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22 Things We Learned from the Don’t Breathe Commentary

Don't Breathe
By  · Published on November 23rd, 2016

“If you ask Lang to bring it he’ll bring it.”

Fede Alvarez’s Evil Dead reboot divided audiences, but I fall firmly on the pro side as I find it to be an incredibly visceral horror film brought to vivid life with incredibly effective effects work. His follow-up is a far different creation, one that found far more universal success at the box office, and it’s called…

Don’t Breathe (2016)

Commentators: Fede Alvarez (director/co-writer), Rodo Sayagues (co-writer), Stephen Lang (bad-ass actor)

1. They shot the opening scene ‐ a drone shot from high above that slowly comes in closer to reveal a man dragging a young woman down the street ‐ three times, and Lang says little Jane Levy eventually grew heavier each time.

2. The film was originally called Man in the Dark, but they’ve all come to love the current title. They also toyed with simply calling it The Blind Man at one point.

3. It was filmed in Detroit and Budapest.

4. Their animal wrangler handled everything from the dog to the very real ladybug.

5. Alvarez cameos as the illegal immigrant charged with murder in the news website at 8:42.

6. They point out the neighborhood contrasts against traditional scary houses in movies where the creepy, rundown home is the one to fear. “Here it’s the other way around. It’s the house that’s in good shape in a bad neighborhood, and for that reason be the one that is unsettling.”

7. Lang says all three of the “kids” are likable in their own way, but he doesn’t explain what exactly that way is with Money (Daniel Zovatto). Because seriously, that guy’s a dick.

8. They recorded this commentary before the film was released.

9. The nearly four-minute single tracking shot starting as they enter the door and ending with the blind man (Lang) is meant to introduce all of the rooms and elements that will soon be coming into play.

10. They researched various elements of the film to ensure accuracy with the details, but they never got to the bottom of whether or not that gas bottle idea is something people really use. Alvarez has heard stories about robbers using them on overnight train cars to knock out passengers before robbing them blind.

11. Alvarez never seriously considered doing it, but he says he “fantasized about making this movie black & white because there’s something so classic film noir” about parts of it.

12. Lang kept quiet between takes, and he thinks that led to some unintentional feelings of intimidation towards the three young leads.

13. Lang’s nickname is apparently “Slang.”

14. They made a point of counting all of the bullets used so that the moment where the blind man presses the gun to Alex’s (Dylan Minnette) head and pulls the trigger on an empty chamber doesn’t feel like a cheat.

15. The sequence in the faux-darkness was aided by having Levy and Minnette wear contact lenses designed to make their pupils look enlarged.

16. Alvarez seems to think there’s a moral gray area as far as who to root for saying “A lot of the things he’s doing he [the blind man] has the right to do them, and it makes this so complicated, so complex.” To clarify, Alvarez is saying this well after the reveal of the raped, impregnated, and imprisoned young woman in the basement. I think he’s right through the film’s first half of course, but once we see that girl it seems pretty clear Lang is playing a villain who needs killin’. They were worried that if the blind man dies the audience might feel bad about it.

17. That’s a CG hand when the blind man grabs Rocky (Levy) in the vent. Alvarez did the effect himself on his laptop. “I thought it was going to be a mock-up but it ended up in the movie.”

18. The shot of the blind man choking Rocky was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s quote about shooting love scenes like death scenes and death scenes like love scenes.

19. Alvarez added the beat of shoving the sperm-filled baster into the blind man’s mouth. He prepared some rebuttals for when Lang would inevitably say no to the suggestion, but the actor immediately said yes. “It’s like that old saying, you suck one turkey baster…”

20. I’m no fan of in medias res openings ‐- starting a film with a scene only to then jump back in time and follow the narrative back to that point ‐- but it’s especially egregious in a movie like this. It opens with Rocky being dragged through the street by the blind man, so every sequence of her trying to escape in the film is tainted by the knowledge that not only will she get free but that she’ll also be recaptured. It hurts the suspense up to that point and hurts the film in general. Alvarez sees it differently though saying “the ones that are over-thinking it maybe do remember, but a lot of people just forget and then suddenly you’re back there and they go ‘oh yeah they told me about it, I should have known better.’” As someone who’s apparently “over-thinking” the movie, I’d argue it’s a poor choice relying on the forgetfulness of viewers.

21. Earlier drafts of the script had Rocky going to the police and turning in the money, but they decided that wasn’t satisfying for the characters or the viewers. Instead, it becomes “a pact between criminals.” She leaves town in the end leaving us with the presumption that the sequel will see the blind man tracking her down apparently.

22. Alvarez designed the end credits sequence.

Best in Context-Free Commentary

“The dog was a sweetheart just like me.”

“For people that think this is some twisted movie thing that we came up with, a turkey baster and the sperm, it’s actually the way you do it. It’s medically accurate.”

“That might be the single most disgusting moment in the film right there.”

Don’t Breathe [Blu-ray]

Final Thoughts

As I said in my original review, Don’t Breathe is a fun thrill-ride hampered by a wholly unnecessary and suspense-ruining opening shot. The commentary track doesn’t reach those same levels of entertainment, but the trio offers some interesting technical details and anecdotes along the way.

Read more Commentary Commentary from the archives.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.