Score Reviews‎ > ‎

Don't Breathe by Roque Baños (Review)

posted Sep 21, 2016, 4:32 PM by Kaya Savas

Roque Baños continues his collaboration with Fede Alvarez after the successful reboot of Evil Dead. This time around we get a “gimmick” horror/thriller called Don’t Breathe, and I use the word “gimmick” with affection. The gimmick is that the bad guy is blind, so the only way to get caught is if you’re heard. A bunch of teens decide to rob a house from a retired war vet who collected a settlement when his daughter was killed in an accident. They want to escape the slums of Detroit and start over in California, and this gives them their shot. Of course there’s a big reveal down the line, and in the end the whole thing is effective even if it’s stale once and a while.

What Roque did with the score is effective and gets the job done. For a film that’s all about silence, the score balances equal parts of sustaining tension as well as louder bursts of terror. By keeping the music void of melodies, the music draws you in but never distracts you from the editing and how the film is trying to build suspense. There are lots of moments of hiding, being chased, afraid of being heard, etc. So the music accompanies these moments by sort of reflecting that. The strings quiver quietly, the sonic distortion rumbles and drones along creating this sustaining effect. All in all, it adds to the overhaul tone of sustained tension and suspense. Now and then the barriers break and the score unleashes some more pulse-pounding moments, and those are also effective even if they are a bit abrasive. In the end though, the movie spends a great deal setting up the characters for us to care about them. The music hardly comments on the characters and remains solely as a suspense tool. In that sense, musically the score missed an opportunity to be more than just a device for thrills.

Don’t Breathe was well made all around, including all the cool textures and techniques Roque applied to the score. It won’t go down as the most memorable score of the genre, but it does enough to make itself feel different even if most of the approach is somewhat predictable. Roque’s talents for textures and atmosphere are worth a listen alone, but narratively it’s standard fare.