Reel Quick: Don’t Breathe


Don’t Breathe (2016)


Starring: Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Dylan Minnette

Directed by: Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead)

Synopsis: Three house thieves quickly find out that their easy mark, a blind man, isn’t what he seems.


What works:

  • The concept. While it wasn’t ground-breaking or anything, the premise is what got me into the theatre in the first place. I was hoping for an original story about kids being trapped in a blind man’s house while they were against the odds in trying to survive. It practically delivered on that premise. The cat-&-mouse aspect could’ve been better and more creative though.
  • Stephen Lang was a great villain. There’s definitely more than meets the eye to his character and he plays a menace very well.
  • Like I said, the idea of the kids being in over their heads trying to rob a blind man is a good one. They say, usually when you lose a sense, the other’s are heightened and being blind has its advantages when it’s pitch black against people needing to see to maneuver. After all, the blind man knows every nook and cranny of his own house and can easily navigate around. This film had one scene in the middle that used that concept and it was done very affectively and it was creepy and thrilling.


What doesn’t work:

  • However, that was really the only good scene that even used this concept. Save for the initial introduction to the character when he’s trying to figure out how many people are in his house when he hears the floors creak. Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette are the two kids who have to get out after their idiot thug-life “leader” gets killed by the Blind Man. I was hoping for more tense scenes of them trying to be as still and quiet while the Blind Man stalked them but this wasn’t really the main goal here as the film went into different directions. The only other time the blind concept was utilized was when it seemed easy for the story to make the kids survive the blind man’s attempt to shoot them with a gun. Because he is blind he shoots like a Stormtrooper and barely hits anything even within a few feet away. Makes some sense but ultimately I want to see a Blind Man make it hard for these kids to hide or quietly escape around him. After all the film is called “Don’t Breathe” implying that making any tiny sound will give your location away for this handicapped killer.
  • Which brings up another point that I struggled with and that’s who to root for. These kids are assholes. Mainly because they are thieves. (The thug leader especially is a complete asshole and I commend the film in killing him off quickly.) They are violating innocent people for their own financial gain. They try to make them likable because they are low-lives in Detroit and the girl, Levy, has a very piss-poor family life. Her mom is abusive both mentally and physically and Levy wants to take her younger sister away to California and she’s only robbing houses to get enough cash to go. So, as a viewer we see these jerk-offs as the protagonists and we’re supposed to empathize with them and hope they survive the big bad blind man that they try to steal from. As the film progresses we realize that the Blind Man is indeed a very wicked man and is a criminal himself and without getting into too much spoilers, he deserves swift and ample justice more so than some thieving kids. But in my opinion, it’s very hard to feel for the characters if they start off being morally corrupt. 


Overall: This review is shorter than usual because well, it was a fine flick. While I was a tad disappointed with the underutilized blind premise, it was way better than Hush, who totally wasted the concept to me. As I was watching this film, it reminded me, greatly of an old Wes Craven flick, The People Under the Stairs, which also feature kids who break into a house to steal stuff and end up getting the tables turned on them. Like Don’t Breathe the owners of the home are also criminals and have secrets that need to be brought to light. The performances were OK and Alvarez know how to make a decent tense thrill scene. I enjoyed this more than his Evil Dead remake that’s for sure. However, the best example of a handicapped victim thriller is still Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. Don’t Breathe is nowhere near how good that movie is.

The thing is, I’ve seen more than my fair share of thrillers and horror flicks and I need something really tense and original to pique my interest. I’m also an old man in Hollywood years and not easily scared. While I cannot fault the film because they at least gave us an original concept horror film that sort of works (waaaay better than Oculus!), I just think I prefer the concept to be enough for the entire film. Half of the movie should’ve been the 2 kids trying to maneuver inside a very dark house while a blind man pursued them. Instead we got a 5 minute scene of them in a pitch-black basement reaching their arms out as they walked around a labyrinthine basement. That’s what got my ass in the theatre and that’s what I really wanted. Not a scene of Jane Levy outsmarting a dog by trapping it in the trunk of her car. To me, horror movies should be treated like expanded short stories, if you know what I mean? This movie was working on that level for the most part until it went off the rails with it’s really shocking twist towards the end. (which to me, was unintentionally funny) But nonetheless I wasn’t nitpicking it while I watched it—which is a good sign! I wouldn’t recommend anyone seeing it in theatres though but that’s as harsh as I can really say. See it, but don’t rush.

Score: 6.5 Turkey Baster Threats (out of 10)

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