Earlier this month, Daily Dead was invited, alongside a group of fellow journalists, to attend a special luncheon with the filmmakers behind Don’t Breathe, including co-writer/director Fede Alvarez, co-writer Rodo Sayagues, and producer Sam Raimi, in celebration of the film’s Blu-ray and DVD release on Tuesday, November 29th.

Over the course of a few hours, we had the opportunity to speak in depth with the trio about their experiences working together on both Don’t Breathe as well as Alvarez’s directorial debut, the 2013 remake of Evil Dead, and a myriad of other topics that came up during lunch. Here are some highlights from the luncheon, and be sure to bring home a copy of Don’t Breathe this week, too.

Fede Alvarez on the challenges of making original horror movies: I think it’s necessary with movies today, to have a concept that is clear and ideally, is also unique, that you hadn’t really seen before. That much we knew we had going for us. You couldn’t even directly compare it to other movies that have come out. In our defense, we haven’t seen People Under the Stairs, even now, and so maybe that helped us because [if] had we seen it, we would have said, “We cannot do this,” so I think that was to our benefit. Wait Until Dark was another one my mom told me about after we finished writing it, saying, “Oh, so this is just like that Audrey Hepburn movie?” So then we watched it, and yeah, there were some ideas there, but this was a much different approach.

That being said, we found something that we thought would be unique to the current generation of moviegoers and that we hoped we’d be able to surprise them. You never know how it’s going to go, especially when making a studio movie, because you have to convince them that this is going to be worth putting a bunch of money into it in order to make it a success when it's released. We knew we were taking a big leap of faith, but we knew that sometimes the biggest things are those that come out of nowhere.

Rodo Sayagues on taking chances with horror: Also, horror seems to be the perfect platform to take chances and create original content. You can make a good commercial horror movie on a lower budget, so studios can take that risk then. We took advantage of that.

Sam Raimi on horror going mainstream: I agree with Fede that for a while, the studios were making horror movies with guys who were just “for hire” and that the really passionate films we were seeing were coming from the independent side of things. And it’s been interesting to watch, because for so long, horror films were outside the mainstream, and anything related to the genre was on the fringe. The same goes for superhero movies, too. So when all those kids who grew up on those kinds of media—kids from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s—they’re all adults now and those are the stories that are now considered mainstream. And horror was something else that got swept up into that, too.

If you make a really great horror movie, it can be accepted by the mainstream and reach a wider audience, instead of just the drive-in crowd, which is how it was back in my day.

Fede Alvarez discusses producer Rob Tapert’s influence on his work: Our school of horror has been Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi. When we wrote Evil Dead and we did the first draft, Rob was there for us as the studio guy. I mean that in the most loving way possible, because he knows precisely what the studio wants, and he said to me, “Fede, there aren’t enough scares, and ideally, we need more jump scares.” We had this board when we were first working on it, where we mapped out where everything would hit: what was scary, what was funny, what was boring, and whenever we saw where those valleys of boring were, we’d add in something there. And I remember Rob was always great about helping us, making sure we had a good story, but that we also had some good scares in there, too. And that’s my favorite part, watching the audience react to those moments.

Sam Raimi on how Fede and Rodo punish audiences: What they [Fede and Rodo] do to the audience is kind of cruel when you think about it. They laugh at the idea of hurting the audience with fear, and when they come up with a scary idea that they know the audience is going to jump at, it’s almost like they are bullies in a way. They want to push audiences until they can’t take it anymore.

Fede Alvarez discusses working under the radar for Don’t Breathe: I will never complain about the scrutiny that came along with Evil Dead because we were some unknown kids who were getting their big break in order to make this movie. And yeah, there were all of these people criticizing it early on and trashing it, or saying they were going to show up opening night just to trash it, and all I could think about was, “Oh my god, people are going to be in theaters for my movie on opening night.” The excitement of making your first movie overtakes everything if you really love it. But now on the third movie, it’s going to depress me more. Plus, we knew that everything people were saying about Evil Dead as we headed into production, those were things the movie wasn’t going to be—a watered down PG-13 horror movie that didn’t do anything cool. In the end, we were just eager to show people what we had done.

This time, it was very different and almost a bit lonely, because when we were writing it, no one knew we were writing it. Sam and Rob knew, just because I had told Rob about it one day, and he said he wanted to read it, but that was it. And I wrote this right after my wife had a baby, so I had one foot on the crib constantly rocking it as I was typing away. But I think it was good that way because this was simpler than Evil Dead in a lot of ways—down to even their premieres. When we brought Evil Dead to SXSW, it was in the biggest theater with this crazy crowd, and for Don’t Breathe, it was in this smaller, more intimate theater.

