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Film / Don't Breathe

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"Now you're gonna see what I see."

"It's kind of fucked up to rob a blind guy, isn't it?"

Don't Breathe is a 2016 American horror thriller film directed by Fede Alvarez and written by Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues. The film stars Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto, and Stephen Lang.

Rocky (Levy), a teenage delinquent living with neglectful parents, promises her younger sister to move away with her. Looking for the right amount of cash to run away with in order to do so, her boyfriend Money (Zovatto) convinces her to break into the home of a blind man (Lang) who supposedly has a safe in the basement with a large fortune. After they enter in the middle of the night, with the help of Rocky's friend Alex (Minnette), they discover the blind man is not as helpless as he seems.

The film was produced by Ghost House Pictures and Good Universe. The film premiered at South by Southwest on March 12, 2016 and was released on August 26, 2016, by Screen Gems and Stage 6 Films.

A sequel was announced several months after the film's release, with its title confirmed to be Don't Breathe 2 in early 2020. The film was released on August 13, 2021.

Previews: Trailer, International Trailer.

Don't Breathe contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: Most of the action takes place in the only inhabited house in an otherwise deserted neighborhood in Detroit. Before breaking in, the thieves establish that there are no neighbors for several blocks. This means that no one will hear any gunshots, and no one will be calling the cops or coming to help. The first shot of the film is the Blind Man dragging Rocky's unconscious body down the center of the street in broad daylight, completely unmolested.
  • Abusive Parents: Rocky's Lower-Class Lout mother is very verbally abusive and also used to lock her in the trunk of a car as punishment for crying. Rocky's primary motivation for stealing the Blind Man's money is so that she can get herself and her younger sister out of the house.
  • The Adjectival Man: Norman Nordstrom, "The Blind Man."
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Rocky uses this to escape a room since the windows are barred and the only door has the Blind Man on the other side. She's only barely able to fit, as Alex apparently can't. His Angry Guard Dog is also able to fit through them.
  • Angry Guard Dog: The Blind Man has a large, vicious rottweiler.
  • Anti-Hero: Our Main Characters are a couple of thieves, but they're sympathetic due to the greater crimes of the antagonist.
  • Anti-Villain: On the flipside, The Blind Man is, for the most part, protecting his home. That is, until the reveal shows his true colors.
  • Asshole Victim: Money spends his fleeting screen time being an obnoxious asshole, so his sudden death doesn't overshadow the audience's sympathy for the remaining characters.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The Blind Man holds a pair of hedge clippers above the prone Alex and slams it down. We see an extreme close-up of the clippers stabbing through a dark jacket, then we cut away. Later, we find out that the Blind Man had stabbed Money's corpse by mistake. Alex is still alive.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Alex comes to Rocky's rescue literal seconds before the Blind Man is able to artificially inseminate her.
  • Big Sister Instinct: Part of Rocky's motivation for agreeing to break into the house is because she wants to give her sister a better home life.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Rocky survives and escapes with the money, giving her and her sister a chance at a better life, but Alex and Money are still dead. Worse, the Blind Man survives and, if a news report at the end is any indication, may escape punishment for his crimes, and ensuring Rocky will look over her shoulder for the rest of her life.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Our Main Characters are three burglars who knowingly and deliberately try to steal from a blind man. The antagonist is a blind, insane man who has kidnapped a woman and forcibly inseminated her...the woman who killed his daughter in a car accident.
  • Blind Weaponmaster: The Blind Man is very dangerous despite his disability and is mentioned as having been in Special Forces.
  • Book Ends: Around the start of the film, Rocky explains the significance of ladybugs to Alex — they symbolize hope, as her Abusive Parents would lock her in a car trunk for hours on end, and one time a ladybug flew in through a hole and landed on her finger and made her feel safe. Towards the end, another ladybug flies on her finger, even spreading its wings and flying towards the general direction of Alex's remote, which gives her the idea to use it against the Blind Man.
  • Bound and Gagged: Cindy, the woman who killed the Blind Man's daughter, is kept tied up so the Blind Man can impregnate her.
