Are horror movies never scary enough?

If you’re watching a horror movie just for you to be scared, you’re watching it with your eyes half closed.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs and other social media posts (mostly reviews) about how horror movies nowadays aren’t as terrifying as they used to be. Yes, these blogs are mostly by millennials, who grew up in an era where 90s slasher films are hot — Scream, I Know What You Did Last Summer, etc., where the killer wears a mask and chases the victim while walking incredibly slow (yes, seasoned pros). A decade later, these flicks were succeeded by even gorier, crazier ones (with more special effects — thanks, technology) like the endless Saw and Final Destination series. For a certain period of time between 2002 and 2005, people fancied remakes, too — The Ring, The Grudge, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, etc. Fast forward to another decade later, it was all about evil possession, where Evil Dead, The Conjuring, Annabelle, etc. came into picture — and yes, better technology, better effects, wilder story premises. Just recently, along came another wave of socially and politically relevant horror films, such as Cloverfield, Don’t Breathe, Get Out, and A Quiet Place. Just like any other genre of film, horror movies follow a distinct trend that marks a stamp in the era they were released. And just like anything else, through time, what’s once considered a breakthrough trend becomes a norm, and that norm becomes a cliché. But the question is, have scary movies really lost their spark? Are they no longer that scary anymore? Is the genre simply tiring? Are horror movies never scary enough?

Whenever people ask me whether a horror film is scary or not (as it’s most people’s basis of watching, anyway), my standard response is always: “it depends on what your definition of scary is”. Some people define scary as killers in masks, sharp editing and swift camera movements from blank-space-camera-pan-to-sudden-focus-to-killer’s-face-with-matching-oomph-music. Some people define it as slow build-ups, mundane yet guttural tensions. Some people define it as gore, blood splattering, beheading, chainsaw ripping his insides open, etc. Moreover, some people are just too cool to be scared.

Let me tell you a story: as a kid, I was scared of getting into a bathtub full of water, because I’ve always had this mindset that I was going to drown in it anytime. Years later, I got over my bathtub phobia, and was then scared of swimming pools for the same peculiar reason. Fast-forward to my teenage years, swimming pools became a piece of cake, but my fear shifted to beaches. But then, I was exposed to traveling and summer getaways with friends and all that jazz, so the beach became a walk in the park. My fear rose to something even bigger and deeper — the ocean. And yes, that deep blue image still petrifies me up until now. Throughout those years, my fear accelerated, and the ones that I used to be scared of simply became mundane. My point is — my standard on fear has just became so high, that thinking of those what I used to fear of sounds ridiculous. Same thing with horror movies: every year, as we are bombarded with many (almost too many) horror movies, our cathartic sense to be scared becomes less and less. We ultimately see ourselves longing for that goosebumps and the chill-in-the-spine that we used to feel. To narrow my point: it’s not the horror movie… it’s you.

Remember how Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho was dubbed as the scariest movie of all time back in the 1960s? Watching it now, it is, and forever will be, a cinematic masterpiece, as it defined an era of movies. It was simply a breakthrough in film-making. But as a 28-year-old guy watching it in 2018, would I consider it even a tad-bit scary? Not at all. That is why Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of Psycho in 1998 never worked. Not only it felt outdated, but it also seemed too cartoonish. You can never replicate an era-defining film 40 years later and expect the same scare factor from it. It’s the same way that you cannot fool the 28-year-old me by pushing me in a bath tub full of water and expect the same reaction I would have given if it were 20 years ago.

My point is, you can’t say that a horror movie is a “bad one” simply because you weren’t scared of it. Sweep generalizing a horror movie’s quality solely based on it’s scare-meter is juvenile. It’s not the movie. It’s you. Whenever I watch a movie and assess its quality, I usually ask myself — How good is the writing? How awesome are the effects? How great are the actors? Did it make me feel anything new? It is void to have your purge of emotions, heavily based on time and experience, to judge a film’s greatness. To single out the how-scary-it-is factor will only frustrate you, and will ultimately ruin your viewing experience. And influencing others to not watch a horror movie just because it wasn’t scary enough for you is ruining the potential viewing experience of others, too.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not preaching to people on what should they or should they not like. Of course, we are all entitled to our opinions. I’m just saying, truly watching a movie free from personal biases is one thing, and watching a movie to make yourself feel something that you are psychologically no longer capable of feeling is another.

