Are ‘Don’t Breathe’ and ‘Panic Room’ the Same Movie?

Jesse: So Kevin, I have one question for you before we start… why would anyone want to break in to Jodie Foster or Stephen Lang’s house?

Kevin: Depends on who you’re asking. If you’re asking Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver, it’s to “save” an underage girl from her pimp. But if you’re asking Jared Leto in Panic Room, it’s for the dollar dollar bills. Or I guess I should say the old paper stocks that are worth millions of dollar dollar bills.

I will say as I rewatched Panic Room, for this specific blog idea of yours, I had fun toying with the idea that Panic Room is a secret sequel to Taxi Driver and it picks up with Jodie Foster’s character as a mother trying to protect her daughter. It almost works actually! Both movies are set in New York, both movies have men acting selfishly, and both have lots of blood. And it actually makes you appreciate Foster’s desire to keep her daughter safe even more, she’s trying to build her a better life than she had but men keep bursting in to screw everything up. If only De Niro came in for a cameo, he could have dropped her off in a taxi! I feel like this should be canon, can this be canon Jesse?

I apologize, this is quickly going from, ‘are Don’t Breathe and Panic Room the same movie’ to ‘is Panic Room a sequel to Taxi Driver?’ Don’t even get me started about my theory that Don’t Breathe could have been the second sequel in this trilogy had it been set in the 80’s/90’s!

Jesse: You just opened Pandora’s box about unrelated movies that are actually part of the same franchise. That might have to be a new series of ours. Stay tuned…

But for the sake of this concept, here are three elements of Panic Room and Don’t Breathe that I believe make them virtually indistinguishable from each other:

  1. Three robbers attempt to break into home in pursuit of those dolla dolla bills
  2. They believe the job will be effortless, but the owner proves to be more than a match for the intruders
  3. The thieves spend as much time in peril as the owner

Now while the two films differ in other ways, to me these three are fairly ironclad. You with me Kevin or do you think I’m way off the mark here?

Kevin: As someone who just signed a lease for a New York apartment, I actually think Panic Room serves as an allegory for the tough New York real estate market. Or really it’s about the existential crisis one has when they get a mortgage and settle down in an unsettling house. Really we could compare this film to, like, Amityville Horror.

Fine, I’m just being a brat. The films do have those generic things in common. But I’m fairly certain we could apply that filter to a number of films. Case in point, Home Alone:

  1. Two robbers instead of three. Fine, a minor difference.
  2. The robbers think the house is abandoned but find a wee young lad who they believe is no threat.
  3. The thieves spend more time in peril than the kid.

This reminds me of when you tried to create structured rules for what makes a Christmas movie and, somehow, Die Hard did not count. So should I expect a ‘What Makes a Break-In Movie’ this year?

Jesse: Only if we don’t already answer that question here. Home Alone is definitely a Christmas movie, by the way. Being a brat is kind of fun.

So I think what you’re trying to tell me is that I’m not looking deeply enough for similarities and am just lazily skimming the bare surface to try and prove my point. Or something like that. Maybe we should look at what they don’t have in common?

Kevin: Hmm okay let me skim through my notes…

Panic Room had floating title cards that looked like it came out of an early 2000’s superhero movie. It had the largest CGI budget for dust and feathers probably in the history of film (seriously the detail on the dust was unsettling). And it might be the only film in existence that drags AFTER Jared Leto dies.

Okay and Don’t Breathe opened with an old dude dragging the lifeless, bloody body of a girl down the street, a little different than a 2000’s superhero movie. No CGI of any dust particles that I can recall. And it got better after the character, who Jared Leto would have played, died. That dude sucked, he literally peed on the floor.

In all seriousness I think the biggest differences between the films is the genre. I see Panic Room as a strict thriller that plays with the themes of change and protecting our children while Don’t Breathe is much closer to horror with it’s tropes of an unkillable killer and young heroic survivor and speaks to themes closer related to poverty and breaking out of the life path you are given.

Plus Don’t Breathe did that thing where they set themselves up for a sequel explicitly, which I think reeks of desperation. Can you imagine if Panic Room ended on a shot of a seemingly innocuous bookshelf that swings open to reveal a new panic room and then panned out to a frightened Jodie Foster who proclaims, “not this shit again” while Kristen Stewart cocked a shotgun? Then we would be talking about how these two movies really are the same.

What do you think? Did I miss-genre the two movies?

Jesse: Yeah, that probably wouldn’t have played as well at the end of Panic Room. I also think you’re on to something with the CGI effects, which have aged poorly in my opinion.

But no, you didn’t miss-genre them. If anything you right-genred them and emphatically answered, “No!” to the question, “Are they the same movie?” It may also be the least amount of time it took you to prove me wrong. Simply put, these films can’t be the same if they aren’t in the same genre and if they hit on different themes. To your point, Panic Room gets virtually all of its tension and suspense from the situation itself. Don’t Breathe throws in a lot of jump scares and seems determined to build up Stephen Lang as the next unstoppable horror movie monster. It’s a different approach to similar premises, although I would argue that Panic Room remains the better crafted and tightly paced film.

Did I throw in the towel too quickly here, Kevin? Or do you have further evidence to back up your points?

Kevin: I will admit I knew I would win this round, however I did expect you to put up a greater fight. I feel like I’m Jared Leto in Panic Room and the guy who reminded me of Jared Leto in Don’t Breathe. I’m aggressively trying to fight you on this and you’re like Forest Whitaker in Panic Room, “alright this was a bad idea, can we just leave?” In either scenario I end up dead but at least I was right!

I have to admit, even though your thesis was proven wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed re-watching Panic Room (not so much with Don’t Breathe). I wrote about two pages of notes with quips and observations. Let me leave you with my favorite and then you can wrap this up as you wish (hopefully you wrap it up but leave for the possibility of a sequel because I enjoy winning arguments). Anyway, here is the best joke that I couldn’t work into this article:

Kristen Stewart learned Morse Code from Titanic? Too bad she didn’t learn to jump off a sinking ship!

Yes, that was a jab at Twilight, and yes it was seven years too late.

Jesse: The joke’s on you, because I never saw Twilight, so that went completely over my head. Also, if you really are Jared Leto in this scenario, don’t do a flip when you get shot in the head and killed. It’ll just make you look silly.