But I loved that the audience there that night was going into this with absolutely no idea of what was in store for them. They knew nothing about it, so that was all about the experience. For us, the most pure experience you could have with a movie is back when you would go into the video store, and the guy behind the counter would just blindly recommend a movie to you that you never even heard of. That’s what we wanted to give them. And even when Don’t Breathe came out in theaters, a lot of people still had no idea what to expect, so that was really cool.

Sam Raimi on his Love of horror & working with Fede: I love horror movies and will always love horror movies, so we thought it would be cool to have a company that only makes horror movies. I remember back when I learned about Hammer Films, and realized they only made horror films, and I thought that was so great. So we’ve always been about horror, and I love that we can help up-and-coming filmmakers, whether it’s from a creative standpoint or a financial standpoint. We don’t really have a plan, we just get involved when a project comes along that we really believe in.

And anybody who saw Fede’s first film, Panic Attack, it was obvious that the guy was super talented. It didn’t take anyone with special vision to see that; he got great performances, he built up a great amount of suspense, and he had a great vision of the future and understood how to tease the audience. I was looking for a chance to work with him after seeing Panic Attack, in fact, and I wanted to give him an opportunity.

Originally, we were going to try and make a feature film version of Panic Attack, but then another movie came along that had a lot of similar elements to that world, and it didn’t [do] well, so that limited our chances to get the financing. But through that experience, I saw how great of a guy Fede was, what a hard worker he was, and that he had really great instincts about everything. So we had been looking for someone to redo Evil Dead for like six years, and I said to myself, “I think I found that guy.”

I’m still hoping we can write something together. I can’t talk about what that might be, but I think my sensibilities are very close to these guys’ and we all compliment each other really well, too.

Fede Alvarez discusses sequel plans for Don’t Breathe: Don’t Breathe 2 is something we definitely want to do and the challenge there, obviously, is that we don’t want to do the same movie again and stamp a “2” on it. We’d feel so embarrassed if we did that. When the studio first asked us about it, we initially pushed that idea away because it felt so Hollywood to do a sequel, but then we had an idea for it, and that got us very excited. Is it an idea that the studio is dying to have right now? Eh, I don’t know [laughs], but we’re probably going to start writing it really soon. It’s very exciting to write characters, though, that you want to see on the big screen again, though.


The answer below contains spoilers on the finale of Don’t Breathe. DO NOT read this if you haven’t seen the movie yet.

Fede Alvarez on the original ending of Don’t Breathe: The original script had a bleaker ending, where she ended up in the cellar. There was this thing with a trap door, even, but we realized that was too much like Evil Dead, so we changed that to the door in the wall. But the original finale was that she walked past the trap door, a hand reaches up and pulls her down into this separate part of the cellar, so when the police show up, they don’t find her. In fact, the part of the basement she was supposed to be taken to was part of the basement next door, that the Blind Man dug a tunnel to because that house is abandoned. But we decided to change all that.

I think in the original cut even, Rocky was more ambitious, more manipulative, where she was controlling the other characters more so that she could get what she wanted. She didn’t deserve to win, and it was really depressing. We thought that this way was much more fair to both of these characters because neither of them had any kind of moral high ground.

Rodo Sayagues on why there are no winners in Don’t Breathe: This ending now makes much more sense because no one won. She didn’t win, because she knows what she’s done, and the Blind Man didn’t win because of what he lost after everything. It was like a pact between criminals, where they took something from each other, and so it’s a finale that’s a little bittersweet.

  • Heather Wixson
    About the Author - Heather Wixson

    Heather A. Wixson was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, until she followed her dreams and moved to Los Angeles in 2009. A 14-year veteran in the world of horror entertainment journalism, Wixson fell in love with genre films at a very early age, and has spent more than a decade as a writer and supporter of preserving the history of horror and science fiction cinema. Throughout her career, Wixson has contributed to several notable websites, including Fangoria, Dread Central, Terror Tube, and FEARnet, and she currently serves as the Managing Editor for Daily Dead, which has been her home since 2013. She's also written for both Fangoria Magazine & ReMind Magazine, and her latest book project, Monsters, Makeup & Effects: Volume One will be released on October 20, 2021.