Enjoy, don’t evaluate, ‘Breathe’

Don't Breathe

(Photo by Sony/Screen Gems) Alex (Dylan Minnette) and his friends get into more than they bargained when they try to break into a blind man’s home in “Don’t Breathe.”

BY ROGER THOMAS
Film Critic

“Don’t Breathe” is being billed as one of the most horrific films of the last two decades. It certainly is a film filled with thrills, chills and moments so intense, one almost hopes for an intermission, even though the film is only 88 minutes in length.
“Breathe” tells the story of three young adults, two young men and a woman, who make their money breaking into homes. One of the three lives with his father, who runs a home security business. Since the trio has access to his systems, at the beginning of the film, they are stealing from the dad’s clients.
The central character, the young woman, wants to leave Detroit and head to California with her much younger sister, who is not growing up in the best environment. The trio of robbers decide on their next mark, but before they attempt to rob him, they discover something unexpected. The man they are going to rob is blind.
The bulk of the film is what happens after the three young adults succeed in entering the blind man’s home.
“Don’t Breathe” works for many reasons. The four central cast members, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto as the robbers and Stephen Lang as the blind man, whose name is never known, are all well cast. This film could have been a mess with a lesser quartet.
The intensity is also a strength. The film hardly ever settles down to anything less than high tension. It seems at least 75 minutes of the film is one shock after another.
Then there is the fact the film is not in any way a supernatural story. This film creates thrills without ghosts, possessed persons or any of the other creatures that often thrill us in tales of horror.
There are the twists to the film. For the first third or so, one feels inclined to root for the blind man. He is simply living his life, harming no one. Even the characters seem reluctant to intrude his home after they find out about his disability. But as in many thriller films, there are twists, extraordinary ones, that make choosing a side more difficult.
Who is evil, even sadistic, and who is attempting to right certain wrongs? The surprises, the things one would have never guessed from the film’s trailer, increase the thrills and challenge the audience to rethink all that had gone on before.
All of these strengths, all the ways the film challenges one with shocks, scares, violence and twists make the experience worthwhile, if you like to spend almost 90 minutes being startled. “Don’t Breathe” continuously succeeds.
On the other hand, once you exit the theater, you may end up doing what I did. I began to ponder the reality of what I had just seen. There are any number of reasons where the logic of the film just does not work out. I even found myself retitling the film. Instead of “Don’t Breathe” perhaps the film should be “Don’t Think.” When I started thinking about all the events I had just witnessed, some simply did not work, not in a real world anyway.
However, I guess movies like “Don’t Breathe” are a lot like roller coasters. While you’re on a roller coaster, fear is present. Something could go wrong. I think that every time I ride a roller coaster. When I am not on the coaster, I realize they are built to be safe. Amusement parks make sure of that. So I get back on, for a quick scare.
“Don’t Breathe” seems less when you are not watching it, but during a viewing, it is quite a ride.

Roger Thomas is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association. He reviews films for The Stanly News & Press.

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