Don’t Breathe (2016) Review: Home Invasion with a Twist

“This house looked like an easy target. Until they found what was inside.”

Synopsis: Hoping to walk away with a massive fortune, a trio of thieves break into the house of a blind man who isn’t as helpless as he seems.

Don't Breathe (2016) Review Poster
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Calamity Brains:

Don’t Breathe was the 2016 horror movie I was most excited about. Sure, anything with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert attached gets my attention, but the trailer looked great and I generally find the home invasion trope creepy. Most of all, I was interested to see the home invasion plot turned on its head, since the movie follows the home invaders and not the victim. However, the movie ended up being both better and worse than I expected.

The Better: Despite the main antagonist being blind and a great deal of the movie taking place in the dark, the cinematography was excellent. There were a lot of gorgeous wide shots and interesting camera angles. The acting was decent – though the younger actors suffered a little in their scenes of “normal life” outside the house, I had no complaints about their performance once the main action of the movie got started. And speaking of the main action… there were about three more twists in the story than I was expecting, which is always a welcome surprise. Don’t Breathe also does a great job of ramping up the tension throughout the movie (in spite of mediocre music).

The Worse: Where Don’t Breathe suffers most is its characters. As much as I loved the concept of following a home invasion crew instead of their victim, it was very hard to summon any sympathy for the crew when things started to go wrong. After all, they had all decided that robbing people was a better way of dealing with their shitty lives than, oh I don’t know, getting a fucking job. Though the movie makes several attempts to humanize Rocky (Jane Levy) in particular, I found those scenes rather flat and not enough to justify her bad behavior.

So throughout the movie, I’m watching a cat and mouse game between a home invasion crew (that I don’t care about) and their victim… who isn’t exactly a sympathetic protagonist, either. I did find myself noting the tension and appreciating the gravity of the situation. But for me, being scared by a movie usually comes from empathy with the characters. That didn’t really work out this time, since whenever someone (on either side) got attacked, my reaction was “Well, they deserved it.”

Overall, Don’t Breathe is interesting enough to warrant a watch, especially if you don’t need to empathize with any of the characters to get scared. I did most of the classic horror movie watching things: shouted at the screen, judged everyone’s life choices, and went “oh, shit” at least once. I wanted to like it better, but maybe you’ll be able to find some of the enjoyment I couldn’t.

Calamity Brains’ Rating: B-
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Calamity Brains

The Codex Mortis Horror Hosts (Ludwig von Stroodle and Calamity Brains) are married and live in West Virginia. Pretty much everyone who sees their cabin agrees that it would be an ideal setting for a horror movie. Their pets include a black widow spider, a smart dog, and a stupid dog. When they aren’t watching horror movies, they can be found at whiskey festivals, Renaissance fairs, and board game nights.

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