  • Breeding Slave: The Blind Man has been keeping Cindy - the woman who killed his daughter - prisoner in his basement until she has his child (via artificial insemination). After she is killed, he attempts to use Rocky for the same purpose.
  • Call-Back: Earlier in the film, Rocky relates a story of how her mother would lock her in a car trunk for hours, but one time a ladybug flew in and made her feel safe. Just before her final confrontation with the Blind Man, a ladybug lands on her hand, inadvertently pointing out the means for her to escape.
  • Can't Kill You, Still Need You: The Blind Man doesn't kill Rocky when he has the chance, because he has other plans for her.
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The camera lingers on a number of seemingly random objects as the three Main Characters initially enter the house, almost all of which serve some sort of purpose as the movie progresses.
  • Creepy Basement: The burglars think its just another house, until they discover the secret downstairs....
  • Curbstomp Battle: Money, a fit and tall street thug, doesn't put up any fight at all against the Blind Man.
  • Damsel in Distress: Alex manages to escape the house to safety twice, but returns both times to help Rocky.
  • Did Not Think This Through: The Blind Man claims that after Cindy, and later Rocky, give him a child, he'll let them go free. How he expects them to just let him get away with such heinous crimes is unclear. Although he may be lying, and even if he's not, it's pretty well established he's left the realm of rational thought.
  • Dies Wide Open: Subverted. Rocky assumes that the Blind Man is dead after seeing his inert body with eyes wide open at the bottom of the basement ladder, but it turns out that he survived.
  • Disability Superpower: Downplayed. The Blind Man's blindness is mostly played as a critical weakness that allows the thieves to stay alive as long as they do. The one time he turns it to his advantage is when he shuts off the lights in the basement, and it's only his familiarity with his surroundings that enables him to get the advantage, not super-senses. That said, as mentioned in Blind Weaponmaster above, he's really good at being blind.
  • Disappeared Dad: Rocky has one, leaving her with her abusive mother.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Alex is "in the friend zone" with Rocky, though he clearly has designs on her. Money, her boyfriend, warns him away in the beginning of the film. While he eventually professes his love for her in the original script, this aspect of their relationship isn't really brought up again in the final film.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Inverted. When The Blind Man kills the lights in the basement, and stalks his now helpless prey, he patiently steps back into what we see as a patch of darkness, waiting for one of them to stumble on him.
  • Establishing Character Moment:
    • The break-in at the film's opening serves as this for the three main characters.
      • Rocky puts on rich people's clothes and lays on their bed, representing her desire to ditch the old life and start a better one.
      • Alex looks through some books, showing him as a more thoughtful, meek person.
      • By breaking vases and pissing on the floor, it is evident that Money is a rude and careless jerkass.
    • The dog gets one when it tries to attack the trio from outside Money's car, establishing that it's a vicious guard dog that will roam outside of its home to attack intruders. Later in the film, it chases Rocky back to Money's car and tries to get inside.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Alex is the only one of the three burglars who continually expresses serious reservations about the robbery; he initially refuses to participate at all on the grounds that stealing $300,000 would enable them to be charged with grand larceny, and tries to walk out later when Money reveals he brought a gun, which would give the homeowner the right to kill them in self-defense. He's also understandably opposed to robbing a blind guy on general principle.
    • Money, the most amoral of the three robbers by far, is still very hesitant to actually shoot an elderly man. He actually has the Blind Man helpless at gunpoint early in the movie. His inability to follow through on his threats is what ends up getting him killed and getting a gun in the old man's hands. Furthermore, once he's in the Blind Man's grasp, he lies and tells him he's the only one of the robbers to give Rocky a chance at escaping.
  • Excrement Statement: Money engages in mindless vandalism of the home he breaks into, including pissing on the floors.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • When Alex balks at the idea of robbing a blind man, Money says, "Just because he's blind doesn't mean he's a saint." It turns out that the Blind Man is quite villainous, to extents none of them could have predicted.
