Don’t Breathe (Blu-ray Review)

Don't BreatheDon’t Breathe is one of those titles that lives up to its name.  Let me tell you why.  I can kid about this now because its in the past.  We had the luxury of seeing a private screening of Don’t Breathe at the Alamo Drafthouse over the summer.  So now answer me this.  What do you do when you’re at an Alamo Drafthouse?  Well, you watch a movie, but you also eat and drink a lot.  Therein lies the problem with Don’t Breathe.  It’s suspenseful, it’s edge of your seat, but mainly it’s super quiet for tension and shock.  Who wants some num nuts chowing down next to them and ruining the movie with each and every crunch?  Not I!  You see my conundrum I’m speaking of here as I sat there during my theatrical experience with Don’t Breathe munching down dinner?  Not only did I watch Don’t Breathe, but I felt like I couldn’t “breathe” either.   Ha!

Don't Breathe


Don’t Breathe actually had its premiere down in Austin, TX this past March at SXSW.  You may remember our coverage of it that ran here.  Jordan Grout and Bron Anderson had a great time with Don’t Breathe.  In fact, if memory serves me correct, I believe they may have went back for second helpings.  Who can blame them?  It’s a fun time with Fede Alvarez (2013’s Evil Dead remake) back in the director’s chair.  The film stars Janey Levy, Dylan Minnette, Daniel Zovatto and the face of horror’s newest icon, Stephen Lang.  Who needs Michael Myers or Jason when you have Stephen’s character in Don’t Breathe.  Wait!  I’m getting ahead of myself.

Before we talk about story here let’s rap about Fede Alvarez.  The Evil Dead remake was one of those movies I had to watch twice to truly appreciate it.  Once I got that first viewing under my belt I was free to subsequently have a good time.  Alvarez’s Evil Dead remake lives among my 750+ strong Blu-ray collection today.  However, not every one is as forgiving as I am.  Critics went on to say that Evil Dead had way too much gore and blood.  They also exclaim it focuses way too much on trying to shock and was God forbid a remake.  I can agree with all those points, but nonetheless I still manage to have fun with it.  I digress though because Fede Alvarez decided to do something about it.

Alvarez sought out to make an original story with Don’t Breathe.  He shares screenwriting credits with Rodo Sayagues here.  The result is a film that features less blood, gore and shock, but focuses on creating suspense.  He also shies away from the supernatural.   Instead he delivers one of the best villains I have seen in a long time in the horror genre.  Think about it, the main antagonist here is blind, but that doesn’t mean he can’t have other natural powers.  It’s basic biology folks.  What happens when you lose one of your senses?  Your others become so much stronger.  It’s true he has a debilitating handicap here, but what makes him even more terrifying is his superior remaining senses.  He’s insanely menacing.  That plus the fact that he knows his house really well.  Ha ha!  You’ll see (pun intended)!

So Don’t Breathe tells the story of Rocky (Levy).  She’s living a very crappy childhood and is basically the care giver for her younger sister too.  She promises her young sister a new life together with her in California.  That sounds swell!  There’s only one problem.  Money!  Believe me Rocky, it takes mad money to make it in California.  Luckily for Rocky, her boyfriend, also named Money (Zovatto), and admirer/friend, Alex (Minnette), rob houses.  They get away scot-free thanks to Alex’s dad.  No his dad does not assist, but instead runs a security practice.  Thus Rob has access to a lot of keys, addresses, pertinent info and what not.  If I had a son like that, there’s no telling what kind of punishment I would see fit for him.  Ugh!

One day Money conceives a plan to rob a blind man (Lang).  He’s rumored to be harboring 300K in cash within the house.  He has this money because of a settlement.  Story has it that his daughter was run down by another teenage girl driver.  This girl came from a rich family.  Instead of doing jail time, yada yada yada, the rich family paid him off.  He’s blind because of a wartime accident.  Obviously the blind man is a vet and he has a certain set of skills.  This is of course unbeknown to our trio who thinks he’s easy prey.  Determined to get the money thinking it’s going to be a breeze the trio break into the house in the middle of the night.  Things quickly don’t go as planned as they grossly underestimate their adversary.  Now the tables turn as the trio must scramble to hide, fight and survive.

This blind man will do anything it takes to protect his house, ANYTHING.  I don’t think you want me to tell you what happens next.  That will ruin this surprise of this tight quartered game of cat and mouse.  I honestly thought I would be bored by this one given it’s constraining properties.  I love being wrong.  Alvarez delivers a well crafted monster in the house type story with a few clever twists and surprises you didn’t see coming.  That’s what I love the most about Don’t Breathe, it’s both suspenseful and relentless.  Just when you think it can’t go any further Alvarez pushes the envelope and surprises you.  Yes, sometimes he shocks you and there are the occasional jump scares.  However, they’re extremely effective given the dead chill silence we experience here at times.

