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Why 'Don’t Breathe' is un-American in the best way possible (Spoilers!)

In case you’re as blind as the man in Don’t Breathe and missed the headline, this post is going to include spoilers. That’s because you can’t talk about a movie like this without talking about The Scene. Which scene, you ask? Oh, you’ll know it when you see it. And you won’t be able to un-see it, either. 

I’m talking about the scene where would-be rape victim Rocky (26-year-old Jane Levy) turns the tables on her blind rapist (64-year-old Stephen Lang, utterly terrifying) and empties a baster full of his own semen into his mouth, prompting him to spit up his own ejaculate. 

The Baster Scene, as it will soon be called, is beyond repulsive, and yet it manages to elevate Don’t Breathe from mere genre-offering-of-the-week to something truly disturbing and unforgettable. The moment is so out of place in an American studio movie that it should be applauded for its sheer chutzpah, as it really is the ultimate act of revenge. Frankly, the Baster Scene feels like something you’d see in a horror movie out of France (Inside), Japan (Visitor Q), or Serbia (A Serbian Film). Certainly not America, where horror has been largely neutered, prompting genre purists like Eli Roth to embrace the less-restrictive Chilean film industry. 

The real question is, can a horror movie ever cross the line these days? Don’t Breathe comes awfully close, toeing the line of good taste in the name of shock value before backing off in just the nick of time. Whether or not you like the film will most likely depend on your reaction to the Baster Scene. As tasteless as it may be, I loved it, because it went to a place I didn’t think an American studio movie would dare to go. Don't Breathe the most extreme wide release from a major studio in years.

The Baster Scene stems from the Blind Man’s desire to replace his dead daughter with another child. He has impregnated his daughter’s killer and keeps her locked up in the basement. When the pregnant woman is killed, he howls in pain at the loss of yet another child and holds Rocky responsible. When he finally gets his hands on her, he wastes no time starting his nine-month plan all over again.  

Director Fede Alvarez (Evil Dead) does an expert job of ratcheting up the tension and seems to relish watching the audience squirm, which we certainly do as The Blind Man (actual character name) approaches his would-be baby momma with the dripping baster in slow-motion, a slimy rope swinging from the tip. “You’ll breed well,” he assures her as she struggles against her restraints, his damaged eyes twinkling in the darkness with fatherly hope. 

The Blind Man claims he doesn’t want to hurt Rocky, and has no interest in having sex with her to impregnate her. Hence, the baster and a frozen sperm sample. But penetration with a foreign object is certainly rape, which is why it’s inexplicable that the Blind Man is ultimately allowed to survive to see a potential sequel. Who knows what bodily fluids he'll be choking on next time, but this gleefully-lurid movie will be hard to top. A more appropriate title might be, Don't Throw Up.

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