    • When the trio first enter the home, we see an upside-down picture of a girl with a bloody fingerprint on the glass. This foreshadows the Blind Man's recent bloody business and obsession over his daughter, which becomes clear later.
    • Shortly before breaking into the house, Alex wonders if the Blind Man is really asleep, as one of the lights is still on, only for Money to retort that light doesn't mean a thing to the Blind Man. When Rocky and Alex are in the basement, the Blind Man kills the power, as it doesn't mean a thing to him.
  • From Bad to Worse: Things get very bad very quickly for the Main Characters, and only continue for much of the film.
  • Final Girl: Rocky is the only protagonist to escape alive.
  • Gross-Up Close-Up: We get very detailed looks at the Blind Man's semen-filled turkey baster — pubes included.
  • Handicapped Badass: The whole plot of the movie is that the teenagers break into a house of an old blind man who turns out to be capable of defending himself very well.
  • Happier Home Movie: The Blind Man has a video of his dead daughter running on his television when Money breaks into his bedroom.
  • He Knows Too Much: The Blind Man realizes that Money has opened the door to the basement, and Money claims that he knows what's down there, thinking that it opens to a room that holds the Blind Man's money. We later learn that he's holding a kidnapped girl he forcibly impregnated, giving him reason to silence possible witnesses even before he learned he was robbed.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Seemingly out of nowhere, near the end, the Blind Man justifies his monstrous actions by claiming "there’s nothing a man cannot achieve when he accepts there is no god."
  • Hollywood Silencer: Subverted; Money gets fed up with trying to bust open the lock to the basement door with a crowbar, so he attempts to shoot the lock off with his gun and places a water bottle over the muzzle to act as a crude suppressor. He manages to shoot the lock off and reduce the gun's blast to a small pop, but it still attracts the Blind Man to the thieves' location.
  • Hope Spot: Time and time again. Rocky manages to squirm through the vents and kick open a grate to the outside, only to be pulled back into the house by the Blind Man. Then she's rescued by Alex and they manage to get the front door open before Alex is killed. Then Rocky seems to make it out and survive the dog attack, only to be captured once more by the Blind Man. Finally, she overpowers him and manages to escape with the money... Only to learn that the Blind Man survived his apparent death.
  • How We Got Here: The film opens with Rocky being dragged by the hair through a street by the Blind Man before flashing back. We catch up late in the third act.
  • Implacable Man: The Blind Man is very hard to take down. Amusingly, he has something of a Good Counterpart in that sense in the form of Alex, who can also take a staggering amount of punishment and keep surviving.
  • Irony: Being too quiet actually gives the Blind Man more of an advantage over the burglars. As seen later in the film, too much noise will overwhelm the Blind Man and make him flail around desperately trying to shut it off, leaving him open to attack.
  • The Jailer: The Blind Man is keeping the woman who killed his daughter prisoner in his basement. After she is killed, he plans the same fate for Rocky.
  • Jerkass: Money, who is established early as a carelessly cruel thug.
  • Jump Scare: The film contains plenty, although they're generally built up well with lots of suspense.
  • Loose Floorboard Hiding Spot: The Blind Man covers the box containing Cindy's corpse with a piece of flooring.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Alex gets thrown out a window and lands on a skylight, later falls through that skylight and lands straight on his back, and is given a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown by the Blind Man, and still gets back up. Only when he gets shot again, just as he's leaving the house, does he finally die.
    • The Blind Man also takes an absolute beating. And unlike Alex, the ending reveals that he survives.
  • Medical Rape and Impregnate: After Cindy dies in the escape attempt, Rocky wakes up restrained in the basement. Nordstrom puts Cindy's corpse in a big metal box, fills it up with acid, and covers it up with a piece of the floor. He reveals that Cindy was pregnant with his "replacement" child, explaining he is not a rapist. He then prepares to artificially inseminate Rocky using a turkey baster and promises to let her go after she gives him a child.
  • Minimalist Cast: Only four characters have any significant amount of dialogue, and one of them is killed in the first act.
  • Mind Your Step: Twice a squeaky floorboard in the living room gives away the intruders' location to the Blind Man.
  • Monochrome Casting: Although the cast isn't very large, it's a bit interesting that every character is white, given that Detroit is only 14% white.
