Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zavato are three teens earning cash by breaking into affluent homes, the keys to which are stolen from Minnette's home security dad. But a chance of tact is needed when they believe that a blind Iraq War vet (Lang) is hoarding up to three hundred thousand in his house, isolated in a Detroit neighbourhood that boasts whole streets of abandoned houses. Break in they do but they find Lang to be no lonely old man but something else entirely. And when the lights go out the playing field is levelled.
From the writers and director that delivered the decent Evil Dead remake (also starring Levy who is impressive here again), Don't Breathe's flipped home invasion thriller offers up a lot more originality (although it draw on Wait Until Dark and, eh, Cujo). It's a creepy thing with Alvarez patient at cranking things up as he slickly glides the camera about the house Panic Room style and creates an inescapable, dark labyrinth out of the house. But it's when he puts the emphasis on sound that Don't Breathe really comes alive. The creak of a floorboard, the dull vibrate of an incoming text, the muffled gasp, the hushed whisper – these things can boom when one knows that's what the monster is relying on to locate you.
What's disappointing here is Alvarez doubles up with a needless eerie soundtrack – if it was completely devoid of backing music the tension in these scenes would be heightened even more. It's just one of a few moments (another would be the slow zoom into the Chekovian wall of sharp tools. Yes, we get it – that hatchet and shears will come into play later) where Alvarez doesn't trust his audience.
And it's not just a case these kids get what's coming to them either. Despite them initially painted as hoodlums Rodo Sayagues's script then gently works in some backstory to get Levy onside: she is doing this so she can get her little sister away from her white trash mother; but it looks like Minnette's back story with his father fell victim to those shears, and Zavato is just an aggressive lunkhead. Sayagues tries hard to humanise Lang's monster too.
Bar the loud noise/jump moment it really earns its scares and the basement sequence, with its surprise turn that no one sees coming, is one of the best horror sequences this year.