fede alvarez interview

Both Don’t Breathe and Evil Dead don’t feel like typical American horror movies. They don’t feel safe. They feel more like the horror movies that have been coming out of Europe for the past 15 years.

Thank you.

Was there every any pressure to make a less harsh movie? To be less cruel?

No. I’ve been super lucky in Hollywood so far that the two movies I’ve made, obviously because I made them for a budget, I get the freedom to do what I want. Having Sam Raimi as a producer and him being a director and him knowing that a director wants freedom to really deliver a movie…I’ve been very lucky with both movies to get away with exactly what I wanted to do. Movies can alway be better and I’m sure my movies can be better and I try to learn on each movie I do and make my next movie better than the previous one, before I start declining in my career! [Laughs]

There was something I realized lately. On Evil Dead, they said to do whatever I wanted and to go crazy as long as I had a house and a book. It’s like going to a friend’s house and they tell you to feel like you’re at home and take whatever you want from the fridge. You don’t take your pants off and grab a beer. You don’t do that! On this movie, I did that! This movie was my home. It’s my script. Me and my co-writer wrote it from scratch and took it to the producers when it was ready: this is the movie we want to shoot. We wrote it on spec, we didn’t pre-sell anything, which we could have done, but we decided to keep it for ourselves. It was us doing exactly the movie we wanted to do. I’ve been lucky so far that Sony has empowered my and financed my movies and have taken a lot of risks. That’s a lot of credit to them. There might be an instinct at some point to making something more…what’s the word? It’s not even more Americanized, just more down-the-middle. This could have been a PG-13 movie if you wanted. You’d have to kill a lot of things, but you could turn it into a PG-13 movie.

I’m definitely not in this for the money. Otherwise, my second movie would be one of those franchises I was offered after Evil Dead. I didn’t want to do that. I just wanted to do my films. To try to keep making my films. This one is really a display of all my obsessions and the things I channel in all of my movies and everything I like about the genre and everything I think a good genre thriller should have. That big twist scene in the cellar that divides audiences…I know that because I hear people talk about that. Some say “It didn’t need that!” and others say “Thank you so much for that!” That’s my kind of audience. I think this movie should be provocative and should push boundaries. All of the classics have at least one scene, one moment, that was completely fucked up. We’ve gotten used to them and they’re not so shocking anymore. Watch those classic movies. Go back to Psycho and The Exorcist. People were losing their minds, running out of the theater, fainting…it was all kinds of madness! And that’s what made those movies as big as they were and so polarizing.

Don't Breathe Fede Alvarez interview

I have time for one more question so I want to ask about my favorite scene in the movie. I’ll mark it with a big SPOILER WARNING so people can stop reading and come back after they’ve seen it.

Thank you.

The dog in the car scene at the end. It’s perfect. First, you don’t kill the dog, which is such a tired horror movie trope. Second, it’s almost a Buster Keaton routine with the intensity amped up to maximum levels. It’s a terrifying silent comedy routine! How did this scene come about?

That was actually a rewrite during the making of the film. I hate to rewrite during pre-production even more during production. I think you need to have a good story and not alter it too much because it’s a recipe for disaster. But because it was the ending and because you need an outcome, it was easier to change it. In the original script, it was too cliched. She would run inside some abandoned church. It was a pretty cool setting, this huge abandoned church in Detroit. She would run in there, but it was like “Why would she run in there?” I always have my temptation to go for the cliche of classic horror of the ’80s because I love that shit and like to see it happening. Thankfully, my common sense wins over and I realize I can’t do that. The audience, especially a young audience, will be pissed and ask why that’s happening. So she used to run into that church and the dog went after her and she’d climb a scaffold and find one of those drugs that they threw at the dog at the beginning and she’d throw it at the dog and the dog would fall asleep and then she’d go down and get captured. It was way lamer. And it was also bigger. We didn’t have time to go to that location, so it became “What can I do that I can shoot anywhere?”

So we came up with the set piece in the car…which, honestly, was really just a rip-off from Cujo, which I found terrifying as a kid. Like I said, most of the movie is made of things that terrified me as a kid. From movies, stories, and even music videos. The first horror thing I ever saw was the “Thriller” music video, which was playing all the time in ’85. That was my first contact with real, classic ’80s horror. I’m glad you like it and I love it. It does something in particular that I like to see with an audience. Usually with these movies, the audiences tend to be smarter than the characters. Don’t go there! Don’t do that! Oh, man! Please! It drives you nuts. In this movie, we tried to keep that to a minimum. The characters tend to behave like you would behave in normal life and the decisions they make are pretty clever most of the time. When you want to yell advice like “Go the other way,” they’ll go the other way, but it still ends up really bad! So you end up running out of advice for the characters. What I love about this particular scene is that you don’t know what to tell her to do. She’s inside the car. The money is outside. The dog is outside. No car keys. So what now? And then she gives you a solution you haven’t thought of. I thought the solution was pretty clever! It’s one of my favorites as well.

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