  • Motive Misidentification: The Blind Man isn't all that concerned about the money in his safe. What he's really trying to protect is the hostage in his basement bearing his child.
  • Mutually Assured Destruction: Discussed when Alex and Rocky decide whether to take the money or call the police on the Blind Man. If Rocky takes the money, then neither of them can rat the other out without giving away their own secrets. Sure enough, after Rocky does take the money, and the Blind Man does not tell the police about her.
  • Neutral Female: While Money and the Blind Man are struggling with the gun, Rocky, who's next to them, doesn't do anything.
  • Night-Vision Goggles: No actual goggles are shown, but the scene in the pitch-black cellar wouldn't be thrilling at all if the audience couldn't see a thing, so it's shot with a monochrome filter instead that looks like night vision. The effect is even more terrifying than it sounds.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished:
    • Alex has a couple of chances to get away but turns back in order to save Rocky. The second time, he's shot in the back just inches from freedom.
    • Alex and Rocky have a chance at escaping from the basement, but Rocky stops to save Cindy. It gives The Blind Man a chance to cut them off, shooting Alex in the ear and killing Cindy, as well as giving the Blind Man a chance to permanently seal off the cellar as an escape route.
  • No Name Given: The antagonist is only called the Blind Man. Word of God says the character's name is Norman Nordstrom, but this is strictly All There in the Manual.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The premise of the film is that the Main Characters have to be as quiet as possible in order to escape the Blind Man's house.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: When the Blind Man first confronts Money, Money tries to scare him off by saying he knows what's in the basement and isn't leaving without it, thinking the Blind Man's safe is down there. Unfortunately for Money, cash isn't what's in the basement.
  • The Oner: When the trio first enters the Blind Man's house, we see a quite Panic Room-esque long take of the camera moving around different rooms and floors of the house in omniscient fashion, essentially getting the audience acquainted to the area as the characters are.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Alex and Rocky could have made a quick exit from the basement, but Rocky insists on saving Cindy, stating that even though she killed the Blind Man's daughter, no one deserves her fate. The attempt fails, but it's the thought that counts.
    • Even though Money is just another amoral low-life small-time crook, his last acts involve being very hesitant to actually shoot an elderly man and when overpowered, he lies to the Blind Man and claims to be the only burglar there to give Rocky a chance to escape before he is killed. This was ironically Money's only sincere moment of this trope in the entire film, yet immediately he paid for with his life.
  • Posthumous Character: Emma, the Blind Man's Daughter, who is glimpsed only through photographs and a Happier Home Movie.
  • Prayer Is a Last Resort: Rocky indulges in prayer while she's tied up and helpless. The Blind Man cruelly scorns her for doing so.
  • Protect This House: An inversion with the antagonist protecting his house from the Main Characters.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: The Blind Man's status as horror villain (as opposed to just a man defending his house from intruders) is established by The Reveal that he's kidnapped and forcibly impregnated someone.
  • Raster Vision: Appears on the final TV screen showing the news report.
  • The Reveal: The Blind Man is keeping his daughter's killer in his basement, and he's impregnated her to replace the child he's lost. Once she dies, Rocky's next...
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Alex is opposed to the idea of stealing from the Blind Man due to the morals and scale of the operation. It turns out that he was right to oppose the robbery, but the real reason is because the Blind Man is a kill-crazy psychopath with a chained-up woman in his basement.
  • Right-Hand Attack Dog: The Blind Man's guide dog is large and menacing Rottweiler, who is in fact introduced barking ferociously at the Main Characters. It's why their first step in the robbery is neutralizing it with sleeping medicine. But it eventually wears off and the dog wakes up. The Blind Man makes full use of him to hunt them down in the movie's third act.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The story was partially inspired by the Byron David Smith killings in Little Falls, Minnesota, in 2012. After his home had been burglarized multiple times, Smith deliberately made it look like no one was home and waited for the burglars (who turned out to be two teenagers). He ambushed them both in the dark and executed them, all the while recording himself and his reasons for doing so. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
