Few indie filmmakers today have broken the rules of Hollywood like Uruguay-born horror director Fede Alvarez. Rather than parlaying a low-budget first film into a job directing a franchise horror movie, Alvarez flipped the script, remaking “The Evil Dead” as his debut film before going on to direct an original horror feature. How did Alvarez land the “Evil Dead” job without any feature film credits to his name?
“It was just based on Sam Raimi being insane and trusting me to write and direct that movie based on a short that I made,” Alvarez told IndieWire in a recent interview. The writer-director of 1981’s “The Evil Dead,” Raimi served as a producer on the 2013 remake.
Alvarez’s second film is the home invasion thriller “Don’t Breathe,” which hits theaters Friday and stars Jane Levy (“Evil Dead”) and Dylan Minnette (“Prisoners”). The movie follows a group of Detroit teens who break into a blind war veteran’s home with the intent of robbing him, but wind up trapped inside and fighting for their lives. Alvarez co-wrote “Don’t Breathe” with his writing partner Rodo Sayagues, who also collaborated with him on the “Evil Dead” script and two of Alvarez’s short films. Part of the reason Alvarez wanted his second feature to be an original story as opposed to an even bigger franchise movie has to do with the pressures that come with satisfying fans of an existing horror property.
“It was just refreshing for me to be able to make a movie that, while I was making it, nobody cared,” Alvarez said, adding that the internet was going a little crazy with anticipation during the shooting process for “Evil Dead.” One of his first ideas for “Don’t Breathe” was having a story where the audience isn’t sure which character is the bad guy. “You don’t know how it’s going to end because morally you’re not sure how it should end,” Alvarez said. “Hollywood usually goes for what’s morally right, but here you’re debating yourself throughout the movie.”
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While the home invasion victim at the center of “Don’t Breathe” is determined to find and kill the film’s main characters, he’s also part of the disenfranchised baby boomers in the U.S. that Alvarez says many Americans can sympathize with. “A lot of people just get to a point in their life where they look back and they did everything right — they never committed a crime — and they look to the present and they have nothing,” he said. “I think this character is that guy.”
With just two feature films under his belt, Alvarez is already taking advantage of the many opportunities for original storytelling that exist in television. He directed an episode of Robert Rodriguez’s series “From Dusk Till Dawn” in 2014 and hinted at plans for three other TV projects. “One is being written at AMC and there are two more that we’re working more secretly on,” Alvarez said. “You’ll probably hear about them pretty soon.”
One of the things that attracts Alvarez to TV is the diverse range of ideas being embraced by networks. “TV right now feels in a way like what movies were like in the ’80s, where you could really get away with anything,” he said. “Networks are really ready to take risks.” Alverez is also working on a feature script with Sayagues for “Monsterapocalypse,” a comic book adaptation for Warner Brothers that once had director Tim Burton attached.
While Alvarez seems to be taking capitalizing on every directing opportunity that comes his way, he insists there’s no secret to his career strategy. “I don’t have a master plan with these things,” he said. Still, one thing he said he will never do is make a movie that’s a part of any filmmaking trend, like the apparent obsession with haunted house stories in horror films. “If you look around, almost every movie has a haunted house,” he said. “There are no ghosts in this movie.”