When the new film from Fede Alvarez, the director of the 2013 Evil Dead remake, premiered at SXSW in Austin on March 11, the festival audience knew next to nothing about it. Now called Don’t Breathe, the movie was originally announced without a title, and the crowd was in for quite a surprise.
As it’s hinted at in the title and the exclusive poster, one of the key rules of the story is to keep silent. The three main characters — played by Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette, and Daniel Zovatto — are desperate Detroit thieves who think they’ve found the perfect score in a blind man (Avatar’s Stephen Lang), but they were very, very wrong.
The blind man turns out to be an Iraq war veteran with a lot to protect and even more to hide. After he gets wise to the thieves’ scheme, the main characters must sneak around the house as quietly as possible in order to save their own lives. The tone differs greatly from Alvarez’s Evil Dead, which favored gore over the intense suspense of Don’t Breathe.
Partly because of that difference, Alvarez describes Don’t Breathe as a very personal film — though he’s keen to clarify that he does not want to go rob houses. “There are many things that can make a movie personal. For me, one of the things is comparing it to Evil Dead,” Alvarez says. ”Evil Dead is a movie that — even though I wrote and directed it — has so many other elements. It’s hard to say that film is my personal film.”
The connection ties back to Alvarez’s home country and the feelings he had as a young man growing up there. “I come from Montevideo in Uruguay, a third-world country where we always grew up with a sense of no future,” he says. “It’s not something unique to where I come from. It happens in many, many different places. The characters in this movie, the reason I choose to tell the story of thieves and people who break into houses is because they want to break away from that reality. Their motivation is something I connect with, which doesn’t mean their morals are what I connect with. But I understand where they come from.”
You can check out Don’t Breathe later this year, when Screen Gems releases it on Aug. 26.