- Actors: Dylan Minnette, Jane Levy, Stephen Lang, Daniel Zovatto
- Director: Fede Alvarez
- Producers: Fede Alvarez, Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert
- Format: Subtitled, Widescreen
- Language: English
- Subtitles: Spanish, English
- Dubbed: Spanish
- Audio Description: English
- Region: All Regions
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Number of discs: 1
- Rated: R
- Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
- DVD Release Date: November 29, 2016
- Digital Copy Expiration Date: December 31, 2019
- Run Time: 88 minutes
Studios may be narrow-mindedly focusing on making films that create or extend franchises, from prequels and sequels to remakes and spin-offs, but they really should pay more attention to horror movies if profit is truly their largest concern. Don’t Breathe was made for a mere $10 million dollars (for perspective, the Independent Spirit Awards will allow films to be categorized as an independent with a budget as high as $20 million) but made $140 million at the box office. Horror movies are incredibly lucrative, partially because they don’t require the budget of a Marvel or a Star Wars film.
One of the surprise successes of the summer, Don’t Breathe returns to the home invasion sub-genre of horror that rose to popularity alongside ‘torture porn,’ following the shift in the social and political climate brought by 2001. The popcorn fare of postmodern horror that had led the 1990s was dismissed for far more visceral and socially relevant narratives. This style aligns quite well with director Fede Alvarez, whose last film was a humorless remake of Sam Raimi’s classic, Evil Dead. This time Alvarez is given the freedom to create an original narrative, however derivative the initial storyline may first appear. A smaller horror movie from last year called Intruders even had the same twist, making villain out of victim and victim out of thief, but it is Alvarez’s precise filmmaking and his ability to fill each moment with undeniable suspense that makes a familiar premise feel new.
The film begins with a trio of fairly unsympathetic thieves that have come up with a system for robbing homes in the nicer areas of Detroit. Alex (Dylan Minnette) has access to security codes that are supposedly protecting the homes, allowing his friends Money (Daniel Zovatto) and Rocky (Jane Levy) to take what they want. When Money hears a rumor that a blind old man (Stephen Lang) living in a rundown neighborhood has $30,000 hidden in his home, the three friends conspire to make his house their last job before escaping their bleak lives in Detroit.
The backstory given to Rocky involving an abusive and neglectful home situation, as well as an innocent younger sister in dire need of saving, makes it absolutely clear who the audience is supposed to have the most sympathy for. This is also a clear hint that Rocky is the most likely candidate for ‘final girl,’ which is certainly enhanced by the fact that she is the only female lead. But predicting the outcome does not take away from the thrills that Don’t Breathe has to offer.
Once Rocky and her two male friends make their way into the crippled senior citizen’s home, they quickly discover that he is not nearly as helpless as they had imagined. Shutting down the home as if it were a trap (not unlike the plot of the slasher franchise which began with The Collector in 2009), the old man turns from victim to aggressor when he discovers the intruders. Forced to hide within the nooks and crannies of the home, hoping not to be discovered by the sightless yet vicious homeowner, Rocky and her friends are punished for their crimes tenfold.
With the limited number of characters in the narrative, the actual violence in the film is minimal, however graphic individual moments may be. This is much more a film about the tension of the situation, building to an unimaginable twist which is horrifying without the need of graphic violence. The horror of Don’t Breathe comes from suspense and the creativity of its terror, rather than buckets of blood and gore.
The Blu-ray release comes with a Digital HD copy of the film, along with plenty of extras on the disc. The highlight of the special features is likely the commentary track, featuring Alvarez, Lang, and co-writer Rodo Sayagues. There are also about 15-minutes worth of deleted scenes, which also come with an optional commentary track with Alvarez. The remaining extras are brief featurettes, none of which are over 5 minutes long. There are two about the house location and its set construction, two about the cast and their characters, and one about the film’s soundtrack.
Entertainment Value: 8.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 8/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Special Features: 7/10