The last few years has seen an increase in “gimmick horror.” Horror movies that rely on one key plot point to ramp up the terror. It asks the audience what they would do if they couldn’t see or hear or other usually sense related disability. It Follows used a relentless unstoppable, sexually transmitted killer; Hush used a deaf woman during a home invasion and Don’t Breathe uses a blind man with an incredible sense of hearing.
While the person with the disability is usually the victim, Stephen Lang’s The Blind Man is actually the predator. Like any good horror movie, there are shades of grey and he is protecting his home from three burglars. Instead of being on the side of the burglary victim we side with the thieves as The Blind Man uses particularly increased senses, some trickery with lights and some ex-army fighting techniques to terrorise those stupid enough to enter the house.
Regardless of whether you should side with the thieves or The Blind Man, it is the use of this very specific gimmick which makes the movie so compelling. The title gives away one aspect, with even your own breathe betraying your location but add to this the fact that rooms of pitch black are no obstacle for The Blind Man or that he can be inches away from your face without him knowing it and you unable to breathe and you have some very tense scenes indeed.
It isn’t all quiet stalking though and all effective horror movies, you have moments of fast pace and explosive action. In these moments you are rooting for the main characters to flee, get free and survive and there are more than a few moments when you may find yourself on the edge of the seat living vicariously through the characters.
It also helps that there is a sub-plot and much more to The Blind Man than just his being a victim of theft. The plot won’t be ruined here but by the third act there is no doubt who the villain is and who the hero is and you find your allegiances very quickly.
It also means that by the end of the movie, the gimmick which makes it stand-out has fallen away to reveal a generic horror thriller with yet another relentless, almost unstoppable killer. Luckily, enough quality has gone before to help tide the film over to the end.
Overall, Don’t Breathe is a horror film with a slight difference and it is all the better for it. The gimmick at the centre of the film works well and gives it some originality. Unfortunately that originality does fade but not before delivering a thrilling story and movie.
Rating – 4
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