Don't Breathe

Aug 25, 2016

It'll scare the bejesus out of you.

Don’t Breathe

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Grade: B+

Director: Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead)

Screenplay: Alverez, Rodo Sayagues (Panic Attack)

Cast: Stephen Lang (Avatar), Jane Levy (Evil Dead)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 28 min

by John DeSando

“It’s kind of f----d up to rob a blind man.” Alex (Dylan Minnette)

Almost 50 years ago I was thrilled by Wait Until Dark, a horror film in which a usually demure Audrey Hepburn, playing a recently divorced blind woman, turns the tables on three thugs who invade her home. Today in Don’t Breathe the tables are turned a different way: a blind man (Stephen Lang) gives as good as he gets while three young thieves try to rob his home.

As for home invasion, Straw Dogs, with no blind motif, left me hoping for more. Need I even mention Texas Chainsaw Massacre?

Don’t Breathe is set in decaying Detroit. Thieves Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex, and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are themselves rotting robbers, hitting homes  for which Rocky’s dad’s security business unwittingly  supplies the keys.  In this blighted neighborhood the blind man is the last holdout, although he’s well equipped for trouble with his Vietnam experience, a vicious Rottweiler, and $300,000 to protect.

Although nothing scary is outside the purview of the standard horror film, director Fede Alvarez and DP Pedreo Luque take the steadicam to new heights of ingenuity by tracking through the claustrophobic corridors and air ducts along with wounded thieves and the rabid dog. The bird’s eye shots outside the house, rather than giving hope for relief, serve well to isolate the proceedings with nary a hope for relief for anyone in the house, even when they get outside. The jump scares are boilerplate horror, but somehow they feel new or at least unexpected.

Most everyone in Don’t Breathe gets a comeuppance, some more deserving than others. A sense of justice pervades the proceedings just like the appropriateness of the decay motif.  However I spin the themes, even ones that comment obliquely about the war in Vietnam and urban blight, what is most important for the horror genre are scares, and they are plentiful here.

You may not breathe during the many scary set pieces, and as you consider their allegorical implications, you’ll be glad you had the bejesus scared out of you because that’s why you were there.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at