A most dangerous game of “blind man’s buff” plays out in Don’t Breathe, with a group of thieves trying to avoid the wrath of a blind army veteran after breaking into his home. It’s an interesting concept, in that we’re customarily used to rooting for the person being invaded. It’s taboo to trespass on someone’s property uninvited, and we take it to heart that the trespassers are in the wrong. Well, here, essentially everyone is in the wrong, but only one party is ready to kill. The kids want his money—and it’s a lot of money; however, they also have limits, and murdering the people they’re stealing from is not in their style. At least one of them wants to use the money to begin a better life for herself, so that she no longer has to live in an abusive household. You kind of wish she could’ve told that to the blind man, but unfortunately, he’s past the point of listening to reason. You break into his house? You pay the price.
The concept is best utilized when Alvarez emphasizes the maze-like quality of the house, and how the blind man’s mastery of its spatiality works to the thieves’ detriment. There’s a brief sequence when the man shuts off the lights, and the thieves are forced to navigate a basement full of shelves with only their hands (something which the blind man is able to do with ease). This is a good example of ratcheting up the tension in a logical way. The film is less successful when it tires of endless chase scenes and tries to introduce some more traditional horror elements, like a diabolical sex dungeon and a rabid dog ready to tear someone to shreds. I don’t know about you, but being trapped in a creaky old house by a furious homeowner is plenty scary, and could’ve sustained itself for the entire runtime. The twists in this feel half-formed, and make the final product a little less menacing. Also: too many psych-outs. It’s silly when no one stays dead for more than a minute.
I don’t know what kind of sequel can be made out of this. Will Rocky and the blind man reunite for one last stand like Laurie and Michael Myers in the latest Halloween revival? Will a new group of unsuspecting home invaders get their comeuppance by the blind man when they stumble across his abode? Whatever happens, let’s just get rid of the sex dungeon, okay?