All the actors handle themselves well and believable throughout.  If I had to choose one thing to nitpick about, it would be the setup.  It all goes by so quick.  I would have loved just a tad more time with this trio before they arrive in this unlucky predicament.  You see, I love character development and I like to care about my protagonist.   Yes Alvarez does rely on a couple of cheap scares, but like I said up above they’re done in good taste and he rebounds quickly.  If nothing else we have a modern day horror villain that could go down as one of the finest of the early part of this century.  His voice did get a bit Bane-like for my tastes, but the turkey baster sealed the deal for me.

It’s over-the-top, ludicrous and ridiculous at times, but the suspension and tension of Don’t Breathe outweighs any of its negatives.  Be quiet, respectful to your fellow movie watchers and have fun with this one.  My dogs are going to love this Blu-ray!  That much is for sure!  The essential way quietness is employed throughout only heightens to effectively deliver its scares.  It’s so is ingenious.  I’m a firm believer in playing this one loud.  For when something happens onscreen, you’re going to know about it.  The audio is going to punish you like the brutal events transpiring onscreen.

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  • Encoding: AVC MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
  • Clarity/DetailDon’t Breathe won’t get any rewards for being razor sharp because of all the darkness throughout, but you can’t ding it for not being clear and detailed.  Textures are what stand out the most for me here such as paint strokes and dirt smudges on walls and doors, wood grain, facial complexions, clothing, outdoor vegetation and more.  I even noticed our very same alarm panel in the first house the three main characters rob.
  • Depth: The depth of field is pretty remarkable here because of the three-dimensional pop of the characters against the sets.  However, what stands out the most to me are the Detroit shots and the views of the houses in the background past all the unkept weeds in the Michigan yards.
  • Black Levels: The black levels is where this video presentation excels since most of the film is shrouded in shadows.  It could of went one or two ugly ways in my opinion.  The black levels could have been too deep and inky draining everything out or it could have been very noisy in the shadows like The Descent Blu-ray release was back in the day.  Instead the black levels were very natural and organic here with no intrusive noise in the shadows.  I love it!  This presentation would have looked even more spectacular had we got a 4K transfer of this one complete with HDR.  You picking up what I’m dropping?
  • Color Reproduction: Continuing where we left off with the black levels discussion up above the color palette is very Earthy, natural and organic.  Nothing is blown out of proportion with the exception of the one night vision sequence in the film’s basement, which was simply spectacular by the way complete with dilated pupils and all.  It makes you feel!
  • Flesh Tones: The temperatures of the skin tones were natural looking for the most part throughout.
  • Noise/Artifacts: There’s a bit of bite to this presentation with grittiness and a thin layer of grain, but nothing ever that would distract you from enjoying this one to the fullest.

Don't Breathe


  • Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English Audio Description Track, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital
  • Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish
  • Dynamics: Holy dynamics Batman!  I knew this one would be a spectacular Blu-ray in the dynamics department.  I just knew it!  From the quietest moments capturing every breath (kind of reminds you of that Police song…”Every Breath You Take”) and sigh to the loudest shrills of gunshots, glass breaking and dogs attacking this one is spot on perfect in that regards.  You hear every single thing the filmmakers want you to and nothing gets lost in the shuffle.  If you haven’t seen this one yet, turn this one up loud and be prepared to jump!
  • Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel gets a big lift from the subwoofer that has a powerful tendency to just rumble throughout in a good way for emphasis and other merciless moments.  From the thunderous score at times and subtle blows to the full on assault of gunshots, hammering, pounding, dog attacks, etc. the bass is strong with this surround track.  It’s the heftiness that really elevates the tension throughout and for that I’m thankful.
  • Surround Sound Presentation: Every swirl of the organic score and various sound effect traps you in the immersion of it all here.  Every step taken onscreen is accurately heard and rendered here with the utmost prioritization and directionality.  From bullets zinging by and ricocheting, the dog barking and even a wash machine swirling around you the surround presentation here is spot on thus elevating the tension and height of it all.  Speaking of height it would have been awesome to have an Atmos track here because of steps taken above upstairs, but I digress.
  • Dialogue Reproduction: The dialogue levels are clear and intelligible throughout.  I have no qualms here either.

