Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Don’t Breathe


We are in Detroit (the movie was actually shot mostly in Hungary!) in one of those blighted neighborhoods where all the houses for blocks around are empty. The windows are blown out and scorch marks climb the walls from previous Devil’s Nights (a Detroit institution where Detroit residents demonstrate their love of their city by trying to burn it down every October 30th, the night before Halloween). But one house is still kept up and inhabited.

We meet three young adults. There is “Money,” one of those ridiculous white guys who braids his hair in cornrows, addresses everybody as “bro,” and calls his girlfriend his “bitch.” Then there is the bitch, Rocky, and lastly Alex, a kid who obviously has a torch bigger than the Statue of Liberty’s burning for Rocky. Rocky and Alex seem to have a modicum of sense (though how smart could she be to have Money for a boyfriend?). Alex’s old man works for a security company and he has access to the entry codes for a lot of swanky houses. They break in, turn off the alarm, and loot to their hearts’ content, then throw a brick through a window when they leave to make it look like a junkie snatch-and-grab. You will instantly despise Money, who goes around breaking stuff just for kicks, and pisses all over the kitchen floor.

Then they learn of an Army veteran whose daughter was killed by a rich girl in a hit-and-run. She was found not guilty (rich kids don’t go to jail, just ask Ethan Couch), but the family pays the man a lot of money, maybe up to $300,000. The kids decide they will break in. But the man seldom leaves the house, and when he does, it is with a vicious Rottweiler. When they finally see him they realize that he is blind. Alex suffers a moment of doubt … ain’t it kind of mean to take advantage of a blind man? But Money and Rocky are all for it, and since he is blind and helpless, let’s do it tonight, when he’s asleep. Trouble is, the place is a fortress, with barred windows, multiple locks on all the doors, and other stuff like that. They take that as encouragement. Obviously he’s trying to keep the money safe. So they drug the dog outside and find a way in. But once inside they realize that he’s not as helpless as they thought. There isn’t much light, and he knows every inch of the place. When he turns all the lights out, they are well and truly fucked.

I will reveal something here that I am sure you knew was coming: Money is the first one to be killed. I wanted to shout hurray! Now it becomes a cat and mouse game, because he doesn’t intend to let the other two leave alive.

I read several reviews that were (mostly) complimentary, but very little mention was made of the moral dilemma here. As in, who do you root for in a situation like that? The kids? The fuckers are felons, they are asking for everything they get. Oh, sure, we are shown an obligatory scene before the break-in where we see that Rocky is trying to save up money so she can take her little sister away from a drunken mother and her piece of shit boyfriend and move to California. That sound you hear is me playing a forlorn song on a very tiny violin. Boo hoo. That is not a justification for robbing a blind man, or even a rich one. The writers fuzzy up the issue by making the blind man a pretty nasty individual (though he has plenty of reason to be nasty, and is probably clinically insane), but the kids didn’t know that going in. For all they knew he was a swell guy and will now be reduced to sitting on a street corner with a tin cup.

I know we are supposed to be rooting for Rocky, and as the story unfolds you sort of can’t help doing that, at least a little, as she really, really suffers for her mistake. But I didn’t like her. I didn’t like any of them, though I felt a certain respect for the blind man.

Other than pondering the moral outlook of the movie, it is a decent thriller that doesn’t rely too heavily on jump scares. Most of the action is at least plausible. The camera work is outstanding, really putting you into the spooky darkness, blundering around with the intruders, never having much idea what’s ahead. It’s worth watching if you are into this sort of thing.