Halloween is still two months away, and yet Sony might have just released the year’s most terrifying movie. Don’t Breathe, which has a fairly standard horror movie title, is anything but. Its premise—a rewiring of the home invasion trope—is refreshing: a group of wayward teens, desperate for some cash to reset their dead-end lives and head to California, decide to rob a blind man after finding out he has $300,000 stashed away in his decaying house. The said blind man is played by villain-for-hire Stephen Lang (the bad guy from Avatar), which should clue you in as to where things go from there. A war vet who was blinded in Iraq, he turned reclusive after his daughter was killed by a driver who got off scot-free. That’s left him angry and merciless, and when he discovers intruders in his house, he doesn’t call the cops—he hunts them down.
The movie’s title, then, is taken dead seriously by the three youths, played by Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto The blind man’s senses are so heightened that he can literally hear them breathe. Much of the movie’s unbearable suspense is drawn from this motif. He’s pointing a gun in their direction—if they move, they’re dead.
Unlike most of its horror-movie brethren, Don’t Breathe has been a hit with critics (it’s currently at 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes). Check out what some of them have been saying.
There were moments at a recent preview where a pin could drop and make more noise than one of the poor burglars trying to do what the movie title demands. You try standing perfectly still while an annoyed vet aims a pistol in your general direction.—The St. Louis Post Dispatch
Our hearts plummet — we feel as desperate as this girl who can’t escape. She’s snapped back inside so many times you’d think there was a rubber band on her spine. By the end of the film, we’re all exhausted. I was so tense my shoulders ached.—MTV News
As is the game of director Fede Alvarez (he of 2013’s excellent Evil Dead reboot), who mostly eschews the easy jump scares and har-har-har dialogue that Hollywood has been passing off as horror filmmaking the past few years. What he achieves is significant: A home invasion story that is as artfully terrifying as Home Alone was entertainingly hilarious.—The Globe and Mail
If you’re not sold yet, watch the film’s trailer below, which is already scarier than most movies we’ve seen this year.