Rotten Tomatoes summed up the story: “A trio of reckless thieves breaks into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong”. To say Don’t Breathe knocked it out of the ball park its opening weekend is a total understatement. The story? Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are the three twenty-something Detroit delinquents. They have done a bunch of successful home invasions, and this is going to be the biggest one yet and their ticket out of misery. Seems there is this old, blind guy (played by Stephen Lang), who is sitting on a stash of insurance payout cash he got when his daughter was killed by a car driven by a rich kid. The heist looks easy. But wait. Sure, the man is old and blind, but he is also a combat hardened veteran who knows how to kill. In fact, as the film slowly reveals, he’s a monster of a man. He puts the house into lockdown mode, trapping the intruders and the hunt is on. Made on a small budget, it was like a shockwave hit theaters on August 26th, 2016.
Be warned! This piece is full of spoilers. So, here are 15 facts about Don’t Breathe and its cast and crew that will totally, totally blow you away.
15. The Home Invasion Movie With A Deadly Twist
It’s a home invasion. See, the thing is you should be rooting for the old blind guy, yet you are totally pulling for the thieves. Why? First of all, while they have already done a string of successful home robberies (bad guys), this one is the big one, their ticket out of Detroit and into a new life (as good guys). Then, there’s the blind man himself. Turns out he’s a monster, a trained killer with some nasty secrets in his basement. Enter almost good girl Rocky, who is full of hope for herself and her baby sister. Then there’s Money (complete with a dollar sign tattoo on his neck), the nasty one. And poor Alex seems stuck in the middle, somewhere between Money and Rocky. And (spoiler) after the old man shoots mean and nasty Money with his own gun and goes after the other two, it gets easier to root for the so called ‘bad guys’. There’s something worse than people who steal: People who kill and enjoy it.
14. The Official Trailer: Close To 10 Million YouTube Views
When the film hit theaters on Friday, August 26th, the trailer had around eight million views, with an overwhelmingly positive thumbs up reaction. By the end of the weekend, that number had rocketed to nearly ten million. Like the movie itself, the trailer gives us a bit of backstory, particularly Rocky’s tale of an abusive mom and a sweet younger sister, Diddy. This home invasion is going to give her the money that will buy her and Diddy a new life. First Rocky, Alex and Money, case the house and its owner. Looks like a piece of cake, they agree. But then Money says that just because the guy is old and blind, it doesn’t make him a saint. Hint of the menace that is to come. After drugging the old man’s nasty dog, the three stage a late night break-in. So far, so good. But it hits the fan when Money shoots the lock off a door and the blind man appears, a hulking menacing presence. And we are off to the races.
13. The Director Who Got His Big Break On YouTube
Way back in 2009, Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, made Panic Attack! and posted it on YouTube. It was his calling card, a short film that had robots overrunning a human city. It got all kinds of attention, including a story in the Los Angeles Times. This Fede guy is going to be a megastar, everyone said. The short was less than five minutes long, with a budget of a few hundred dollars. But it brought Alvarez to the attention of Sam Raimi, the director/producer of Evil Dead and Poltergeist, and his first big gig as the director of an Evil Dead movie in 2013. And then came the big prize when he teamed up with Raimi again to make Don’t Breathe. The South American director has said that he loves scaring people. Well, all the Hollywood hype was right: This guy is going to be a big star.
12. The Totally Scariest Scene
We’ll get to the secret in the basement shortly, but suffice it to say that the blind man chases Rocky and Alex into the basement and something happens there that so totally enrages the old guy that he flips the electric switch and casts the whole house into total darkness. Nobody can see anything at all. The scene is shot in near darkness, with Rocky feeling her way holding onto some shelving, a look of abject terror on her face. And she inches along and inches along. But wait, what’s that up ahead? We see that telltale white undershirt and we know. She’s about to run smack into the blind guy. Everyone in the theater was holding their breath. Don’t Breathe in action. Then Alex calls out…
11. First Weekend Box Office To Die For
The movie had a production budget of around $9 million. The thing is, with publicity and launch costs, the general rule of thumb is that you have to make double the production budget to start seeing a profit. And Don’t Breathe managed to make nearly three times it costs in the first couple of days. It made nearly $2 million in previews on the Thursday before its official launch on Friday, August 26th. Okay, after that, the press was saying it was set to make around $20 million that first weekend. But it even smashed that record, achieving $26.1 million by the time the theaters shut on the Saturday night.
10. The Twist In The Alex Plot
After Fede Alvarez made Evil Dead, some critics said there was too much blood. And there was a lot of blood. So in Don’t Breathe we get less blood and a whole lot more suspense and twists and turns. See, the blind guy shoots Money pretty early on. But he’s blind and so doesn’t realize right away that there are more robbers in the house. So, we have one body on the floor. When he realizes that Money was not alone, he sets out to stalk the remaining thieves. Tense scenes like the old guy walking right by Alex in the hall or breaking into a room that Alex and Rocky are hiding in come thick and fast. Then he chases Alex and kills him by stabbing him with a pair of scissors. Only thing is Alex is too smart for him and the old man ends up stabbing Money’s corpse. So, Alex is still alive and kicking. More about that later.
9. The Thing About The Contact Lenses
There comes a point in the movie where the old man gets really, really p*ssed off, and cuts the electricity, throwing the basement into total darkness. He says the robbers will see what he sees. That’s nothing. And so we then get these eerie night view scenes where Rocky and Alex can only feel their way around the house. They are as blind as the old guy. Brilliantly shot by Alvarez, these scenes are some of the most suspenseful and scary in the movie. The eyes of the characters are a big part of the action. The eerie look was achieved by special effect contact lenses that made the Rocky and Alex’s eyes look dilated, like eyes adjusting to the dark. Plus the lenses obscured the actors’ vision, so all of them, including Stephen Lang, really have restricted sight, making the stumbling around all the more real. Nice touch, Fede.