Don’t blame the filmmakers. Blame yourself for growing.

MOVIE REVIEW: Don’t Breathe (2016)

Horror films oftentimes validate itself by letting its audiences root for its characters—whether the story dwells in the miseries of the protagonist (a group of friends, a bunch of strangers, lovers in troubles) or the personal issues of the antagonist (a mad man, a person with a dark past, a spiteful soul). Amidst the characters is a particular danger, made more terrifying by the littlest details it can branch out to, ultimately leading to that grueling need for survival, if not an simple escape, all the while maintaining tension to keep the viewers hooked and feel that they are part of the problem. Evil Dead director Fede Alvarez knows well enough how to build up that tension in this suspenseful horror film that literally tells one not to breathe despite the actual necessity to grasp for air in its every twist and turn.

Don’t Breathe tells the story of a group of small-time burglars who breaks into the house of an elderly blind man, thinking that they could score easy money. But before we get to be introduced to Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto), the film opts for a chilling cold open that starts high above the ground, slowly and eerily zooming in to the subjects: a man is dragging a body on the street in broad daylight—spoiler as it may seem for the audience but necessary enough to provide a sneak peek to what is bound to happen.

Its beginning sufficiently introduces our heroes (or antiheroes) and gives a quick view of their social status. The heist is quite a jackpot and each of the trio is intrigued on how they can get away with the crime as usual. But when the unnamed blind man (Stephen Lang) enters the picture, tables are turned in an instant as he is set to go after the ill-advised criminals.

There is admirable craft in the way Alvarez tenders horror in this age of the haunting and possession as typical themes of the genre. The old blind man’s house becomes a haunted house filled with a heavy atmosphere of fright that is effectively showcased through a delightful command of sound. The camerawork is playful and yet it works as a steering device to give clues on what will happen or what to expect. There is a claustrophic feeeling in each occasion every character tries his way out of the chaos.

Full of surprises and worth a chilling climax for its one-and-a-half-hour runtime, Don’t Breathe is the most exciting horror-thriller yet for this year. It’s not for the faint-hearted and never for those who can’t catch their breath.

‘Don’t Breathe’ tops U.S. weekend box office with $26.1-M

August 29, 2016 – Columbia Pictures’ gripping suspense thriller “Don’t Breathe” – which Variety hails as “a muscular exercise in brutal, relentless peril” – spooked the U.S. box-office with a chilling $26.1-million, easily opening at No.1 for the Aug. 26-28 weekend.

It joins a long list of recent horror films such as “The Purge: Election Year,” “The Conjuring 2,” “Lights Out” and “The Shallows” that have all found success with audiences.

“Don’t Breathe” cost less than $10 million to produce, but it more than doubled its production budget in a single weekend, after rolling out across 3,051 locations. The film follows a trio of friends breaks into the house of a blind recluse confident of an easy score only to find themselves in a terrifying life-or-death struggle.

“This film is going to be a big moneymaker for us,” said Rory Bruer, Sony’s distribution chief. “We knew we had something special here. This is a film that’s all about keeping people jumping out of their seats and holding onto the person next to them.”

The No.1 launch of “Don’t Breathe” in the U.S. bodes well for the thriller’s box-office prospects in the Philippines as the film rolls out in local cinemas starting Wednesday, Aug. 31.

The Filipino audience are great horror fans, and the film’s favorable R-13 rating from the MTRCB will likely boost the attraction core genre moviegoers.

“Don’t Breathe” created a thunderstorm of excitement and wild buzz when it premiered at the recent South By South West (SXSW) film festival, with some critics describing it as “the best suspense thriller in the last decade.” Now, Philippine audiences will discover why the film has driven reviewers at the edge of their seats.

John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter writes, “the lean and mean pic offers scares aplenty and at least a couple of game-changing twists.”

