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[SXSW Review] Fede Alvarez’s ‘Don’t Breathe’ Is Like Hitchcock On Crack!

DON'T BREATHE poster via Sony Screen Gems

SXSW got off to a rollicking good start with the midnight premiere of Fede Alvarez’s new film Don’t Breathe last night. There was a lot of speculation surrounding the film as not much was known about it, and it turns out that’s the best way to view the film! Don’t Breathe is a masterclass in audience manipulation that proves Fede Alvarez isn’t a one-trick pony. It’s almost hard to believe that this is just his second feature film, but here we are and we have been gifted with this absolutely wonderful and fucking awesome film. It is one of the most tense viewing experiences I’ve ever had and should definitely be viewed with an audience.

The plot of the film is simple: Detroit teenagers Rocky (Jane Levy, Evil Dead, ABC’s Suburgatory), Alex (Dylan Minnette, Goosebumps, ABC’s Scandal) and Money (Daniel Zovatto, It Follows, ABC’s Revenge) and break into a blind man’s (Stephen Lang, Avatar, Gods and Generals) home thinking they’ll get away with the perfect crime. Little do they know that this blind man is incredibly adept at protecting himself and everything in his home. Think You’re Next had a baby with Panic Room and you’ve got Don’t Breathe.

To say any more about Don’t Breathe would spoil the fun of the completely unpredictable viewing experience. Formerly known as The Man in the DarkDon’t Breathe is a mostly silent film. In fact, it would be surprising if there were even 30 pages worth of dialogue in the script. Once the blind man wakes up, everything goes silent and we are left to Alvarez’s devices. It becomes immediately clear that he is running the show, and what a show it is.

Alvarez co-wrote the film with his Evil Dead co-scribe Rodo Sayagues, and their script, as minimal as it is, is exceptionally taut. This may seem like an odd compliment to give a film that maybe has about 20 minutes of spoken dialogue (and I’m fairly sure it’s even less than that), but Alvarez and Sayagues don’t waste a single minute of screen time. The whole thing is an exercise in suspense that would make even Hitchcock proud. Equally impressive are the extra-long tracking shots employed throughout the film. There were multiple times where I would be watching things transpire on screen and think “Is this still the same shot?” It’s absolutely hypnotic.

Jane Levy takes center stage here and boy does that honor come with a price. After what she had to go through as an actress during Evil Dead, it is surprising that she returned for an equally brutal treatment in Don’t Breathe. One scene in particular had the audience squirming in their seats, and it certainly makes one wonder why Levy isn’t getting more work. With this, Evil Dead and Suburgatory under her belt, the actress has certainly proven her worth to a project.

Faring equally well is Lang, who emerges as one of the silver screen’s best “villains” in years. Even as a blind man, he is an incredibly imposing figure. Don’t Breathe may not qualify as an actual horror movie, but Lang imbues the film with plenty of horror, and his casting pays off in spades. Minnette and Zovato are also great, although they are given significantly less to work with than Levy and Lang.

If there is one complaint to be had about the film it’s that it ends. Once the credits roll it dawns on you that this fantastic viewing experience has come to an end and you must carry on with your everyday life. In all seriousness though, I could have used a little more closure in the final reel, but that is a minor quibble in an otherwise solid film.

I could say a thousand more words about Don’t Breathe, but suffice it to say that I absolutely adored it. It was a fantastic way to open the festival and is exactly the kind of nail-bitingly tense adrenaline rush that audiences crave. The idea of overhyping a film bothers me a lot, and I feel like this review will do just that, but I refuse to mask my love for Don’t Breathe. I can’t wait to see what Alvarez has in store for us next!

Don't Breathe SXSW Review Fede Alvarez


  • James Tillotson

    Where is the trailer??? Can’t find anything regarding this film outside this article.

    • I visited the set last year, so we will be having a set report in the coming months once the embargo lifts. As for a trailer, I can’t help ya there :/

    • J Jett

      James, it’s weird. on IMDB this movie is listed only as….

      “Untitled Fede Alvarez/Ghost House Thriller (2016)”.

      when looking for the trailer did you try DON’T BREATH or THE MAN IN THE DARK?

      • Trailer should be coming next month! And IMDb just changed the name. =)

    • I interviewed two of the actors today and Minnette said that he thinks a trailer will come out next month. As of now the film is set to be released in August!

  • Francesco Falciani

    can’t wait! hope to hear soon when it will be released!

  • Fede Alvarez is a great director, sorry guys but I prefer the ‘Evil Dead’ remake than the original ‘Evil Dead’, for me it was one of the best horror movies of the last decade.
    I want to see ‘Don’t Breathe, unfortunately I’m portuguese and I will have to watch the movie through illegal ways or wait for Netflix buy it.

    • alwayswipetwice

      Agreed – he’s DEFINITELY very talented. I don’t want to choose one ED over the other, but the remake certainly had a lot of gorgeous cinematography (ie. the final scene with Mia and the chainsaw while it poured blood in front of the burning cabin – Rarely do I ever see such beautiful carnage in horror movies).

