Horror films have done especially well this summer with fare such as The Conjuring 2, Lights Out and The Purge: Election Year seeing high returns on relatively small budgets. Don't Breathe is no exception, making $88 million off just $10 million. Part of this was due to its exciting and simple concept, in which three burglars are in fear for their lives as a result of a home invasion gone wrong. Check out the trailer below:
The home invasion premise is highly interesting as the true villain of the piece, blind man Norman Nordstrom (Stephen Lang) isn't a conventional villain, instead simply somebody trying to defend his own house. In the process, Don't Breathe turns the home invasion movie on its head. Instead of making us sympathize with the person being invaded, a thought is being spared for the people doing the invading.
There have been many stories over the years of home invasions going horribly wrong. Is Don't Breathe based on one of them?
It's An Original Screenplay (But Has Roots In Real Events)
Writer-director Fede Alvarez wanted to try something new after the poor reception his remake of the cult classic Evil Dead received. He decided with his next film that he wanted to make something that was totally believable, had no elements of the supernatural, and wasn't linked to any other franchise property. Talking about the inspiration for the film, he said that he thought of:
"What is always tense and creepy and scary and the conclusion was breaking into someone’s house ... When you walk into someone’s domain, it’s their rules, the king of the house can do whatever they want. That kind of triggered the idea of telling the story of three robbers. And it’s fascinating hearing the stories these kinds of guys go through."
When we consider a home invasion, it's usually the victim who is the one thought of in the most danger. However, when the burglar is not a professional and is committing the burglary for desperate reasons they are actually putting themselves in a life-threatening situation. This is due to:
The Castle Doctrine
The Castle Doctrine is a law stating that if somebody has invaded your abode, and you feel under the threat of violence, then you are allowed to use proportional force. The most extreme example of this doctrine has been the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, whereby the Florida citizen shot an unarmed black man outside his house for acting "suspiciously" and was initially seen to be immune to prosecution simply by invoking the self-defence law.
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Therefore, if somebody experiencing a home invasion merely believes that they are under the threat of danger, then they can shoot first and claim self-defence in order to gain immunity.
True Stories Of Home Invaders Being Killed
The right of citizens to use lethal force when their home is invaded has led to some pretty grisly stories. Just a few months ago, a Portland resident shot and fatally killed an intruder when she returned home and saw him in one of her children's bedrooms. He had broken into her home through a back window. An autopsy report found that he died of a single gunshot wound. This sparked a debate on the excessive nature of the force used as the man was both unarmed and was believed to be suffering from a mental illness. The children were not in the room at the time. She was cleared in a court of law. Her neighbours totally agreed with her, with one saying:
“I would be scared. I would be scared. But she had to do what she had to do. I would have done the same thing.”
Like home invasion movies? Check out:
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On the other hand, there seem to be cases where the use of violence seems wholly justified, like the great-grandmother of three who shot a man after he stabbed her husband. The robber attacked her husband after breaking in to find drugs. The octogenarian didn't hesitate, pulling the trigger three times. The gun was gifted to her for Christmas by her husband.
She says of her actions:
"I was just intent upon stopping him. I didn't have any other thought in my head. I just knew I had to stop him."
Nevertheless, the fact remains that in the majority of these cases, when someone shoots and kills a home invader, they are strongly supported by the law regardless of whether or not that person is armed or a perceivable threat. Don't Breathe is even more interesting since because the defendant is blind, he would not be able to see whether or not the perpetrators are armed or dangerous.
The notable exception to this rule is the Byron David Smith killings, in which the homeowner knew the invaders were coming and shot them multiple times to make sure they were dead. Legal experts claim that while the first shot is usually justifiable under law, to shoot multiple times is considered excessive. This, in tandem with the use of premeditation, lead to Smith serving a life sentence in jail.
Don't Breathe will probably not lead to the reexamination of legal procedure in those states, especially considering the intensely personal nature of the self-defence law, yet in the process its scarily realistic premise (if not actually based on a true story) could spark a debate yet again about how much force is too much when defending your home from potential invaders.
What did you think of Don't Breathe?