Don’t Breathe: An OK Movie

Long time no see, friends. It’s bee an absolutely ridiculous couple of weeks for me between school, kids, work and my feeble attempts to have some semblance of a life. I was able to get out of the headlock of life long enough to go to the movies with Michael though! We saw Don’t Breathe almost a week ago and I am not going to lie, I wanted to write my thoughts about it right away, but I am glad I didn’t; there’s some elements of the movie that I didn’t have time to process that have settled in my brain a little better.

Let’s jump right in, shall we?

*MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD!*

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Don’t Breathe belongs in the home invasion subgenre of horror; three young adults (Rocky, Alex, and “Money”) are in the midst of making questionable life choices (said choices being the use of the nickname “Money” and being a white man with cornrows) when they learn about an old man in the neighborhood who has a large amount of cash just laying around his house. I’ll spare you the boring details about the unrequited love for Rocky that propels Alex to commit B&E at the risk of his father’s home security business.

Rocky’s abusive home life would have actually given her some depth if it weren’t for the caricature they made her family into, and I get that to a degree; it’s hard to fit the depth of poverty into the five or so minutes it takes to establish Rocky is in a bad situation. But as a social worker, it makes me cringe a when a film maker includes “poverty-stricken shitty mother being cruel and uncaring to her kids” trope (complete with random boyfriend) in their cast of characters. It just feels a tad lazy.

So Alex, Rocky, and “Money” (I will not stop using quotation marks around this man’s name) break into the old man’s house, who they’ve previously discovered is blind and their questionable decision making takes a turn and becomes terrible decision making.

The old man (who is never named) discovers these people in his house, promptly shoots “Money,” eliciting a sigh of relief from every audience member in the country who didn’t know if they could sit through any more scenes with this ridiculous character (or maybe it was just me?) Now, if you saw the trailer to this movie, you’d go into the theater with the impression that the old man is a lot savvier than his intruders, because that’s the horror of the film lies. The truth is, the old man isn’t a clever killing machine who is just waiting around the corner to grab you and drag you to an unimaginable death (am I projecting my expectations a bit?) but in all honesty, he’s just a blind old man who can get around his own house pretty well but is not good at catching people. I did appreciate that they didn’t use his blindness in a super ableist way, because it could have taken that turn quick. 

And it turns out he doesn’t kill people; he kidnaps the woman who killed his daughter in a hit and run and keeps her prisoner in his basement while she gestates him a replacement child. I actually like this concept a lot. When they reveled what was going on, my disappointment at not getting the old man bad-ass I was promised in the trailer was gone. After the pregnant woman is accidentally killed, the cat and mouse chase between the old man and his home invaders is pretty tense and then he catches Rocky (after one too many escape fake outs). This next part of the movie threw me for a loop, and not necessarily in a good way. The old man has replaced his dead pregnant captive with Rocky, and he intends to impregnate her too, as he reassures her he’s not a rapist (I really hope the director knows forced insemination is rape). Alex saves the day, there’s one more fake out escape attempt (the third time they almost escape and fail, it looses all of the tension for me) before Rocky is able to escape for real. She steals his money and flees her abusive home with her sister, the end maybe.

All in all, it was a film I liked but one that I wish had been pushed and pulled in just slightly different directions. With some tweaking to the characterization and plot, maybe the removal of the unnecessary almost-sexual assault (because we don’t need to see sexual assault to know its horrors) this movie could have truly been amazing.

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