Warning: MAJOR spoilers ahead for Don't Breathe's jaw-dropping twist
It takes a lot to shock a modern horror movie audience. Films like Saw and Hostel desensitized us to gore, and gruesome violence has become an expected element of the genre. That being said, nothing could have prepared moviegoers for Don't Breathe, and its insane twist. After The Blind Man (Stephen Lang) accidentally murders his pregnant prisoner -- the woman responsible for the death of his daughter -- he captures Rocky (Jane Levy), straps her into his homemade prison, and prepares to artificially inseminate her with a turkey baster full of his own semen. It's horrifying, and it's disgusting, but does it go too far?
Some corners of the Internet seem to think that it does. Many have taken to the web to voice their support for the film (which has become a certified hit) while still leaving room to criticize the overwhelmingly grotesque nature of the soon-to-be iconic "Turkey Baster Scene." They point to it as an unnecessary, gratuitous twist that doesn't improve the expertly crafted tension that precedes it, and ultimately disrupts the beautiful flow of the film's tension. In general, the opinion of this camp seems to be that The Blind Man already represents enough of a threat without him keeping a woman captive below his house, and as such the film simply doesn't need it.
However, I lean towards the opinion that this twist needs to happen in order for Don't Breathe to really work. Even when he's at his most monstrous in the first two acts, The Blind Man still has moments where we as an audience can sympathize with him. After all, Rocky, Alex, and Money broke in to steal money from a man who lost his daughter; he's technically within his rights to defend himself. The film needs to do something to firmly put us on Rocky's side, and this twist makes The Blind Man the sort of monster that we will undeniably root against during the film's final act.
There's also something to be said about the type of fear that this sequence instills in the audience. It's torture porn without traditional violence, but it works because it's so distinct from the rest of the movie. It capitalizes on our fear of vulnerability, and our inherent phobias of captivity. Unlike practically every other sequence in the movie, the turkey baster scene is loud, well lit, and it offers Rocky her first chance to try (in vain) to negotiate her way out of this terrible situation. Rocky's not going to die immediately, but she's facing a fate that's arguably worse than death: disappearing without anybody ever knowing what happened.
Perhaps the biggest reason that the turkey baster scene works is the way in which the baster actually gets used: after all of that build up, Rocky gets free. Once Alex has freed Rocky from her prison, the cooking utensil winds up going directly down The Blind Man's throat. It's undeniably gratuitous, but it's also a phenomenal payoff to the horrific act that's almost committed upon Rocky. Maybe I'm just sick, but I found myself cheering for her in that one cathartic moment.
In the end, there's no right or wrong answer to this debate. Fede Alvarez still got his intended result: he made the audience squirm with fear. What did you think of Don't Breathe's twist? Did it go too far, or did it work well with everything else that the movie depicted? For now, all I really know for certain is that I won't be looking at turkey basters the same way when Thanksgiving rolls around.