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Q&A: Fede Alvarez and Rodo Sayagues talk “DON’T BREATHE”

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Having only directed a handful of short films at the time, it was surprise to horror fans that rookie director Fede Alvarez was given the shot at directing 2013’s EVIL DEAD reboot. What Alvarez proved with that film, though, was how capable he was as a filmmaker, giving fans a brutal and unflinching film that was not only entertaining as hell, but in this writer’s opinion, worthy of being placed right alongside the original film.

Showing that he’s most definitely not a one hit wonder, Fede returned behind the camera this past summer with the claustrophobic, tension-filled massive hit, DON’T BREATHE. With DON’T BREATHE making its Blu-ray & DVD debut on November 29th via Sony Pictures, FANGO thought it would be nice to touch base with Alvarez himself, along with writing partner Rodo Sayagues, to discuss DON’T BREATHE and that damn song from EVIL DEAD.

FANGORIA: EVIL DEAD was such an all-out, brutal attack on the senses. DON’T BREATHE, however, is a much different film in terms of being a more confined and suspense-based film. Was it a conscious decision after EVIL DEAD to do a film that couldn’t possibly be any more of an opposite approach?

FEDE ALVAREZ: Like you said, EVIL DEAD was a brutal attack and I think that’s what it was always supposed to be. What we try to do with our movies is to identify what kind of film we’re making. Whether it be the theme, premise or even what the title of the movie promises to the audience, we try to make sure we deliver that. Because of it being EVIL DEAD and also because of the trailer we put out for that film, we promised the audience that it was going to be brutally violent, shocking and gory. So from writing it to directing it and so on, it had to always be shocking and graphically violent.

With DON’T BREATHE, we asked ourselves, “Can we make a movie where it’s scary without being overly violent and can we make it 100% about the tension?” That was the goal. We didn’t see many suspenseful films being made and wanted to do a film that people would think is different that everything they’re seeing.

FANGO: The film feels very claustrophobic and that confined approach to it really keeps the viewer on board the entire time. As filmmakers, did you set certain parameters or rules that would make the film unique for its audience?

ALVAREZ: Yeah, definitely. We’re always fans of simple stories. Simple ideas that, if well-executed, can seem larger than life. I don’t think a film is limited by its size or budget, the only limitation is the idea or story. As long as it’s an original idea, you can a film with two people talking entertaining, as long as they’re having the right conversation. We do like the challenge. The film wasn’t a micro-budgeted film, but at the same time, it definitely wasn’t a huge, massive budget.  The challenge was to make a film that was entertaining and to shoot it in a way that would tell a great story with limited resources and would be worthy of the audience’s theater experience.

Dont-Breathe-Jane-Levy-Dylan-Minnette

FANGO: How do you guys feel about creating one of the most talked about horror scenes of the year, with the turkey baster? Some sites have made pins based on that scene.

ALVAREZ: [laughs] It feels great. It’s great that the audience liked the film and it did what we set out to do with it. It’s the suspense of it that people liked and it’s kind of like that thing where people close their eyes or leave the theater because they can’t take the film, and the person who stayed and watched the film is the one who is truly worthy of the film. I think most horror fans want to see something that other people cannot digest or want to see something that goes so far that, though they expected it, they’re surprised the film delivered what they expected.

RODO SAYAGUES: What we mostly do is sit down and have really long conversations. We share ideas and when we come to one we both like, we try to come up with things that as film fanatics, would love to see on the big screen. Everything comes from that, from having fun conversations.

ALVAREZ: We always put ourselves into the audience’s place. We imagine being in the theater, and at ten minutes into the script, we ask ourselves, “What is something we would never expect to happen?” and “What is something I would like to see, but I know I probably won’t get?” So once we figure that out, we move onto the rest of the film. That’s basically what we do.  

FANGO: With first EVIL DEAD and now DON’T BREATHE, it would seem as if Jane Levy likes you guys to put her through hell. Do you just love to torture the poor woman?

ALVAREZ: Well, yeah… [laughs]. That’s why she hates me, I think, but I do and she’s done it two times now. I think she’s a fantastic actress and she really gives everything on set. She’s never lazy about her acting and I think that’s why she comes across really powerful in every scene. I have a lot of admiration for her craft and she’s really good at it.

FANGO: Guy, I think in closing, I’ll just come right out and ask the question the entire world wants to know…why didn’t we see a follow up to EVIL DEAD’s “Baby, Little Baby” song in DON’T BREATHE? (Laughs). I’m joking but seriously, who DIDN’T have that damn song stuck their head for two weeks after seeing EVIL DEAD?!

ALVAREZ: [laughs] I think we did! The good news is that we had one that was called “The Ladybug Song,” that opened the film, where Jane Levy was in the car singing it, so there is a follow up to “Baby, Little Baby”, (Laughs). We ended up cutting it out, but it’s on the Blu-ray/DVD’s deleted scenes, so you can watch it there. I just might post it on my Twitter for you to hear.

DON’T BREATHE hits DVD/Blu-ray from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment next Tuesday, November 29th. You can also see exclusive comments from Fede Alvarez on the film in FANGORIA #348.

About the author
Jerry Smith
A lifelong genre fanatic, Smith loves all things Carpenter and plays a mean game of hide and seek. Currently the Editor In Chief of Icons of Fright, Jerry hails from the dead center of California and changes diapers on his off time.
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