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01 Sep 2016

Stupid People Doing Stupid Things: 'Don't Breathe' Is Ruined by Plot Holes, Implausibility

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Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang in Don't Breathe. Dylan Minnette and Stephen Lang in Don't Breathe.

I know movies are mostly fiction, and much of what happens in them wouldn’t really happen in the real world. Still, when a plot is based in reality—in other words, lacking ghosts, aliens, cyborgs, etc.—I lose interest when things become too outlandish and inexplicable.

That brings us to Don’t Breathe. Now here’s a horror movie helmed by a guy who knows how to put a good scare together, that being Fede Alvarez, who gave us that relatively decent Evil Dead remake. The movie deals with three dimwits (Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto) who are trying to rob a blind military veteran (a growly Stephen Lang) in his house. During their heist, they find out a few really bad things about the guy—such as his desire to become the next Jigsaw (the ridiculous villain from the Saw series).

Rocky (Levy, who also starred in Alvarez’s Evil Dead) wants to get out of Detroit and move to California with her little sister. She and her boyfriend, Money (Zovatto), have been pulling off minor robberies with Alex (Minnette) by using alarm codes from his dad’s security company. They get wind of a boatload of money in the blind man’s house and set out to rob him while he’s home.

Yes, the premise is interesting, but things go off the rails pretty quickly when The Blind Man (that’s his actual character name) somehow survives a gassing and interrupts the robbery. His initial thwarting of the break-in is convincing enough—but then the movie becomes all about the robbers standing still while The Blind Man unknowingly races right by them.

Alvarez makes it a point to show The Blind Man’s heightened sense of smell on many occasions. He also shows us that The Blind Man is a well-oiled, keen soldier machine, despite his loss of his sight. Yet The Blind Man somehow couldn’t sense individuals—sweating, twitchy, scared individuals—within inches of that nose of his. I can see how he might race by them once, sure, but he does it multiple times.

The movie then becomes a horror show when the robbers discover what’s in The Blind Man’s basement. It turns out The Blind Man has a backstory involving a daughter killed by a drunk driver and a revenge plot straight out of a Saw movie. Let me make this clear: When I draw comparisons to the Saw movies, it is not a good thing, because I hated all of the Saw movies.

We get the inevitable lights-out scene, with the robbers trying to evade The Blind Man and Alvarez switching to night vision, just as Jonathan Demme did in The Silence of the Lambs, with much more success.

Too much of this movie is based upon everyone doing stupid, stupid things, and reacting to situations in a manner that is truly moronic. Again, I can buy a couple of errors and misjudgments from characters being chased by a malevolent force, but things in Don’t Breathe get way out of hand.

As for the bit with the turkey baster … well, I certainly didn’t need to see that. Don’t get buttered popcorn before watching this movie.

On the plus side, Alvarez gets a few good jump scares, provides a decent homage to Cujo, and gets good acting work out of Levy and, to some extent, Lang. Each performer is at the mercy of the silly script given to them, however, so when it gets a little too ridiculous, they must follow suit.

The ending leaves things very open for a sequel, which would satiate The Blind Man’s thirst to be the next Jigsaw. Alas, given the early financial success of the movie, it’s safe to say The Blind Man will get more opportunities to do bad things with turkey basters and light switches.

Don’t Breathe is playing at theaters across the valley.

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