's likeable and he goes through so much in this film. He's beaten, threatened and injured really badly and I thought Minnette did a great job.
The story felt original to me (I'm sure that there's a film, show or book out there that's similar to this but I don't know about it). It wasn't supernatural or go through many horror tropes. I didn't expect the final twist and I loved that it didn't pull back. I'm very surprised that the BBFC allowed this to be a 15 certificate because this thing is brutal. Not only that but it turns flat out gross and disturbing. That didn't put me off though, I was still thrilled. For most of this film I was holding my breath, covering my mouth or moving my leg, I was held in suspense. Even after I and my friends left the cinema we all felt shaken. Honestly we passed by a cafe in which a family were sitting outside with their dog and the dog barked, I jumped. This film did that to me but I had so much fun with it. The direction is brilliant. It's fast and very tense. The screenplay is near brilliant with only a few minor flaws. There's a scene involving a window that I questioned. The cinematography is great. The beginning of the film has an unbroken tracking shot that shows the audience around the house. I really enjoyed that shot and I liked how many things that are shown then come into play later. The sound design should get special recognition because it's fantastic. I loved how sound was used in the film. The film also uses no music or sound well. Like I said, there's times when you could hear a pin drop and in those scenes it was incredibly tense. The third act features a twist that I did not see coming. Also there's one scene which is so disturbing that it's nearly unbearably intense. Don't Breathe was a fantastic time at the cinema and a near excellent horror film. It's well acted, well directed, well made all round. For most of the film it's a thriller but there is a sense of horror throughout. I can't wait to see what Fede Alvarez does next.