Meanwhile, Edward Douglas, of the New York Daily News underscores that the film “takes you into far darker territory than anticipated.”

“Don’t Breathe” stars Jane Levy (“Evil Dead”), Dylan Minnette (“Goosebumps”), Daniel Zovatto (“It Follows”) and Stephen Lang (“Avatar”). Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead”) directs from a script co-written with Rodo Sayagues (Evil Dead). Producers are Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Fede Alvarez.

In his sophomore feature, Alvarez goes for the jugular with an unapologetically brutal and twisted horror-thriller that pits a trio of thieves against an unexpectedly dangerous adversary. Shocking and enthralling, Alvarez’s masterful, visually stunning thriller maintains a frenzied pace to the last chilling minute.

Opening across the Philippines on August 31, 2016, “Don’t Breathe” is distributed in the Philippines by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘Goosebumps’ hero Dylan Minnette plays conflicted thief in ‘Don’t Breathe’

Young actor Dylan Minnette (“Goosebumps,” “Prisoners”) stars in Columbia Pictures’ taut suspense thriller as Alex, one of a trio of teens who break into the house of a blind man they suspect has plenty of money hidden away. Once inside, they get a lot more than they bargained for. (Watch the “Don’t Breathe” featurette titled You Can’t Hide below.)

Alex masterminds the group’s petty thefts, stealing keys and alarm codes from his security-guard father for a series of break-ins. He formulates and enforces a strict set of rules for the robberies: no cash and no big-ticket items are taken to avoid being charged with grand theft. Cell phones, jewelry and other insurables are all fair game, because their victims can be reimbursed for their losses. But the Blind Man’s rumored $300,000 in cash is too tempting even for Alex.

“He’s a pretty conflicted, very complicated character,” says director and screenwriter Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead” 2013). “Alex is stealing to get enough money to go to law school. In a way, he’s doing wrong in order to be able to do right in the future. He will also do anything to be closer to Rocky, played by Jane Levy, who seems unaware that he is in love with her.”

Minnette was the first to be cast in the film. A former child actor, he is, like his character, 18 years old. When he walked into the casting session, Alvarez immediately knew he had found his Alex. “It was the first time in my life that ever happened,” the director says. “Just the way Dylan is, the way he talks and the way he behaves was exactly what I had in mind for the character.”

A hardcore fan of both “Evil Dead” and Alvarez’s early short film “Panic Attack,” Minnette leapt at the opportunity to work with the director. “Based on his previous work, I knew it would be really special,” he says. “It’s an intense, dark thriller, as well as an elegant, stylish film. It goes to some really dark and twisted places, but Fede isn’t just going for the gore. This has a lot more substance than that. He makes sure that you care about these characters.”

Minnette concludes, “I think who you are rooting for in the movie is going to vary throughout the entire thing. At times, you will be rooting for people you wouldn’t expect to be rooting for. I don’t think you are going to know who to root for until you are done with the movie. Your mind is going to change a lot.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 31, 2016, “Don’t Breathe” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘Avatar’s’ Stephen Lang terrifies as the blind man in ‘Don’t Breathe’

Best known for his iconic role as Colonel Miles Quaritch in James Cameron’s “Avatar,” Stephen Lang now stars as the unnamed Blind Man in Columbia Pictures’ critically acclaimed horror-thriller “Don’t Breathe.”

In the film, a trio of friends – Rocky (Jane Levy), Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Money (Daniel Zovatto) – breaks into the house of a blind recluse confident of an easy score only to find themselves in a terrifying life-or-death struggle.

The trio’s adversary, known only as the Blind Man, is a military veteran who lost his sight when he was wounded during the first Gulf War. His wife died shortly after his return to the States and his only child was run down by a careless driver. Since then, he’s become a recluse, the only resident left on his deserted street.

“This all started with the Blind Man,” says director Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead”). “He’s an unusual character. Movies often portray people with handicaps as noble or saintly. We took this guy in a completely different direction. He is very resourceful and a total badass. He’s the last man standing in a derelict neighborhood.”

