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The Makers of DON’T BREATHE Discuss the Appeal of Horror Today

The Makers of DON’T BREATHE Discuss the Appeal of Horror Today

We might as well get this out of the way now: asked if the rebooted Evil Dead movie universe starring Jane Levy will continue on in any form, creators Sam Raimi, Fede Alvarez, and Rodo Sayagues will only offer a big “no comment.” But with this caveat, per Raimi, who had sort-of announced a couple years ago that both movie universes might collide, prior to Ash vs. Evil Dead being greenlit for TV: “I hoped one day to take Fede’s great idea of Ash and Jane together. But I opened my mouth, and then it didn’t happen, and I created a lot of trouble. So, I think, no comment.”

At a press luncheon for their recent hit Don’t Breathewhich debuts this week on Blu-ray and DVD—the team of Alvarez (director), Raimi (producer) and Sayagues (co-writer) took a little time to assess the current state of the horror film, which many say is the best it’s been in years. Alvarez’s theory on that is simply that kids who grew up during the great ’80s run of horror are now the right age to be making it themselves. “You have to picture, you have to imagine in 1988 a bunch of kids watching movies–watching horror movies,” he said. “We are some of them. James Wan is one of them. The guy—the Cloverfield Lane, the guy who did that—all those kids are watching movies and going ‘Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod!’ It takes time for those kids to become film makers, and take the genre seriously, like we do.”

Raimi, who actually was making horror movies in the ’80s, wants to keep enabling people to do what he did—although he’s quick to point out there’s no formula. “I don’t actually have a game plan,” he explained. “I think we just try to make those kinds of horror movies that studios won’t make, or that there’s a talented film maker that could use a little more protection from the studio. I always admired Hammer. I love horror movies, and I wish I had a stronger plan, but we’re looking for talented young film makers that could use a hand. Not necessarily creatively, but financially, or someone to stand up for them when the time comes, with the studio.”

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“You know what I think?” asked Sayagues, rhetorically. “I think you’re like little kids, pulling a prank. For me, the thing that excites me the most is knowing that we will see that idea in the big screen, in theaters. It’s kind of like tricking the system, like they didn’t know that was going to happen, and they played the movie in the theater, and everything is set, and then we show that. It’s like ‘Wow, it’s going to be released, and we’re going to show this.'” He is, of course, thinking specifically of the turkey baster scene, which we won’t spoil here if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Alvarez and Sayagues agreed that technology and surround sound also have a key part to play in modern horror, giving jump scares more of a kick than they used to have. “I don’t know if you noticed,” Alvarez pointed out, “none of them [in Don’t Breathe] are empowered by music. It’s all just sound design. The moment when she—they decide they’re going to go for the cellar, and she’s eyeballing the main door, and suddenly the door opens right in front of her. There’s a jump there—there’s no music, there’s nothing, just action, and there’s a loud crack that the door does. And that actually happened for real, when we shot it. We took the sound, and eventually we pumped it out. So it’s just, like, very loud and unsettling. CRACK! That hit at the right moment; it just scared everybody.”

Sayagues described what he sees as the typical cycle for a horror franchise thusly: “The studios made stories, and the studios made money out of it. And they were happy. And then they hired them again, and they made money again, and they were happy. And then they asked themselves, ‘Do we really need to deal with this film maker?’ Because people seem to go and watch these films, so what they did, they hired the same writer, but they got rid of the director, or they brought in another guy that was more like a journeyman from the studio. And they thought it would work again. And it was like, ‘Good, we don’t need to deal with that writer. Let’s just get another guy that just writes for the newspaper. Let’s just get him–I can pitch him the idea.’ And the guy from the studio says ‘Come up with some crap,’ and they put it out there, and it’s a success, and they go ‘Oh, this is great.'”

That won’t be happening on Don’t Breathe, as the sequel is going to have the same team behind it, with a new idea they won’t divulge as of yet, though Raimi called it “only the greatest idea for a sequel I’ve ever heard.” Alvarez added that it’s “kind of anarchic as an approach to a sequel to a movie. Is it what the studio are dying to have right away? Eh, who knows? Maybe…It’s exciting to create a character that you want to see more out of it. At least I do. I want to see the blind man, and see what’s going to happen with him.”

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For those aspiring to make horror films, Alvarez is adamant that the most important thing is to have your work be widely seen, as his short, “Panic Attack,” was on YouTube. “If you’re passionate about what you do, and if you’re a pure film maker, your goal is to have your short be seen by as much people as possible. Nobody can offer you money in exchange for doing something that is going to be more powerful than what YouTube can do, which is to put it out in the world, and everybody can see it there.” Noting that he is often sent password-protected links, he emphatically admonished against such a thing, going, “What the fuck are you doing? Are you trying to hide this from people? You don’t want people to steal it from you and make a shitload of money without paying you—who thinks that is going to happen? Just put it online. Mail it to everybody. I’ve seen some shorts that are better than ours with these passwords—’Please don’t share it!’ Who are you fucking kidding? ‘Please don’t share it’? I don’t understand the logic behind ‘Don’t share it.’ What are you trying to protect? There’s no money in the short business. You’re not going to sell it and make money—no. What you want is people to see it.”

In the end, explained Alvarez, a successful horror movie has two parts: it has to both appeal to the general horror audience, and  attract wider audiences by getting across in a quick trailer why the concept works. “Because you can have an idea—OK, it’s about these kids robbing a blind man. OK, eh—I get it. Very quickly, you kind of get it. But then you show a couple of scenes that explain the possibilities of the idea.”

“Also,” added Sayagues, “horror is the perfect—it seems to be the perfect platform to create original content, right? You can make a good, commercial horror movie on a lower budget, so it’s safer. Studios can take the risk. So we took advantage of that.”

Did they succeed in doing so with Don’t Breathe? Have you been waiting for home video to find out? Now’s your chance…and let us know what you think in comments below.

Images: Sony Pictures

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