REVIEW: Don’t Breathe (15) ****

Dylan Minnette, left, and Stephen Lang. PA Photo/Sony.
Dylan Minnette, left, and Stephen Lang. PA Photo/Sony.
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In the kingdom of the blind, the man with the hand gun, pruning shears and a snarling Rottweiler is king.

Fede Alvarez’s home invasion thriller begins predictably with three young thieves plotting to rob a sightless elderly man in the dead of night, but gradually evolves into a sick and twisted horror that propels unsuspecting characters – and us – into the heart of darkness.

A diabolical script, co-written by the director and Rodo Sayagues, sends beads of cold sweat down the spine as the filmmakers’ Machiavellian intentions are revealed in a series of audacious flourishes that will leave audiences gasping in disbelief.

Political correctness and preconceptions are gleefully upended as the narrative veers down genuinely unexpected tangents, with no guarantee that anyone on screen will have a pulse when the end credits roll.

‘Just because he’s blind, don’t mean he’s a saint, bro,’ pointedly remarks one of the thieves before the fateful robbery.

At a time when horror movies have largely relinquished the power to shock, and resort to gratuitous gore in lieu of primal fear, Don’t Breathe is a blast of icy air to make you shudder.

Rocky (Jane Levy) intends to move to California with her little sister Diddy (Emma Bercovici) to escape their spiteful mother (Katia Bokor).

To finance the relocation, Rocky robs valuables from homes with her boyfriend Money (Daniel Zovatto) and pal Alex (Dylan Minnette), whose father runs a security firm that has spare keys to the targeted properties.

The trio learn about a blind Army veteran called Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), who lives in the neighbourhood and apparently has 300,000 US dollars in a safe in his ramshackle home – an out-of-court settlement for the death of his daughter.

‘Above 10K’s major larceny if we get caught!’ Alex nervously reminds his greedy accomplices.

‘We won’t get caught,’ Rocky assures him.

The thieves gain access and leave a homemade chloroform bomb in Norman’s bedroom, which should temporarily incapacitate the owner.

Rocky, Money and Alex learn to their cost that Norman isn’t helpless.

He locks the exits, cuts the electricity to the lights and prepares to hunt his terrified prey in the dark using his heightened sense of hearing and smell.

Don’t Breathe is a masterful exercise in nerve-jangling simplicity.

Lang is a chilling antagonist while Levy, Minette and Zovatto essay wonderfully clueless lambs to the slaughter.