Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan

Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

The Winonan


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Film in review: “Don’t Breathe”

Film in review: “Don’t Breathe”

Nathaniel Nelson / Winonan

Horror movies are a curious beast. Over the past few decades, much of the genre has devolved into constant jump scares, reboots and sequels or glorified torture porn. There are a few gems each year, but saying that horror as a whole is in a good place would be a stretch.

Fede Alvarez’s “Don’t Breathe” might not be the film that will push the genre back on track, but it is a twisted experiment of shock horror that is both surprising and completely revolting in the best way possible.

“Don’t Breathe” is Alvarez’s sophomore film, following up the “Evil Dead” remake from 2013. While most remakes fall flat of adding anything to the original, “Evil Dead” managed to shine through sheer bombast and blood. Everything from the style to the story was changed, and while it was still absolutely an “Evil Dead” movie, it was equally an Alvarez film.

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With “Don’t Breathe,” Alvarez improves on his own style by carving out his own niche: Tearing horror tropes to shreds and dancing on their ashes.

To make a good horror movie, you need three things: A solid story, great scares and a gorgeous aesthetic.  Alvarez has these in spades. The film is, in essence, a home invasion film but with a twist.

The story follows three burglars: Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) who set their sights on the $300,000 settlement of a blind veteran (Stephen Lang). For the first half of the film, it is easy to feel sorry for the blind man. After all, it is his house that’s being invaded.

After a mid-movie twist, that feeling is burned alive. From then on, the film goes straight into man vs. monster with suitably terrifying results. The story is elevated by the acting, led with a genre icon-level performance by Lang. The only problem is the film gets a little repetitive in the final act, but that’s a small qualm for an otherwise superb script.

“Don’t Breathe” does horror like the genre was meant to be. There are no jump scares or wall-to-wall blood. Instead, the film just oozes dread. There’s a shot early in the film which highlights not only the whole home, but small objects and spaces that seem unrelated.

As the film goes on, those little concepts start growing in the back of your mind, worried that those might be part of the terror. I won’t spoil anything, but nothing about this film is expectable. Multiple twists take this film into uncharted territory, as that sinking feeling in your gut grows larger by the minute.

There’s one scene involving a turkey baster that I can’t describe, but it’s nothing less than the most surprising scene in any horror film in years. The theater erupted as this point, and chances are this scene will be a talking point for a while.

The style follows in the vein of recent horror flicks like “The Guest” or “It Follows” by making a unique and colorful vibe that runs through, in spite of the content. The slow pace of the shots mixed with a beautifully subdued color scheme makes for a truly spooky aura, even when the setting would otherwise feel completely normal. Props go out to the sound designers, too, with a genius mix of silence and ambient noise crafting a freaky little aural arena.

“Don’t Breathe” is a fantastic horror film, but it’s not for everyone. The aforementioned turkey baster scene will be a bit much for some, and the general style isn’t typical for a modern horror movie. If you’re hoping for some jump scares and cheap thrills, wait for “Oujia: Origin of Evil.” If you’re looking for something original, crazy and absolutely terrifying, go check out this film. But be warned: Thanksgiving dinner preparation might be awkward this year.

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