  • Scenery Gorn: It takes place in a run-down Detroit neighborhood; what do you expect?
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The driver who killed the Blind Man's daughter avoided consequences in part due to her family's money. The Blind Man, however, does not let her get away so easily.
    The Blind Man: "She should have gone to prison, but rich girls don't go to jail."
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Zig-zagged with Alex. Uncomfortable with the burglary, he abandons the other two early, but returns when he hears a gunshot. He later almost escapes, thinking that Rocky's dead, but returns to save her when he ostensibly hears her screams.
  • Shear Menace: The Blind Man goes to stab Alex with a pair of garden shears during the fight in the laundry. He winds up stabbing Money's dead body instead.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Contains several to another popular home invasion thriller, Panic Room, which Fede Alvarez openly cited as a primary inspiration:
      • Money resembles Jared Leto's character Junior in more ways than one — their looks (white guys with cornrows in street dress), their Hot-Blooded attitudes, and the fact that both are the first of their trios to get killed.
      • The film contains a similar omniscient long take.
      • The film's closing credits — displaying names and text attached to the architecture of the house — mirror the famous opening credits of Panic Room, down to the font choice.
    • The case can also be made for a nod to Fight Club; the Blind Man shooting Money through the bottom of his head is shot almost identically to the Narrator shooting himself in the cheek, with the use of slow-motion, the flash of the gunfire, and the blast rippling through the face all prominent in both shots.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: An impatient Money shoots the lock in the Blind Man's house when he can't get the door open with a crowbar. It works... at a cost.
  • Shovel Strike: The Blind Man attempts to kill Alex with a shovel during the fight in the laundry.
  • Show, Don't Tell: The way the trio operates as burglars is shown entirely via images and actions rather than dialogue.
  • Silent Antagonist: The Blind Man only says a few words until the climax.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Money is a foul-mouthed hoodlum.
  • Slasher Movie: The movie's plot is a blind killer hunting the teenagers who broke into his house.
  • The Speechless: Cindy doesn't say a word in her entire time onscreen because she is gagged when Rocky and Alex rescue her and is killed before the gag can be removed.
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted. Several characters experience realistic ear-ringing when a gun is fired close to their head (and when The Blind Man grazes Alex's ear with a lucky shot). The Blind Man is just as susceptible to this—perhaps even more so than the intruders—and it could explain why he fails to sense Alex and/or Rocky when they are nearby at certain points in the film.
  • Storyboard Body: Rocky has a new tattoo of a ladybug on her wrist. She explains to Alex that to her the ladybug represents hope and freedom (and why). When she gets to California, she plans to have the tattoo colored, and that will be the last time she ever marks her body.
  • Tempting Fate: When Rocky escapes the house in the morning, she taunts the Blind Man by shouting, "You're useless out here!" The literal second she finishes that sentence, his dog leaps in her direction.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Money is just too dumb and cocky to live. He simply assumes that the Blind Man is unconscious and proceeds to make unnecessary racket, as if to ensure that the Blind Man will rush downstairs before the chloroform has time to work.
  • Tragic Villain: The Blind Man was apparently a war hero before the loss of his daughter drove him insane.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Most trailers include the Blind Man killing Money, as the plot wouldn't work if we didn't know that the former is a real threat. The theatrical trailer also had a blink-and-you'll-miss-it shot of Cindy gagged and restrained, hinting that there might be more going on than a man protecting his house.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The teenagers thinking that breaking into a blind man's house would be a simple task. He's much more dangerous they they anticipate.
  • The Unseen: Alex's father who works for the alarm company, seen only in a picture.
  • Villainous Underdog: While the Blind Man - being Stephen Lang - is a menacing villain, one can't deny the fact he is completely blind, up against three burglars several decades younger than him, one of them armed with a pistol.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The Blind Man is just as vicious towards Rocky as he is to Alex or Money.

"Just 'cause he's blind don't mean he's a fucking saint, bro."