Intense Horror Thriller Filled With Twists And Turns Will Take Your Breath Away, Stream Without Netflix

By Robert Scucci | Updated

It takes a lot for home invasion movies to impress me these days because there’s only so much that filmmakers can do with the sub-genre that hasn’t been done before. I think that’s why it took me so long to get around to watching Fede Álvarez’s Don’t Breathe. Turns out, this is exactly the kind of home invasion movie I was looking for because not only do the hunters become the hunted, I had no idea who the heck I was supposed to be rooting for as its story progressed into its second and third acts.

Home Invasion Gone Wrong

Don’t Breathe, like most home invasion thrillers, starts with the familiar beats you’d find within the sub-genre but quickly subverts every single expectation you have once the plot thickens. Centering on a botched house robbery involving a blind Gulf War veteran, we’re introduced to an innocent victim who reveals himself to be a highly competent survivalist who knows how to hold down the fort. Not only does he know how to stand his ground in the face of literally being robbed blind, but he is also hellbent on making sure nobody leaves his house alive.

One Last Score

At the film’s outset, three petty criminals named Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minette), and Money (Daniel Zovatto) are established as down-on-their-luck criminals who are looking for a big enough score so they can retire and move on to more legitimate ways to make a living. After receiving some intel from their mover, Raul (Christian Zagia), the trio of thieves decides to take on a job that sounds too good to be true. Rocky’s goal in Don’t Breathe is to steal enough cash so she can move to California with her sister, Diddy (Emma Bercovici), and start a new life far away from Detroit.

The Blind Man

The job in Don’t Breathe seems simple enough after Rocky, Alex, and Money learn who they’re dealing with. Their mark, a blind Gulf War veteran named Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang), recently received a cash settlement of $300,000 after his daughter was killed in a car accident. After casing out the run-down and abandoned Detroit neighborhood that Norman lives in, Money is thrilled to know that Norman doesn’t really have any neighbors, or anybody else looking after him for that matter.

Cat And Mouse

Thinking that they’ve been finally blessed with the quick and easy job they’ve been waiting for, the thieves quietly break into Norman’s house and search for his hidden stash of cash. From this point forward, Don’t Breathe becomes so much more than a home invasion story because Norman, who sleeps with a loaded gun, wakes up from a deep sleep and immediately knows that he’s on the defense.

Norman systematically locks all of the doors from the inside without any visual aids as if he’d been preparing for this moment for his whole life, and it doesn’t take long for what should have been a routine robbery to take an incredibly dark turn.

No More Heroes

What sets Don’t Breathe apart from other home invasion movies is that it’s hard to figure out who the antagonist is until certain reveals are made. When the movie begins with three criminals setting out to do a bad thing, it only makes sense that they’re the “protagonists” because they’re the main characters. But they’re also trying to rob a blind man while he’s sleeping, so how sympathetic are we supposed to be if they get what’s coming to them?

By the same token, if Norman is the bad guy in Don’t Breathe, then I hate to admit that I found myself rooting for him because he’s a total badass who is taking extreme measures to defend himself after his security alarms are bypassed and three criminals let themselves into his home in the middle of the night. This guy is the real deal who clearly won’t go down without a fight. Despite his blindness, Norman knows his way around his property and even finds himself at an advantage because his house is dark, and he can’t see anyway.

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Don’t Breathe continually messes with your expectations and does so in a way that’s not patronizing or cliché. By putting both the film’s protagonists and antagonists in morally questionable territory, you’re left guessing what’s really at stake and who’s actually in the wrong. Fede Álvarez said himself that he wanted to come up with an original premise that didn’t rely on gore after helming 2013’s Evil Dead, and he clearly did what he set out to do with Don’t Breathe.

Having restored my faith in the home invasion sub-genre, Don’t Breathe is a solid thriller that will have you sitting at the edge of your seat. What’s more, there are plenty of “no way!” moments that you simply have to see to believe. You can currently stream Don’t Breathe on Tubi, and it comes with very strong recommendations that you do so.