'Don't Breathe' Premiere: Cast, Director Talk Defying Female Character Tropes, Alfred Hitchcock-Inspired Thriller

“If you look back at 'Psycho,' Janet Leigh was stealing money in the first scene. Nobody is good in those movies. ... You’re holding your breath until the end of the movie to see how it’s going to end," director Fede Alvarez told THR at the premiere of his first original feature.
Eric Charbonneau/Courtesy of Sony
From left: Daniel Zovatto, Jane Levy and Dylan Minnette at the 'Don't Breathe' premiere

Sunday’s Hollywood premiere of Don’t Breathe took place at a fitting venue, the Silent Movie Theater, with oxygen canisters passed out beforehand in case audience members actually got too spooked to breathe.

The stars of director-writer Fede Alvarez’s first original feature — Stephen Lang, Jane Levy, Dylan Minnette and Daniel Zovatto — were all present at the thriller, which originally premiered at South by Southwest. The story follows three young robbers desperate for cash who plot to steal $300,000 from a blind war vet, played by Lang. The film delves deep into strange places, gripping the audience with scares and shocks.  

“I love to entertain people, I love to give them surprises all the time and give them twists and really keep them on the edge of their seats without knowing what’s coming,” said Alvarez.

The helmer's last project was a remake of cult classic Evil Dead by Sam Raimi, who also is a producer on Don’t Breathe.

“In both movies I really had complete creative control with what I was doing … but the restriction on Evil Dead was really Evil Dead itself; it needed to be an Evil Dead movie and it was very refreshing for me to be able to write a movie without people saying ‘It’s going to suck’ as soon as you write the first word, which was the case with Evil Dead,” Alvarez explained to The Hollywood Reporter.

Levy, who plays the female lead and previously worked with Alvarez on Evil Dead, praised the filmmaker’s process. “He knew exactly what he wanted and had a very specific vision," she said. "He hired a lot of first-time people as the heads of departments and created this environment where people were really excited to come to work and this film just felt like his own.”

Levy's character defies standard female horror-film tropes — she is no damsel in distress and works on her own agenda. “The character is a credit to Fede actually," said the actress. "He would tell me often, ‘Be Bruce Willis, be an action hero. You don’t have to apologize and you don’t have to act like a victim. You can be afraid but still take control of the situation.’ And in that way, maybe she’s not the most likeable, but I think that she’s badass.”

Alvarez credits Alfred Hitchcock as one of his biggest inspirations for the film, both in cinematography and character development.

“If you look back at Psycho, Janet Leigh was stealing money in the first scene," he said. "Nobody is good in those movies. All the characters had very shady morals and when you have characters that have shady morals, it’s very hard to predict in the movie how it’s going to end. You don’t know who deserves to die, who deserve to live, who deserves to get the money — it’s hard. And that makes for a great story, and for great suspense. You’re holding your breath until the end of the movie to see how it’s going to end.”

Alvarez's next projects include a couple of TV shows that have yet to be announced, as well as Monsterpocalypse for Warner Bros.

Don’t Breathe hits theaters July 26.