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The Blu-ray of Don’t Breathe comes loaded with bonus content that takes viewers behind-the-scenes of the filmmaking experience alongside the cast and crew. Director Fede Alvarez takes fans through five quick featurettes, including “No Escape,” “Creating the Creepy House,” “Meet the Cast,” “Man in the Dark” and “The Sounds of Horror.” In addition, the releases include eight deleted scenes with optional Director’s Commentary and full feature commentary with Director Fede Alvarez, Co-Writer Rodo Sayagues and Actor Stephen Lang.  What more can you ask for?  Oh you want a Digital HD copy too?  Sony is giving you one of those in here too!

  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 15:17) –  There’s an option to play them all or even play the following deleted scenes with Director’s Commentary: A Blind Man Gardening, The Ladybug Song, Father and Son, Diner Dancing, Only a Father Understands, Alex Calls Dad, There is No God and Rocky Kisses Alex.  Some of these were interesting takes on alternate versions of scenes, etc., but I’m happy with the film’s final edit as is.
  • Commentary – Here we have the film’s audio commentary track with the trinity gathered together of Director Fede Alvarez, Co-Writer Rodo Sayagues and Actor Stephen Lang.  Lang jokes about how heavy it was to drag the girl down the street after three takes of it.  The film used to be called Man in the Dark.  The movie was shot in both Detroit (drone shots too) and Budapest.  There was an animal wrangler who even handled the lady bug.  It’s not CG!  There was no inspiration in particular for this film, but this one kind of plays out with Lang asking Fede and Rodo questions about the film, etc.  It’s a pretty dry commentary track, but worthwhile if you love the film.  They start opening up more as the movie goes along.  In my opinion it’s always interesting to learn little tidbits about your favorite films.  I liked hearing them talk about the physicality of the onscreen brutal events that transpire.  Lang did crack me up with his “man-cave” joke.  Ha ha.  I do love how Fede says they count all the bullets to be accurate with how many shots are with each gun.  You gotta love that.  In Fede I trust.  The last interesting tidbit of info I will leave you with here is there are a total of 3 dogs used for the filming of this.
  • No Escape (HD, 2:56) – This extra showcases behind-the-scenes filming of the movie as well as the filmmakers and cast talking about it all: the style, the darkness, the drone shots down the street, their favorite parts and everything else they can cram in within this short runtime.
  • Creating the Creepy House (HD, 3:51) – This one is all about he house the majority of the movie takes place in.  Interestingly enough this house was recreated in the studio.  We also get a guided tour of the house and a description of how it was shot and what happens in certain areas, etc.
  • Meet the Cast (HD, 4:04) – Fede and the cast discuss the roles of the 3 main characters (not the blind man) within this movie as well as their plights and motivations for doing what they do.
  • Man in the Dark (HD, 3:17) – Stephen Lang discusses his role as the blind man in the film: his motivations, backstory and reasons for doing what he does.  He discusses how initially he’s the victim and how you can’t help but sympathize with him at first.  Pretty ingenious, huh?  However, there’s darker material in his life other than his blindness.  The filmmakers and cast members talk about how creepy Stephen looks with the contacts as well his physicality and brute force with his actions towards them.
  • The Sounds of Horror (HD, 1:49) – These kind of extras are always my favorites because a film’s score is so important to me for reading emotions and atmosphere.  So needless to say this one is all about all the unique sounds created here and the primal qualities of it all.

Don't Breathe


I think Aaron Neuwirth says it best in his theatrical review of Don’t Breathe over here.  “Don’t Breathe works because of its efficiency and effective filmmaking. It doesn’t hurt that Lang is terrifically creepy in the way the film needs him to be. He’s hulking and just a bit superhuman in a way that doesn’t quite defy logic, but helps you appreciate the threat. That plays well to the setting and how the camera explores the different angles of each moment of suspense that comes along. Putting all of that in a film that knows when to stop makes for a solid ride in this latest game of cat-and-mouse.”

I think that says it all.  With an exceptional original story in everyone’s favorite genre whether they admit it or not…horror…and a stellar A/V package complete with an audio commentary and various featurettes Don’t Breathe is a no-brainer to recommend picking up Day 1.  It’s visceral, gritty and immensely fun!  Hit up the pre-order link down below and bring this one home ASAP on release date.  In the end Don’t Breathe is all about the California dream!  So enjoy, relax for now (a sequel to this is coming) and Happy Thanksgiving 2016!


Don’t Breathe

on Blu-ray & DVD

November 29th!




Don't Breathe Blu-ray Cover Art


Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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