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Don't breathe review: a visceral and heart-pounding contemporary thriller

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:46 IST

This, my dear readers,is easily one of the 2016's best horror movies. A heart-stopping ride from the very beginning, it succeeds in completely changing up the tired home invasion subgenre of horror.

Trust me, it inverts the genre because this isn;t just your average horror movie. Nope. Supernatural elements? Nope. Found footage element? Not even. Jump scares galore? Hell no.

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That's what makes this so good - it's contemporary horror and better yet, the movie that doesn't even bother with the usual tropes at all. In fact, director Fede Alvarez (who made the recent Evil Dead) sort of seems to spit on them.

It's a simple plot - even the dialogue is sparse. Three friends - Alex (Dylan Minnette), Money (Daniel Zovatto), and Rocky (Jane Levy) - successfully run a series of small-time break-ins using house codes taken from Alex's father's security company. They're quick, clean, in-and-out jobs where the targets are upper middle class.

Basically, everything short of grand larceny so that they can't get into serious trouble if they're caught.

Each of the three have reasons to get out of Detroit. The plan is to head to California, but for that they need money - hard cash.

So when Money gets a tip off about a grieving father who won a massive settlement payout from his daughter's fatal car accident, they decide to risk it all to achieve their Californian dream.

The job looks easy - the man of the house (Avatar's Stephen Lang, more terrifying than ever) is blind.

But his houseguests have no idea what they're up against.

A tense throw down

The movie works well because of how it plays up silences. Every creak of a floorboard ends up doing much more than an obvious jump scare would.

The cinematography too is beautifully clean, especially when you compare to how most modern horror movies rely on shaky, choppily edited filming to produce scares.

So even though it may be only 88 minutes long, the tension makes it feel a lot longer.

The biggest draw is Stephen Lang's blind man act - he's almost Terminator-like in his movements and far more formidable than the three 20-somethings could have ever assumed. He manages the killer feat of making his character utterly disturbing and terrifying while being sadly sympathetic too. In fact, his attitude towards the world/the robbers/anything that crosses his path can be summed up in a line uttered by him: "There is nothing to hold a man back once he realises there is no god."

There isn't much to complain about when it comes to the actors - Minnette, who we last saw playing a similar character in the pathetic Goosebumps movie, manages to make Alex likable to the point that we hope he survives.

And Levy, who teamed up with Alvarez for Evil Dead before, manages to play the tortured heroine who can kick ass and get moving when needed with ease.

The verdict

Your nerves will be ridiculously frayed by the end of this terrifying movie experience. But since that's the very goal of any horror/thriller movie, you'll walk away satisfied, reminding yourself that it's okay to breathe again.

RATING: 4 out of 5

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First published: 2 September 2016, 5:31 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.