This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dorsey’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Trigger Warning: Rape
Don't Breathe is a sharp, briskly paced reverse home invasion movie that, despite a few awkward stumbles, is the most fun I've had at the theater in a while.
Some minor issues before I get into the meat of it:
1. A character non-ironically uses the term "friendzone." The movie makes up for it by killing him off first but still. That shit pisses me off.
2. We're supposed to be on Rocky's side from the start, even as she is breaking into somebody's house to steal their money, because she's trying to get herself and her kid sister out of an abusive household. But this is established though some of the most over the top, on the nose dialogue ever written. Her mom literally makes dick sucking gestures at her. Lol ok.
3. Fakeout endings are literally always dumb. This movie has like...two or three times where it fades to black like it's going to end and then adds another unnecessary scene.
As soon as we get past the cringeworthy backstory stuff, it gets good. The movie's greatest strength is the way it covers the geography of the house, so that the audience knows the floor plan as well as the characters do. It's hard not to compare to Green Room, the other great 'trying to escape a building and being chased' movie of 2016, where the anatomy of the bar is significantly less clear than the house in this film. The tension is always on, especially during a long sequence in the dark, all dilated pupils and terror. Awesome.
I really want to talk about the climax though, because that's what everyone else is talking about. The attempted rape scene in which an obvious rapist declares, "I'm not a rapist." Of course, it's bullshit. It doesn't matter what you penetrate an unwilling person with, it's rape. I think the movie knows this, and wasn't trying to justify his actions, I think it's the character trying to justify it to himself. He sure as shit doesn't care about justifying it to Rocky, as he clearly doesn't care what she has to say on the matter.
But the fact that it's kind of a throwaway line is a problem for me. If a movie (or a TV show, or a book, or whatever) wants to depict a rape, it needs to be very, VERY clear in calling it what it is, or risk looking like rape apologists, or people who are unclear about what is and isn't rape, as if we need any more of that. It's best to just avoid if at all possible, which it is, 99.9999% of the time.
I 100% support and understand those who want to avoid films with sexual violence, or the threat of it. It's a completely legitimate view, and I wouldn't dream of contradicting it, or telling anyone that the discomfort and pain that they feel when they see these things isn't entirely valid. I have been personally offended at many a shitty rape depiction. But I wasn't upset at this movie after it had ended. The scene is meant to terrify and disturb, and it did just that, while at the same time not objectifying the actress, and not allowing the rapist to be successful. So, I think within the context of a film that is meant to terrify and disturb, it can be permissible if handled carefully. I wouldn't call Don't Breathe particularly careful, given that it didn't HAVE to have that scene, but if I'm judging the film by what it tried to achieve...mission accomplished, I guess.
On the bright side, the dog lived!