Fede Alvarez – Don’t Breathe

August 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In his new horror/thriller “Don’t Breathe,” filmmaker Fede Alvarez tells an original story about a trio of teens who break into the home of a wealthy blind man to steal money only to find the war vet isn’t going to let them get away without a fight. Alvarez, who is originally from Uruguay, hit the mainstream conscious in 2013 with his solid remake of the 1981 “Evil Dead.” During an interview with me, Alvarez, 38, talked about the difference between the antagonist in “Don’t Breathe” and the one in his last film, and whether or not he feels there is still room in the horror and thriller genres for creativity with so many remakes in high demand.

In the remake of “Evil Dead,” you were dealing with a demonic spirit. In “Don’t Breathe,” your antagonist is a man. How do you take on this kind of character in comparison to your last?

Each of the worlds has its advantages and disadvantages. At the end of the day, the real world like the one in “Don’t Breathe” is exciting because you don’t have to do too much to make it scary. In the ghost world, there is always a part of your brain that fights the idea that we’re in a fantasy. Most of us don’t believe that actually may happen. When you see something like “Don’t Breathe,” it gets to your fears in different levels. That makes it a powerful landscape to tell a story. Also, everyone is doing something in the ghost world now, so I wanted to do something different than the trend.

As horrible as we all know humans can be, do you think it is as easy to fear a man as much as something like a demon?

It’s all about the point of view of the director and the camera and the story and the situation. It might not be scary at all if I show it the wrong way. It’s always about the art of how I tell the story. Also, this is a movie that is 50 percent horror and 50 percent thriller and maybe even a little heist movie. That makes it a little more complex. You can’t just make it about the fear factor. If you do that, you might get tired of the idea. Here, we switch from horror to thriller to heist throughout the story. That’s why I like it.

Did you find it hard in this film to make the kids likeable because their moral compass isn’t spotless? I mean, their nowhere near Stephen Lang’s character, but they’re still doing something wrong.

You have to understand why they’re doing the things they’re doing. Rocky (Jane Levy) made a promise to her sister and she’s trying to deliver on that promise. I think it’s easier to understand her and why she does what she does. It doesn’t mean you have to like her, but I think you can empathize at some level. You want characters with shady morals. Think of [Alfred] Hitchcock’s movies. Most of the characters have very shady morals—Jane Leigh stealing money at the beginning of “Psycho” and in “Vertigo” and in “Strangers on a Train,” everyone is doing bad things. I think those characters are a lot of fun.

Do you think it’s going to be harder for filmmakers like you to make the films they want in the horror/thriller genre because so many people these days are getting more and more sensitive about certain things?

We deal with that all the time. When you make any film, you try to do something that’s unique and will survive the passage of time and won’t disappear a week after it opens. I know the classic films that have accomplished that in the past usually have something that goes against society. Think about “The Exorcist” or “The Omen” or “The Shining.” All those theme and ideas brought big debate and had moments that were shocking. That’s what art should do. It should be provoking.

Do you think there is still room in the horror genre to be creative?

I definitely believe there is. It depends on how much money you spend. The more money you spend, the more restrictions you will have. What is unique about Hollywood is you can tell a story about a little town with a few characters from that town, but you’re telling that story to the whole world—from here to Japan to India to France to Uzbekistan. Movies play in those theaters, so you have to be able to tell a universal story and talk about something that anybody can understand anywhere. That’s the challenge. I always try to do something that is artistic and creative and strange and different. You can always take risks in movies. As long as you’re not spending too much money.

I thought you did a solid job with “Evil Dead,” but it seems like all Hollywood continues to want are remakes—“Poltergeist,” “Carrie,” next year we’re getting a remake of “It.” When I interviewed you in 2013, you said you’re “part of [the] group of people that bitches when they find out someone is going to remake a classic movie.” Do you still feel the same about remakes?

I think there is room for any kind of horror movies. There’s room for original movies and remakes. Most of the time [if the remake is not good], you have to blame the writers and directors and creators. They tend to try to give the studios what they believe the studios want—the movie they greenlit. [Studios want] a sure bet. Also, it’s about the audience. When [studios] make something original, nobody goes [to see it]. I remember when “Pacific Rim” came out, it was this big movie and was completely original, but then the weekend came and everyone decided to go see some Adam Sandler comedy—“Grown Ups 2.” It’s a problem with all of us. It’s about what society wants to see.

Would you do another remake?

Personally, I don’t think I would do a remake right away, but I might do one sometime. It’s really fun to refresh a story and try to bring it to an audience. If I was against remakes, that would’ve made my childhood and my teen years really boring because I wouldn’t have been able to see “The Fly” or “The Blob” or “The Thing” or “[Invasion of the] Body Snatchers.” Those great movies were remakes. When I was making “Evil Dead,” I knew a lot of my audience wasn’t going to even know it was a remake. They thought it was a new release called “Evil Dead” about these kids in a cabin. If you’re a 18 or 19 year old, [the original] “Evil Dead” is a movie that came out ages ago—before they were born and they don’t care. What are we going to be—movie fascists and demand that the audience knows it is a remake? The reality is they just want to see something that is entertaining. “It” is coming out. I’m good friends with the director [Andrés Muschietti]. Most people that see it are just going to know their seeing a movie based on a Stephen King novel and they’re going to enjoy it. I’m not a fan of the original, but some of us who know it’s a remake may bitch about that, but the reality is they won’t care if you make a good movie. I think it’s bad if you make a bad remake that damages the legacy or the original. That’s away painful to watch.