      His short film is so damn kick-ass too. Someone needs to give this guy an awesome big-budget script to direct. So yeah, I can’t wait for Don’t Breathe!

      • The camera work in Don’t Breathe is a wonder to behold. I have no idea how he did some of it!

        • alwayswipetwice

          SWEET! This is the first time I’ve heard about this movie, but your review got me so damn excited! =D

  • BloodyDisgusted

    Quick, change it back to A Man in the Dark.

  • Mr. Dry

    OMFG! Fede, one of the first uruguayan (I’m uruguayan too) horror directors in going international (who also direct the extremely awesome ED remake) being compared to Hitchcock!!! I’m literally about to cry. Cannot be happier for him!

    • alwayswipetwice

      Ataque de Panico kicks all kinds of ass! =D

      • Mr. Dry

        My neighbourhood is destroyed by giant robots AND IT’S GREAT!

  • cetrata

    Premise sounds interesting but I felt federal Alvarez did a horrible disservice to evil dead so I’m HIGHLY skeptical of this. Evil dead 2013 I felt was nothing more than idiotic characters, cringe worthy gore that came from hostel, poor acting, poor directing and writing, and plot holes galore like how many souls were counted and all that. Thought evil dead 2013 was one of the worst horror remakes of all time.

    • J Jett

      cetrata, what do you consider a GOOD remake (i’m not trolling you. i’m just curious). 🙂

    • alwayswipetwice

      I’ll give you the poor writing, but poor directing? Really? I think the ED remake at least looked great. And had excellent music too.

    • Mr.Be.A.Dick

      You sir, are wrong

  • astronauta69

    sounds cool as fuck but c’mon man, i want my Evil Dead 2

    • I interviewed Alvarez today. Unfortunately it is not happening. =/

      • astronauta69

        damn 🙁

    • J Jett

      astronauta69, i definitely wanted an EVIL DEAD 2 as well.

  • J Jett

    Trace, i am definitely looking forward to this movie!

    JANE LEVY + FEDE ALVAREZ + A THRILLER FILM = i definitely must see this!

    • I believe it’s scheduled to come out in August. Definitely see it in theaters! It’s definitely an “audience movie.”

  • Michał Bochenek

    I. Need. This. Now.

  • zombie84_41

    ok I’ll be looking out for this I skimmed through the review cus I didn’t want to know anything about it. All I need to kno is it is by fede and its hitchcock on crack.

    • I tried to keep it as spoiler-free as possible but that’s probably a smart move!

      • zombie84_41

        sweet yeah whenever I read about a movie thats well rave or actually any horror movie I norm don’t read any reviews or watch trailers I just go in blind most of the time I come out loving them or most I really hate I was tottally bum on Ava’s Possessions, and Nina forever they both were well raved and they complete garbage. But Starry eyes is something you should really check out

        • I’ve seen it! I like it a lot. I still need to see Nina Forever though.

  • James

    Yeah I’m in!

  • J Jett

    oh i meant to mention that the plot line for this (3 teenaged-ish thieves break into a creepy isolated house but the house’s owner turns out to be the real nightmare/monster) is sort of identical to Alexandre Bustillo &

    Julien Maury’s LIVIDE. just sayin’. but either way i can’t wait for this movie!

  • Mr.Be.A.Dick

    I could say something snide, but im overly thrilled to see another fede’y flick. Hitchcock was a master,so to compare them gets my hype train moving with real coal

  • Daniel McDonald

    I no longer pan down to read other’s opinions of any given post, mainly because I can’t believe how may ” fans” have such smug, toxic, prejudgementally transparent things to say about something we haven’t yet experienced. I thought these kinds of promotional posts were designed to get fans enthused and anticipating what ever the project was. Seems like a lot of fans don’t get to express themselves in their ” non armchair critical “lives, so I guess they’ve got to get it out somewhere. More often than not, those types of posts make me giggle,then get a bit sad, they make me feel like ” oh honey, who hurt you?”
    I think your enthusiastic appreciation was really fun and I can’t wait to see it! If all you’re going to do is gain a sense of superiority or ” cred” from the false power of the anonymous electronic voice, why bother BEING a fan, why bother showing up for anything if you’ve already decided it has no worth? I thought that the Evil Dead remake was everything I hoped it would be…terrific source material, solid acting ( especially by Jane Levy ), top of the line cinematography, editing and breathtakingly excellent F X . I’ve been in the entertainment industry for 35 years…I often wonder if the general public has ANY sense of how incredibly difficult it is to make a film at all, let alone a good one…I’m just saying…

    • alwayswipetwice

      Had great music too!

      • PsychoMantis18

        You pretentious tool.

      • PsychoMantis18

        Sorry. Wrong person.

    • PsychoMantis18

      You pretentious tool.

      • Chamber

        You are the exact idiot he is referring to. Bravo!

        • PsychoMantis18

          I’m the exact idiot he’s refering to?

          Okay… Thank-you…. Back to your finger-painting now.

      • Mr.Be.A.Dick

        You have a metal gear solid reference for a name…whos the pretentious one? Named after a character who could read your save file and then talk down to you about it. Your either a shitty version of a troll or your just inept at having a sunny disposition. Either way change your diaper, you aged rape stain.

