A group of teens break into a blind man's home thinking they'll get away with the perfect crime. They're wrong.

Smart direction keeps us in the dark.

Horror movie remakes are generally a no-win proposition. So when Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez made his debut with the 2013 Evil Dead remake, the fact that his film wasn’t a complete mess marked him out as one to watch. Don’t Breathe pays off on that promise and then some; a stripped-down film designed solely to keep audiences on edge, it swiftly sketches in the outlines of its deceptively simple premise then lets it play out to increasingly unnerving ends.

In the crumbling city of Detroit, three not-quite-professional thieves are doing what it takes to get by. Thanks to his dad’s security business, Alex (Dylan Minnette) can get them in and out of homes without setting off the alarm; he’s also the one who makes sure they keep their take under $10,000 (above that it’s major larceny, and major jail time). But their self-styled leader Money (Daniel Zovatto) has heard of a big score, and his girlfriend Rocky (an excellent Jane Levy) needs serious money so she can escape from a seriously bad home situation. It seems that out in the suburbs in the last decent house on an abandoned street there’s a blind man (Stephen Lang) who received a huge cash settlement after the death of his daughter. Sure, his house is largely boarded up and he owns a very large and mean dog. But how hard can it be to steal from a blind man? 

"The game of cat-and-mouse is real heart-in-mouth stuff"

Alvarez takes his time early on to make sure we’re fully aware of just how risky a proposition this robbery is going to be if anything goes wrong. Locked doors can keep the trio in as well as out; bare floorboards aren’t great for tip-toeing; seeing a crowbar by an interior door is never a good sign. And this slow burn approach continues once their victim wakes up. He may not start out all guns blazing, but once he figures out there are intruders in his house it’s quickly apparent that his blindness is no real handicap when it comes to dealing with trespassers – especially when the lights go out and they’re as much in the dark as he is.

The game of cat-and-mouse that follows is real heart-in-mouth stuff. Silence is the thieves only friend, but there’s no way out that isn’t going to make a lot of noise. It’s not a particularly gory film – though there is one soon-to-be-notorious scene that’ll have you wincing in disgust – and the small cast means the body count isn’t going to be that high (though it may be higher than you initially expect). But within the confines of the house Alvarez fits enough twists and turns and nerve-wrenching scenes to push the tension well into the red zone. With Don’t Breathe it’s not just the characters on the screen who’ll find themselves holding their breath.

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1 hour 28 min
In Cinemas 12 March 2016,