8. Really Cool Stuff About Jane Levy
Hollywood is really a big small town. People form associations with people and end up making a string of movies together. Take Jane Levy and Fede Alvarez. Jane starred as Mia in Evil Dead. And so it was no surprise that he cast her as the totally likeable but determined Rocky in Don’t Breathe. She says she hung out with the means girls in high school, but herself was a “floater”, somebody who gets on with anybody and everybody. She was on the school’s hip hop dance team and appeared in a string of community theater production, beginning at the ripe old age of seven. She quit acting at thirteen and played a lot of soccer. Thankfully, acting called again and she got her first big break in 2011 in TV’s Suburgatory. She played Tessa Altman.
7. Something Really Nasty In The Basement
Let’s pick up where we left off. Money’s dead and the old man has put the house into lockdown, trapping the intruders. Then, Alex and Rocky find the old man’s safe and score a cool $1 million. Chased by the blind man, they flee to the basement and find a girl in chains. Seems she was the rich kid that killed his daughter and got away with it. So, he’s impregnated her with a turkey baster (gross) and is holding her captive in the basement until she gives birth to a child that will replace his daughter. Only thing is, instead of shooting Rocky or Alex, he kills his baby mama. That is what makes him so mad that he cuts the lights. Then he thinks he has killed Alex (not) and Rocky tries to escape via the ventilation ducts, pursued by one mean dog. She is captured and about to suffer pregnancy by turkey baster when Alex appears and rescues her.
6. Less Blood and More Shock
We’ve seen how Fede Alvarez went from YouTube to associating with horror/fantasy king Sam Raimi, making 2013’s Evil Dead. The movie had a production budget of around $17 million and made almost $100 million worldwide. Everybody was happy. But there was just one thing: Fans and critics said that there was just too much obvious blood and gore. Even a brief look at the trailer makes that obvious. So, when he made Don’t Breathe, Alvarez gave us less blood and more tension and twists. We go from home invasion and three cocky thieves, to a stalking chase where the thieves become the prey and the blind man the stalker. That builds and builds, leading to the lights out scenes and a thrilling climax.
5. Stephen Lang, Avatar, And The Bumps And Bruises
You’ve seen him as Miles Quaritch in Avatar. He says he is totally cool with being cast as bada** types. He also does a lot of tough military characters, embracing the mean, killing machine-type of character. He’s talked about those contact lenses and shooting in the dark, saying his vision was reduced to around thirty percent in some scenes. Hence the bumping into things and the bruises. Playing a blind guy is not that easy. The lenses helped to keep his performance honest, but he worked hard to get the lay of the sets and the number of steps from one point to another down. The old blind guy’s advantage was that he knew his house, where everything was. And that’s what Lang worked hard to get right. While he embraces the bad guy thing, he has gone on record saying he’d love to be the love interest and play a few love scenes.
4. That Final Scene
Everyone watching the movie is totally exhausted at this point. We have spent most of a night in a blacked out prison of a house. Then the blind man kills Alex and Rocky, makes her escape with the money, only to be hauled back. Rocky is a survivor and somehow she triggers the house’s alarm system, which totally disorientates the blind guy. Enter a crowbar and a scene where Rocky triumphs and escapes with the money just ahead of the police. She and her baby sister are all set to make their escape to California and life the good life. But what about the old guy? Do we dare to hope he’s dead?
3. A Little Movie That Blows Suicide Squad Out Of The Water
It’s hard to feel sorry for a movie that has made some $636 million worldwide since its launch on August 5th of 2016, and was number one in the box office stakes for three weeks. So no tears. But a whole lot of high fives for Don’t Breathe, the low budget wonder that raked in $26.1 million to Suicide Squad’s $12.1 million in its first weekend. And the thing is, not only did fans love it, but critics raved as well. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a mega 87 percent ranking. Most critics agreed, giving the film a total thumbs up, with mega praise for Fede Alvarez, Jane Levy and Stephen Lang.
2. The Ending Leaves Room For A Sequel
See, Rocky learns a few things from the news before she flies out with her sister. Number one, the old man is recovering in the hospital, having killed two “intruders”. Seems he hasn’t reported anything as being stolen. So, Rotten Tomatoes says, will we have a sequel where the blind guy gets out of the hospitals and tracks Rocky down? Totally unlikely, you say? What about this: Rocky and her sister visit Detroit and the old guy, sitting on a bench, hears her voice and recognizes it. Not very plausible. But then you are dealing with a blind man who managed to track down, capture, and impregnate his daughter’s killer. Fede Alvarez has said he is totally up for a Don’t Breathe sequel.
1. Set In Detroit And Shot In Hungary?
Yes, true. Some external scenes were shot in Detroit, but remember that almost all the action takes place inside the locked and bolted house. And all of those scenes were filmed on a set in a Hungarian studio. Besides, everything’s cheaper in Hungary, from crew to cast members, such as Emma Bercovici who played Diddy, Rocky’s sister. Detroit is often used as a menacing setting for films that, after Michigan abolished its film incentives, get shot elsewhere. Most of the filming was done in Budapest, Hungary, over a seven week period in 2015. And even when they filmed in Detroit, Alvarez used local crew. On low budget films, every penny counts.