Fede Alvarez – Evil Dead

April 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Three minutes and 50 seconds was all Uruguayan director Fede Álvarez needed. That was the total runtime of “Ataque de Pánico” (“Panic Attack”), an impressive, albeit micro-budgeted, short film Álvarez made about robots destroying Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, which he uploaded onto YouTube in 2009. It quickly garnered attention from a number of Hollywood movers and shakers, including filmmaker Sam Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell, who first offered him another movie project and then chose him to direct the “reinvention” of their “Evil Dead” franchise. Despite never having made a feature film before, Álvarez, 35, jumped on board faster than Raimi and Campbell could say, “Join us!”

A lot of 20-year-olds are going to see this movie and not know it’s a remake from an ’80s cult classic. As a fan of the original film, do you think that is a problem?

No, I don’t, but I’m also part of that group of people that bitches when they find out someone is going to remake a classic movie. When I look back to some of the movies I loved in the ’80s when I was a kid, I didn’t know some of them were remakes. Take, for example, “The Fly” (1986). It was a horror cult classic from the ’50s. [Director] David Cronenberg brought that title to a whole new generation. That’s what I think we’re doing here — bringing it to a new generation of 18-20-year-olds that would never have known [the original] existed.

Do you think new audiences will miss out on certain aspects of the remake because they haven’t seen the original?

I don’t think so, because we wanted to create a film that worked for new audiences, but at the same time please the fans of the original. That was the big challenge for me as a writer and director, but we discovered that it definitely worked both ways. If you’ve seen the original 100 times, it still works as a new film because we took the time to change a lot of things from the original. The story may feel familiar for the first 20 minutes, but then it goes into completely new places. Then, of course, new audiences will have a blast because they’re exposed to the “Evil Dead” universe for the first time.

Would you consider this horror movie only for fans of the genre?

Not at all. There’s something special about the “Evil Dead” movies. In most horror films, the characters are always just victims. Whoever survives sometimes just barely makes it out alive. But in the “Evil Dead” movies there is always a character that turns around and fights back. That’s what I love about this movie. People have told me they thought they were going to hate this movie because they don’t like horror movies, but said they had a lot of fun watching the film. “Evil Dead” movies always tend to get away from the standard slasher or supernatural horror.

When it came to the gore in the film, were there any unwritten rules you tried to follow during production or was nothing off limits?

Well, you don’t want to hold back, but you also don’t want it to turn into something too funny. When gore gets over the top it tends to not be scary anymore. The challenge was to show the right amount of gore without turning it into something that was ridiculous. I think there is really an art to it. Anybody can grab a knife and cut a body apart, so we tried to think about what triggers the pain in people’s lives. We wanted to show the gore at the right place, at the right time, and in the right amount.

What would you find more rewarding with this remake: to shock horror movie fans or scare them?

I wanted to go out there with the same spirit Sam had when he made the original — to make the scariest movie ever, but I think what I want to do most is entertain them. That’s the main goal. You can make the goriest movie and it could still be the most boring thing ever, even if you’re a fan of gory horror movies. I want to hook the audience into the story first. Then, it’s about scaring them with the right combination of shock and suspense.

This interview was conducted for the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival.

Evil Dead

April 4, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jane Levy, Shiloh Fernandez, Lou Taylor Pucci
Directed by: Fede Alvarez (debut)
Written by: Fede Alvarez (debut)

If you walk out of the remake of “Evil Dead” and actual think Sam Raimi’s original film was better, there is a cult-classic bias in you that can never be exorcised. Simply put: Raimi’s “Evil Dead” is so 1981. First-time feature director Fede Alvarez’s take is fresh and fiendishly entertaining.

Okay, we jest…to a point. Raimi’s original film, of course, will forever be considered a cult favorite by fans of the horror genre and deservingly so. The campy feel of it – even more today – is ridiculously amusing. But Alvarez, who has never made a feature-length film before in his life, takes Raimi’s framework and builds something even more gruesome and throws in a nastier streak that would never have made it past the censors 30 years ago. If you liked the sometimes unintentional humor of the first one, there’s not much of that in its successor. There’s no room for laughter, anyway, when so much blood is spewing all over.

That’s not to say graphic horror remakes these days have an impressive track record when it comes to impaling body parts in excess. Things like “Black Christmas” in 2006, “My Blood Valentine” in 2009, and Rob Zombie’s version of the “Halloween” franchise are a very small handful of horror movies that didn’t get it right. Despite it not being very scary at all, Alvarez’s “Evil Dead,” however, gets fewer things wrong and has a blast doing it.

Like the 1981 movie, the reincarnated “Evil Dead” follows a group of young friends into the wood where they shack up in a remote cabin. Instead of camping, however, the characters in the new flick are having a rehab session for Mia (Jane Levy), a friend who has decided she wants to kick her drug habit cold turkey. But when her friends run across a barbwire-bounded Book of the Dead in the cellar, left over from some satanic ritual, Mia and her cohorts, including her brother David (Shiloh Fernandez), his girlfriend Natalie (Elizabeth Blackmore), and their friends Eric (Lou Tatylor Pucci) and Olivia (Jessica Lucas), have a lot more to worry about than Mia’s manic withdrawals. She’s not vomiting blood because she needs a fix. She’s got a demon inside her.

Relying more on good old-fashioned special effects than those of the CGI brand, the new “Evil Dead” never feels fake (although a creepy female victim from the book’s past shows up in the first half and almost ruins it). With Raimi and actor Bruce Campbell, who we all know as Ash in the franchise, on board as producers, the re-visioning of “Evil Dead” is about as much fun as watching someone get shot in the face with a nail gun. Gauge your threshold for gore on your reaction to that last sentence and you should know whether or not you have the stomach for it.

“Evil Dead” was screened at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival.