(Don’t Breathe spoilers ahead. Boy, are there spoilers, Spoilers galore.)
Don’t Breathe could have been a classic in the home invasion horror genre. It had all the elements and, although trite, a compelling story line. Alex, Rocky, and Money burglarize houses in order to fund their move to California. However, things get a little hinky when the three decide to break into the home of a blind, Iraq War veteran. It seems he has a lot of money in a safe and it has their name written all over it.
Director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead 2013) attempted to take a different approach to the home-invasion horror. Think a Wait Until Dark, but a version where the intruders are trying to get out of the house. Add in a little Eli Roth twist and you may get some idea of what Alvarez was aiming to achieve in Don’t Breathe.
However, plans don’t always remain intact when the action starts.
How The Movie Should Have Ended Part 1:
Let’s get one thing out of the way right away, shall we? Don’t Breathe should have ended the moment The Bling Man (Stephen Lang) put a bullet in Money’s head. I don’t care what inner-city trailer park you come from you’re going to make a noise when you see your boyfriend shot in the head.
The Blind Man would have then turned around and killed Rocky. Alex, who was still outside the house, would have either gone back into the house and met the same fate or ran. Either way, the movie would have ended right there.
The problem with the movie not ending here is that the movie never establishes Rocky as a tough-as-nails girl, a girl who could see her boyfriend killed and not react. In the only scene we see Rocky interacting with her abusive mother and bored boyfriend she comes off as a normal girl. There’s nothing that would convince us that she would be able to stand up to seeing her boyfriend’s brains splattered on a living room wall.
However, the movie does establish The Blind Man as some sort of super hero, a Daredevil of the horror genre. He heard Money’s gun cock and was skilled enough to get the drop on him. The next scene we see him actually smelling the shoes the three took off when they entered the house. He would have heard Rocky too.
Fortunately for us the movie doesn’t end there. If it did we would be deprived of another outstanding performance by Stephen Lang. Lang’s break out role as Harold Loman in Death of Salesman lead to a career of roles as tough-guys and assholes.
Many people will recognize him as the nosy reporter Freddy Lounds in Silence of the Lambs. More recently, Lang played ubber-asshole Colonel Quaritch in Avatar.
If the movie ended we would have also missed one of the better cat and mouse chases in horror movies. After the Blind Man discovers there’s more than one intruder in his house the movie becomes a race for freedom,
How the Movie Should Have Ended Part II:
The second act of the movie isn’t a scare fest by any means. However, the choreography and cinematography create a chilling atmosphere. You’re sure that when the Blind Man and Alex or Rocky are in the same room he’s going to catch them.
There’s only one jump scene in the entire movie. Alex and Rocky have finally made it out the Blind Man’s basement. They’ve got keys to open the front door and are sure they can escape the house. As soon as they’ve let down their guard the Blind Man crashes through the basement door.
If the movie didn’t convince us Rocky had ice in her veins, it never even tried to make Alex a tough character. At the beginning of the movie, Alex doesn’t want to go to California because he doesn’t want to leave his dad. He also didn’t want to break into the Blind Man’s house because he was afraid his father would get in trouble. Alex does not have the makings of a character who would not make a sound as the basement door crashed open.
It’s at this point where the movie should have ended the second time. The Blind Man could have easily taken one of them out. We could argue the other one could have escaped or fought back, but this is a horror movie and most horror movies don’t have a happy ending.
It’s during the second act of the movie we learn what The Blind Man is really all about. He’s not just an Iraq war veteran and a father morning the loss of his daughter, but he’s also a kidnapper. Okay, he’s more than just a kidnapper.
During the chase and ensuing fights we learn some details about The Blind Man. It turns out he kidnapped the girl who killed his daughter. He’s also impregnated her. The logic being their baby will replace his dead daughter. Yeah, sick stuff to be sure.
How the Movie Should Have Ended Part III:
After the last fight with Alex, when we still think he’s dead, The Blind Man drags Rocky back down to the basement. Rocky wakes up to find herself tied up and hanging from the ceiling. The Blind Man, turkey baster full of his own semen in hand, tells Rocky she has to pay for what they did.
The moment he’s finished telling her this the screen should have gone black, cut to end credits. You want a horror movie? What’s more horrific than leaving the audience with the thought that Rocky is going to be trapped in a basement for nine months? What’s more horrific than the thought of Rocky getting the turkey baster treatment more than once? Nothing, that’s what.
How the Movie Did End:
Unfortunately, the credits did not roll. Instead we’re treated to another cliched horror movie ending.
Turns out The Blind Man didn’t kill Alex. Instead he re-killed an already dead Money. It’s interesting a blind man that can smell shoes and has super hearing can’t tell the difference between a living Alex and a dead Money.
I’ll give credit to the screen writer and director killing off one of the bigger names in the movie. However, the movie goes back to the old horror movie cliches. Rocky, only through the miracle of screenwriting, pushes the Blind Man into the basement where we are supposed to believe he’s dead. Rocky leaves the house with the money and everything seems it will turn out good for Rocky.
The last scene of the movie shows Rocky and her sister in a bus depot watching television. It’s only through perfect timing the local news decides to air a story of the burglary. Turns out The Blind Man isn’t dead. If things aren’t cliched enough the camera focuses in on The Blind Man looking straight at the camera. Of course, Rocky and the audience are to believe he’s going to come after her in California.
Except, there’s always an “except,” earlier in the movie The Blind Man told Alex and Rocky to take the money and leave his house. Alex specifically states that he’s buying there silence. So, what would have changed since then? Nothing would have changed except now there’s one more murder to attach to the Blind Man. He wasn’t going to do anything then and he’s not going to follow Rocky anywhere. The cliched ending was simply a set up for a sequel.
It’s shame too. Don’t Breathe could have been a great horror movie. However, too many cliches and questionable story choices relegates Don’t Breathe as another average horror movie. It’s not a bad movie, just average. Watch it when you have a little time to kill.
Don’t Breathe is now available on DVD, blu-ray, and most of the pay to stream apps.
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