“Don’t Breathe” is a straight-up suspense movie being mis-marketed as a horror film. It’s not really horror. Other than a particularly unpleasant scene close to the end of the movie, there isn’t much that is horrific about the movie, and even that is not so much horror as morally repugnant. For this I fixedly point my finger at the distributors and Jacob Hall of Slashfilm, whose quote is prominently featured in the marketing campaign.
Why do I care so much? Because as an aficionado of the horror genre, it is so very frustrating to be sold one type of movie only to discover upon watching it that it’s actually NOT what is advertised. When I’m told that a film is “the best horror film in 20 years,” I take it with a grain of salt but I also go expecting to be scared, freaked out, frightened, disturbed or, at the very least, to get my pulse quickening. Don’t expect any of the above when you see “Don’t Breathe” and maybe you won’t be as disappointed as I was.
So with that as prologue, let’s review the movie.
“Don’t Breathe” is a decent enough suspense film that involves a reverse home invasion: instead of the intruders being the bad guys, the person who owns the home is the real antagonist. Three twenty-something petty criminals break into the home of a blind man to steal a large sum of cash, only to find themselves trapped in the home and hunted by the man.
It’s interesting how the movie tries to play with audience sympathies. The three would-be protagonists are obviously not very nice people — they earn money by stealing — but the film asks us to relate to them versus the home owner, who is arguably worse. This is a tricky feat to pull off, and it doesn’t work (at least not for me). Yeah, the blind home owner (Stephen Lang) is disgusting (and becomes even more so during the aforementioned morally repugnant scene) but movies like this are less fun when the protagonists are so completely unrelatable.
There isn’t much in this movie I haven’t seen before. It’s not hard to predict what will happen, scene-for-scene. That said, it is executed fairly well. Actors do a decent enough job (even if Jane Levy‘s primary job is opening her eyes as wide as possible and looking scared), and the direction is good enough to ratchet up the tension when the script calls for it.
While it doesn’t affect my rating, one more point bears mentioning. As he starts to commit the act that audiences are finding most offensive, the blind man hears Levy’s character Rocky asking god for help. The blind man responds that he doesn’t believe in god, and tells her that “once a man accepts that there is no god, he can do anything” — referring specifically to the morally repugnant act that he tells Rocky he is about to commit against her. While some may find this statement faith-affirming, it’s this type of philosophy that frightens non-believers the most. If all that is holding the faithful back from committing horrific acts of violence and degradation is a belief in some kind of eternal punishment / reward system, I would be terrified of the people who regularly attend Sunday services. I hope and believe that we are all better than that.
Louisa was unavailable for review.