Modern horror films, American ones at least, don’t have the best pedigree in recent years. They tend to start well, and usually have at least one effective sequence or gimmicky idea, but almost every single time they either fail to raise the stakes enough to surprise beyond the first hour, or they lurch into far-fetched silliness that ends up scuppering the whole enterprise. There’s also an ever-present thin line between horror and comedy that is too easily permeated, and intended shocks can all too often morph into giggles and ridicule, making most modern stabs at the genre something of a tightrope.

Don’t Breathe doesn’t exactly dodge all of these pitfalls, but it gets away with its flaws thanks to an intriguing premise (essentially a nasty spin on the 1967 genre classic Wait Until Dark), a clever twist on the home invasion concept and a final half hour that decides to throw subtlety to the wind and ends up being either horrifying or hilarious, depending on your mood. For the first hour, you’re never quite sure who you’re rooting for and where your sympathy lies, and the last 30 minutes (it’s an impressively lean film) make it spectacularly clear. Perhaps by embracing the limitations of the genre, horror films can succeed more often in the future.

A very clever premise that keeps its audience in the dark as to who they should be sympathising with8
A frankly insane final half-hour that blows away what has gone before and makes it abundantly clear7
At least one twist is genuinely shocking and more than a little upsetting8
Occasional moments of unintentional comedy6
These flaws are present in almost all horror films, so why not make the most of them?8
Bechdel Test passes
  • Features more than one named female character
  • The named female characters talk to each other
  • They talk about something other than men
Bechdel Test failures
  • n/a
7Overall Score

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