Don't Breathe

Jane Levy stars in Screen Gems' horror-thriller DON'T BREATHE.

Leave it to three unlikable high school-aged home burglars to rip the top box office spot from one of 2016’s most anticipated movies.  After three consecutive weeks (and $283 million) DC Extended Universe’s “Suicide Squad” has lost its grip on the #1 weekend movie ranking to this low-budget horror flick.  Minus sequels and franchise films from the summer box office gross equation, and “The Secret Life of Pets” and “Don’t Breathe” are the only original films to stand in first place since May. 

Is “Don’t Breathe” really that good of a story or has the summer of ‘16 been a relatively bland theater experience?  I’m voting the latter and think movie studios are just purposefully holding back their best films of 2016 in hopes of increasing their odds for end-of-the-year award considerations. 

As for “Don’t Breathe”, Uruguayan film director Federio Alvarez introduces moviegoers to a trio of malcontents who exhibit zero redeeming qualities and make even fewer good decisions.  Hell-bent on robbing the Detroit home an Army veteran blinded in war, these vacuous teens don’t even wait for the man to leave his address before the horror begins for them.

If anyone knows horror and how to bring constant Rocky Balboa punishment to crass victims it’s director Alvarez, who gave us “Evil Dead” in 2013.  And “Don’t Breathe” does many things right.  Only in downsized true-life Detroit could this mayhem ensue without nary a neighbor or watchful citizen taking notice. This film also deserves serious props for its originality and ability to house almost an entire film within 3,500 square feet.  But the most enjoyment of “Don’t Breathe” comes from a few well-thought-out twists and turns that will catch viewers off guard.  

One doesn’t necessarily associate great film performances with horror films.  But believable characters, through exceptional on-screen labors,make our movie experiences more satisfying and memorable. Without such effort audiences don’t fully invest in the production of the film’s budding plot or its cast of personal stories to share.  In “Don’t Breathe” viewers lack any sort of appeal or empathy towards the three teenage robbers, thus missing one of the most important substances to a story.  

The summer of 2016 has been good for horror films.  Aside from its paper-thin character development and less than impressive cast, “Don’t Breathe” still can’t hold its own against two other better shocking horrors this summer.  Shark-filled “The Shallows” and the nail-biting supernatural “Lights Out” are both films that can raise your blood pressure faster and give you more entertainment value than “Don’t Breathe’.” Go see either of those two horror films for just as many jump-out-of-your-seat moments but with outstanding screen performances and more appealing characters.  

Grade: C+


(Patrick King is a resident of Tucson and writer for the REEL BRIEF movie blog at  You may email him at

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