Don't Breathe

Don't Breathe ★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Heavy spoilers. This isn’t really a review so much as it is unpacking/reading some of the gender politics at work. Quick review: Tense as hell, creative photography (the whole basement lights off sequence…oh man…) but with some character development issues. If you loved the new Evil Dead, you’ll love this. If you hated it, you’ll hate this. I think it’s marginally better than that film but not as cool; it’s more thriller than horror.

Sat down expecting a tense, Green Room style cat-and-mouse affair. Which we get, for the first half, and then that second act twist kicks into full throttle and I audibly exclaimed, probably waking up most of my building, “what the FUCK is this?”, followed by a few “HOLY SHIT”s and a repeated mantra of “what the fuck what the fuck what the fuck” for that bit towards the end with a turkey baster.
It’s easy to accuse this film of misogyny as so much of it revolves around sexual violence towards women. And the film does do horrible things to its female characters (as it does to most of its male characters). But rather than a conservative, subtle undermining of feminist values, I propose that this film is actually a strict condemnation of our rape culture.

It all has to do with Lang’s dialogue. Don’t Breathe is remarkable for how little dialogue it features: it’s aptly titled as much of the film features the protagonists trying to maintain absolute silence. This makes what little dialogue we get crucial to our understanding of the film – not only in exposition of narrative but in subtext. Towards the end, when Rocky is tied up, The Blind Man says, “I’m not a rapist. I never forced myself on anyone”. He says this as he is preparing a turkey baster full of his semen, as he is planning to keep her imprisoned in his basement for 9 months. Okay, sure, he ‘s not a textbook rapist. His genitals never penetrate hers. But what the FUCK difference does it make if you’re still sexually violating a woman, forcing your child upon her, and locking her up for 9 months?

None – it’s still rape, it’s still horrible, it’s still absolutely disgusting. And while the film clumsily handles the morals here, the ending is still a powerful and striking reflection of how our society functions in so many cases: despite his rape/kidnapping/imprisonment/impregnation of the first girl, despite his attempted rape/kidnapping of Rocky, he gets away with it. The media makes the story about the poor blind man who was attacked by vicious millennials (The Blind Man’s age, race, and status as a war veteran are crucial in make this part of the script really work. He’s an older blind white guy who Fought For Our Freedom©, surely he can do no wrong!). Sure, Rocky gets the money. He’s bought her silence (which is the clumsy bit). But the audience is still left disgusted and with the knowledge that he is, for all intents and purposes, a rapist, a psychopath, a monster. The film isn’t misogynist – it’s a reflection of our culture’s ingrained and systemic sexism, a reminder that a man in this country can commit rape and people will paint him as the victim.

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