Once they break into the heavily secured home, Rocky, Alex and Money attempt to navigate its multi-storied interior soundlessly. But the Blind Man is soon startled awake, snapping into self-defense mode. The trio quickly find themselves trapped in a nightmarish game of cat and mouse that seems impossible to escape.

“The character makes up for his blindness with his other senses,” says producer Mathew Hart. “His abilities are definitely beyond what a normal person can do. It creates unique, thrilling circumstances within the story.”

As the Blind Man, veteran actor Stephen Lang leverages his intimidating physicality and barely contained energy in a powerful and terrifying performance. Lang sees his character as a sort of urban legend — partly truth and partly fiction. “Much of what people say about him is based in fact, but it’s not the whole story,” says the actor. “He did get a large settlement. The situation does seem tailor-made for these three young people. Everybody else in this neighborhood is gone. It should be easy to break in and steal the money. As it turns out, though, the house is not easy to get into and it’s really tough to get out of.”

The Blind Man is not the helpless victim they envisioned, to put it mildly. Within his home he has created a world in which he has every advantage. “He’s frighteningly capable,” explains Lang. “He can more than survive — he is master of this universe. You sympathize with him wanting to defend his territory, even when you discover an unexpected wrinkle. Once you

create empathy with a character, it’s hard to take it back. The audience has discovered his humanity before they learn his horrifying secret. To me, that’s just flat out smart writing.”

“Had life treated this character a little bit differently,” says executive producer Erin Westerman, “he might have been a family man running a suburban hardware store. Instead, he has had to deal with some devastating curve balls. The audience knows Stephen from `Avatar’ and will recognize him as a warrior. Even though he’s blind, he’s going to try and overcome anyone who comes into his space. In the end, what Rocky wants and what the Blind Man wants are in direct conflict with one another, and they can’t both win.”

Lang says he found the film’s moral ambiguity intriguing. “The character is undeniably a victim,” the actor says. “But it’s much more complicated than that. He struck me as a wonderful combination of real strength and absolute vulnerability. For an actor and a director to be able to explore that tension is fascinating.”

Lang, a former co-director of the prestigious Actor’s Studio, both impressed and unsettled his co-stars with his total commitment to the role. “Stephen is an old-school actor,” says Zovatto. “He’s been doing this for many years. His preparation and the way he enters a scene blew me away. He’s so into his craft.”

Levy agrees and adds, “Stephen is a very intimidating guy. I was actually a little scared when we first started working together!”

Opening across the Philippines on August 31, 2016, “Don’t Breathe” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

‘Fear the Walking Dead’s’ Daniel Zovatto heats up ‘Don’t Breathe’

Up-and-coming young actor Daniel Zovatto (“It Follows,” TV’s “Fear the Walking Dead”) stars in Columbia Pictures’ new horror-thriller “Don’t Breathe” as Money, one of a trio of teens who break into the house of a blind man they suspect has plenty of money hidden away. But their plan goes dangerously wrong when their intended victim turns out to be more frightening than they ever anticipated.

Produced by Sam Raimi (the “Spider-Man” trilogy), “Don’t Breathe” also stars Jane Levy (“Evil Dead”), Dylan Minnette (“Goosebumps”) and Stephen Lang (“Avatar”). Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead”) directs from a script co-written with Rodo Sayagues (“Evil Dead”).

Zovatto’s character, Money, is the impulsive, street-savvy boyfriend of Rocky, played by Jane Levy. Money is the connection between the streets and Alex (Dylan Minnette) and Rocky. Says Zovatto, “Basically, he is the alpha, the muscle of the group. But he’s not one-dimensional. There’s a lot more to him than just a gangster or a street kid. He has a lot of layers.”

It is Money’s street contact who tips him off to a retired army vet rumored to have a six-figure cash settlement stashed somewhere in his home. Money convinces his friends that this is the score to catapult them out of their crumbling city into a sunnier life in California.

“There’s not much money around in his neighborhood,” Zovatto says. “This seems like a pretty sure thing. But he also enjoys the adrenaline rush of these jobs.”

Alvarez cast the actor on the basis of his performance in the breakout indie horror film “It Follows.” “He is an actor that can take a role from the page and make it his own,” says the director. “The take he brought into the room when we were casting the role was completely different from what everybody else was doing.”

