Pillbox

Review: Don't Breathe

I've only recently come to tolerate horror as a genre. For 90 percent of my life, I found scary movies physically repellent.

For example, as a peer-pressured pre-teen forced to watch slasher classic [ITAL]I Know What You Did Last Summer[ITAL], I tried to throw my hands to my face to cover my eyes, except that I was eating a muffin on my mom's nice Pfalzgraff plate. I chipped my tooth. A few years later, trying to be brave, I joined my uncle to watch Stephen King's [ITAL]The Mist[ITAL]. I slept with my sister for a week.

But at Carnegie Mellon, having both a best friend and a boyfriend who inexplicably love horror movies, I bit the bullet. As I sit through more scary movies with them, I gradually numb to their effects, and occasionally, I even enjoy them.

So as a back to school treat, said best friend and I indulged in dinner and a movie: Burgatory and [ITAL]Don't Breathe[ITAL]. When I saw the trailer for it, innocently enough trying to enjoy [ITAL]Sausage Party[ITAL], I nearly released fluids. So going into [ITAL]Don't Breathe[ITAL], I viewed it as a real challenge to my horror tolerance. But just in case, I appealed to another of my low tolerances and went in two margaritas deep, stuffed to the gills with the burger of the day.

We picked out seats, I put up my feet, and I unbuttoned my pants. I was ready to roll.

The opening scene of the movie feels like [ITAL]Bling Ring[ITAL] — three smug, reckless teens (Alex, Rocky, and Money) rummaging through a stranger's home with an air of dangerous excitement. Except this is definitely not [ITAL]Bling Ring[ITAL]. This is Detroit.

Then we get some characterization in a few very poorly written scenes. Allow me to offer a less painful rendition: Alex loves Rocky, but is meek and probably thinks she "friend-zoned" him. Very conveniently, his father owns a home security company and keeps all the keys and alarm codes in their home. Alex helps Rocky and Money break into houses so that Rocky will like him? Rocky and Money steal things to make money, to save up to move to California, because who wants to live in Detroit. Rocky has an innocent little sister, and a drunk obnoxious mother with a drunk obnoxious boyfriend. Rocky is tough because she had to be. Money is just kind of a thug. We know he's going to die first.

They find out about a blind old Gulf War veteran sitting on a large cash settlement from the rich parents of a drunk driver who killed his daughter. Naturally they decide to go for it, and things get good.

The build is slow and uncomfortable from the moment they walk in his door, completely certain they are about to get away with what they are planning. As the band of idiots tiptoes around searching for the buried treasure, the camera pans across parts of the house that will eventually contribute to their downfall. The tension builds.

Naively I assumed the whole film is going to be this silent, adrenaline-filled hide and seek game where the two survivors narrowly avoid him for most of the movie, ending with a big confrontation where they either live or die. But no.

The confrontation comes much earlier than expected, and the rest of the movie is hard to describe. It was just relentless in every way. Not scary, but certainly disturbing. I didn't throw my hands into my face, but I did gag several times.

The real horror unfolds as we discover what's hiding in his basement. Spoiler: it's the girl who killed his daughter. But because he was down there chasing Alex and Rocky (Money is already dead, obviously), he takes a literal shot in the dark and kills his prisoner. This sets off a grueling chase scene through the dark basement, up into his dead daughter's bedroom, and even through the vents. It ends with Alex presumed dead.

Then we find Rocky all locked up in the dead girl's harness. But not only is the girl dead, so is the child that the blind old man put inside of her to replace what she took from him. Here begins the only scene in the movie that truly haunts me.

Because this is the justice system that we have established, Rocky has to give him a baby. And as if that concept isn't bad enough on its own, he hoists her up with the harness, suspends her in mid-air, and pulls out a container of unspeakable human fluids and a turkey baster. I'm gagging and wishing I'd had a third margarita.

But then as he walks over to her with his loaded weapon and snips a hole in her leggings, the camera zooms in on an off-white, viscous drop falling from the turkey baster. The whole theater is screaming.

And just as he's about to do the deed, Alex comes back from the dead to knock the old man out and unstrap Rocky. Obviously, I respect her right to get some sort of revenge on him, but I disagree with her method, which is jamming the turkey baster into his mouth.

Alex is presumed dead one more time before coming back to die once and for all for Rocky, who gets away and makes it to California (perhaps a drastic oversimplification of the final hour of the movie). The rest of it isn't memorable.

This movie is much more complicated and even more stressful than the trailer let on. It's not just a jumpy, or campy summer horror flick. It's an episode of [ITAL]Fear Factor[ITAL]. Word to the wise: don't go to see [ITAL]Don't Breathe[ITAL] with your parents or younger brother or anyone you don't want to look at semen with.