        • PsychoMantis18

          Clearly you don’t understand the words definition. Or you at least don’t know how to apply it.

          I have the name (and picture) of Psycho Mantis because… Wait for it… I love the character and the MGS franchise. Shock horror!

          You should do yourself a favor and actually try reading something by Crowley; might wise you up a bit.

          That’s who’s in your pic by the way. Thought you might not know cause you don’t seem very literate.

          • Mr.Be.A.Dick

            Look i wont quibble with someone on the merits you can drop crowleys name. I know by frame of reference you would know nothing of Aiwass, or the thelma religion. Therfore your still pretentious in your assertion i didnt know what my pic was turd basket. I didnt go and just pick a witty cat picture. But hey thats the internet for you, another dull minded pretentious prick who thinks he knows more than someone else…wait….is that you being pretentious again. Find a knife…..hunker down on your couch….and stab your face till it looks like that gaping hole your boyfriend fills…late at night. “Might wise me up a bit”hahaha such fuckin foolery

          • PsychoMantis18

            It’s Thelema, you pretentious twat.

            Thanks for proving my point.

          • Mr.Be.A.Dick

            Fuck off. You know nothing slog. Angain just cause im horrible at spelling, you lames hope on to the spelling instead of saying something actually. So take your two cents and pack them in your ass, with your head, which is right next to your dads dick.

          • PsychoMantis18

            You’re just like all the hardcore Christians that don’t do as the gospel’s they haven’t read preach: follow blindly but learn nothing. Try actually reading Crowley’s stuff and you might go on to become less of a troglodyte.

          • Mr.Be.A.Dick

            Haha troglydyte, good verbage. Sorry you really shit the bed on your christian statement. Just cause you can google some terms and read a wikipedia doesnt mean you know two things about what your talking about. Oh and if were being candid, just because your better at being patient with your spelling than others doesnt mean it proves any such point you would like to seem your making. If you your wheelhouse is so deep dickbag how is it you replyied about thelema and not Aiwass. You dont have a deeper understanding, you have a surface knowledge based on conspiracy websites and articles you have read. So dont be preaching your pretentious self righteousness,when off the internet your just another hipster douchebag with a grade school education on topics that seem fringe to you. Fucking plebeian. Bye bitch

          • PsychoMantis18

            Why would I mention Thelema and not Aiwass? Because you didn’t even know the name of the Crowley’s religion and Aiwass is irrelevant to our topic. Unlike you, I have no reason to pretentiously name drop. I actually know what i’m talking about.

          • Mr.Be.A.Dick

   story bro. Full of shit and full of your pretensious self. Cool story bro, really cool.

    • Mr.Be.A.Dick

      Well said. Sick of the toxins as well

  • Chamber

    Fede is one of the most promising directors in Hollywood right now, and what he did with Evil Dead escalated the franchise from simple cult status to a legitimate horror franchise. Anything he does, at this point, should be carefully followed.

  • Daniel McDonald

    Psychmantis 18
    I genuinely did not set out to personally attack or offend anyone who shares my love of horror ( why would I, we’ve already got that in common ) but as Chamber so eloquently pointed out, you seem to be the Poster Boy for the opinions expressed in my initial post. Pretentious Tool??? Did I use words that were difficult for you to process? Were my thoughts somehow beyond your comprehension? Ahhh well…as I said earlier, I thought the film sounded really cool, and I’m sorry my opinion of a solicited comment is so very different from yours…I’m just saying…

  • Darnell

    When is this movie releasing? I read a ton of reviews on this site but rarely do I actually see the movies. I remember seeing Mr. Disgusting top 10 movies of 2015 and like 3 or 4 of them had never released in the USA.

    It would be cool if some potential release dates could be added to these articles. I remember all the great reviews and hype about February being one of the best films of 2015 yet no one has seen it???

    • This one is being released theatrically on August 26, 2016. We made a post about it a few days ago. Unfortunately many festival films haven’t acquired a distributor yet, so there is no release date. They screen at festivals hoping a rep will see them and want to purchase them or distribution. Some films play and take months (or years) to see a release date. It’s just the way the game is played.

      Sadly a release date for February (now retitled ‘The Black Coat’s Daughter’) has not been set. We’re still waiting!

      • Darnell

        Thanks for the info. It’s much appreciated.

  • John Marrone

    To be honest, most everything is better not knowing anything going in. If you ever get the chance to approach a well made film not knowing anything – cast, coming attractions, no press – and just sit down and watch, movies are SO much better. Not speaking against anything, but prerelease press on films do nothing good for the experience overall.

  • PsychoMantis18

    Good job at proving my point once again. Thanks.

  • Alan Ramirez

    Waiting impatiently for this movie.

  • Romantic Placebo

    I heard something about a turkey baster being used in the way it was not intended and right away I wondered what Hitchock would think of swerving so severely into THAT territory.

    Then again, knowing how hitch thought of women I’m actually not sure he would disaprove…

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This Week in Horror - August 7, 2017

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