Like a typical hustler, Money lives in the moment. “He’s just pure energy and anarchy,” Alvarez observes. “He knows what he wants and he gets it. Money has a better idea of who he is than Alex, who is still a bit confused about what he wants to do.”

Zovatto says the “Don’t Breathe” shoot was the most fun he has ever had at work. “Because Fede both wrote and directed, he knows all the ins and the outs of the story and the characters, which is really cool. At the same time he let us discover our own characters with his guidance. He’s a really passionate guy and I love passionate people.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 31, 2016, “Don’t Breathe” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

Home invasion turns into horrific nightmare in ‘Don’t Breathe’

In Columbia Pictures’ new suspense thriller “Don’t Breathe,” three young friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong.

Directed by Fede Alvarez (“Evil Dead” 2013) and written by Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues, “Don’t Breathe” stars Jane Levy (“Evil Dead” 2013), Dylan Minnette (“Goosebumps”), Daniel Zovatto (“It Follows”) and Stephen Lang (“Avatar”). The film is produced by Sam Raimi (“Spider-Man” trilogy), Rob Tapert and Fede Alvarez.

Three young robbers (Levy, Minnette and Zovatto) invade a blind man’s Detroit home — teenagers who are targeting vulnerable properties in the city as they bid to harvest enough cash to flee the area and start new lives elsewhere. Once they enter the Blind Man’s home, however, the tables begin to turn.

Director and co-writer Fede Alvarez, who shot to international renown with his 2013 remake of the Sam Raimi-directed classic “Evil Dead,” explains his inspiration. “We wanted to make something that was very, very suspenseful,” he says. “And we thought, ‘What is one of the things that creates a lot of suspense?’ For me, it is when you have a character walking into someone else’s domain because there you are under their rules.”
In “Don’t Breathe,” when the three young robbers enter the Blind Man’s domain they find themselves very much under his rules – the house is set up in a way that suits the owner, giving him the upperhand.

don't breathe movie

“I love movies that force me to pick sides but which don’t give me the answers to the questions,” says Alvarez. “And that’s what I’m trying to do in this movie — not give the audience good guys and a villain. They all are villains. They are all doing something that is very wrong, all four of them. So it’s really up to the audience to choose whom they are going to root for.”

“The benchmark that this film tries to reach, and this is about as high a benchmark as one can get, is, of course, Psycho,” he adds. “Is Psycho a thriller or a horror film? It’s really a thriller. But also it’s somewhere in between because it has horror elements,” states Alvarez.

The filmmaker also believes that the audience is in for a groundbreaking experience. “There are some pretty f—ked up choices that we make,” Alvarez says with a smile. “You’ll see them when you see the movie. There are some things that happen that are pretty particular. They have definitely never been done before and there is a definite scene that I have never seen before. You’ll know what it is when you see it.”

Asked how the title “Don’t Breathe” came about, Alvarez points to one crucial moment in the film. “There’s a scene where one of the home invaders gets hurt so then, suddenly, he’s trying to hide, but the problem is he has hurt his ribs, so every time he breathes in, he makes this sound. So either he gets found or he stops breathing, and stopping breathing is not an option. It generates a lot of strange and fun opportunities for me.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 31, 2016, “Don’t Breathe” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.

WATCH: Suspense thriller ‘Don’t Breathe’ reveals first trailer

From the filmmakers of “Spider-Man” and “Evil Dead” comes the new suspense thriller “Don’t Breathe” where a group of young friends break into the house of a wealthy blind man, thinking they’ll get away with the perfect heist. They’re wrong. Catch the film’s first trailer here below.

Directed by Fede Alvarez, written by Fede Alvarez & Rodo Sayagues, “Don’t Breathe” stars Jane Levy (“Evil Dead”), Dylan Minnette (“Goosebumps”), Daniel Zovatto (“It Follows”) and Stephen Lang (“Avatar”).

The film is produced by Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Fede Alvarez.

Opening across the Philippines in September 2016, “Don’t Breathe” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.