The Louisville Cardinal

“Don’t Breathe” – A cinematic breath of fresh air

By Kyeland Jackson —

This week, I witnessed a masterpiece.

Maybe it’s my growing age, but horror movies have become a droll affair. Whether it’s another remake, a recycled camp-horror or another paranormal encounter, the genre repeatedly belches unoriginal themes.

But “Don’t Breathe” defied the norm.

“Don’t Breathe” was nothing short of genius. A proverbial diamond-in-the-rough, the movie boasts no big acting names and a director who’s spearheaded only seven films in 16 years. But director Fede Alvarez delivered again, capitalizing on his success with the “Evil Dead” remake.

For “Don’t Breathe,” Alvarez introduces an original plot and makes it shine by not trying too hard.

 

Plot

What made this plot excel was not explosions, half-naked women or fast cars. It was patience and simplicity. The movie organically introduces characters and plot along the way, respecting audience interpretations. The film finds a perfect balance of plot time between characters and premise, giving the story its due time.

That may seem underwhelming, but the fast-paced plot of recent movies gives plots no room to breathe (pun intended). Haphazard plot lines thrown into horrors like “The Other Side of the Door,” “The Forest” and “Insidious 3” took away from the essence of the films. Instead of focusing where we need to, we’re given unnecessary side plots, jump scares or lost plot opportunity. “Don’t Breathe” recognizes this, establishes character backstory and plot, and makes room for the main event.

Score

The music oozes eerie. Hosting a symphony of soft undertones and sudden crescendos, the score parallels the movie beautifully. Original and not reliant on popular songs, the music will pull your attention to the big screen.

Characters

That patient, minimalist approach to the plot shows in the characters. The backstory of the characters organically establishes their persona and justifies their actions in the film.

That’s not to say the characters lack depth.

Characters defy their stigmatized roles and evolve through the film, beautifully incorporating character development. This is most evident in the antagonist. He’s not evil “just because,” and brings legitimate backstory and motivations into his dastardly acts. His deep, conflicting persona makes him all the more human and all the more terrifying.

Experience

Normally I’m not someone who says “you need to see it in theaters.” That being said, you need to see this in theaters.

The full immersion of “Don’t Breathe” is something to behold, and simply can’t be replicated from the seven-inch screen of your phone. It’s not about being a cinephile, there’s legitimate reasons why the experience changes drastically in a theater-like setup.

First, there’s the darkness. The high contrast of light and dark within a dark theater puts you right into the movie experience. Fear of the unknown, discomfort in an alien environment and an overwhelming feel of being hunted sets audiences in the movie. Couple that with a claustrophobia reminiscent of “Alien” or “Dead Space,” and you have a severely unsettled viewer.

Then, there’s the sound. If you don’t understand the premise of the movie, the short synopsis is a blind man with almost super-human senses tries to kill the protagonists in a cat-mouse game.

That being said, the emphasis on sound strangles and screeches at audiences. One moment you feel you’re with the protagonists, unable to move or breath for fear of revealing your location to the killer. Next, you’re blindly stumbling through a hallway, voiceless. The killer fires his gun and with every bang you’re shell-shocked. While rampant fear rings with every shot, salvation lurks as you’re now hinted towards the killer’s location.

Altogether, this film is a no-nonsense horror movie that revitalizes the genre. With so few, but outstanding, films under his belt, Alvarez should bring refreshing movies for years to come. See “Don’t Breathe” and see what I’m talking about. Be sure to bring a friend who’s seen you afraid. You’ll thank me later.