WARNING: There are major Don't Breathe spoilers below.
By far the most horrifying scene in Fede Alvarez's brutally tense home-invasion thriller Don't Breathe is the one in which Stephen Lang's less-helpless-than-he-initially-appears blind former veteran ties up Jane Levy's character and…gulp, attempts to impregnate her with a turkey baster full of semen. Good luck trying to scrub this one from your brain, America! (Bet you can't.)
A scene like this one is patently designed to push buttons, and thusly, not everyone who sees the film will be on board with the direction Alvarez went in. But the filmmaker — who enjoyed quite the career boost when Don't Breathe debuted to over $26 million last weekend — made a point of defending the scene in a recent Reddit AMA after a user questioned his decision to go in what she or he termed an “Eli Roth” direction.
“I love that twist, and I love that it provokes such a strong reaction from the audience,” Alvarez wrote. “I know I'll loose [sic] some audience there, but other will fall deeply in love with the film right there.”
Alvarez is completely right that scenes like the already-notorious “turkey baster” bit are the kinds of audacious narrative choices that tend to pay dividends for a horror film's bottom line (not to mention a director's career), and I would venture that audiences who choose to pay money for a film like Don't Breathe will more than likely “appreciate” the graphic nature of the scene (which thankfully ends with Levy's character turning the tables on her attacker, albeit in equally gag-inducing fashion).
But guess what? If the film wasn't any good, no one would be talking about the baster. That people are talking is a testament to Don't Breathe's overall quality, which makes discussing the scene in isolation a little less icky (though not much). Speaking of which, Alvarez offered some behind-the-curtain context to the scene during his AMA, by responding to a question about the makeup of the so-called semen they used on set.
“We used the same formula the porn industry uses,” said Alvarez, before adding: “(Oh, yes, not all the semen in porn movies is real… I know, bummer…).” Which doesn't really answer the question, but okay. That said, he did get specific when asked about the hair we see floating in the concoction in one extraordinarily vile close-up shot — which, as it turns out, he planted very deliberately.
“Idea of the hair in the baster was mine,” he said. “I cut it from my assistant director's head, and planted it in there… Makes it more realistic.” Right.
According to Lang, who recently went in-depth with Mashable about the film, the baster scene took an entire day to film, though he noted the process became “mechanical” at a certain point despite some obvious discomfort. Said the actor: “The scene certainly conveyed the terror in that house, but as an actor, you”re trying to hit your marks and have the baster in just the right place as it drips.”
For the record? He thinks Alvarez is just as twisted as you do.
“I remember watching it on the monitors and noticing there was a shot of the liquid with a hair in it, so I said something to Fede,” said Lang, continuing, “and he said 'yeah, so?' I was like, 'You are a sick puppy, my friend.'”
Which I bet is exactly what Alvarez wants to hear.
Here are a few other highlights from Alvarez's excellent AMA:
His favorite films from this year are “Green Room, Hell or High Water, The Invitation.” It Follows was his favorite from 2015.
Back to the Future is his favorite movie, but the “'making of' of Death Wish 3 and House 2” made him want to be a director.
He doesn't think he'll ever do a “fake scare” in a movie. (Thank you.)
He “might” write a sequel to Evil Dead at some point, though the “tone won't be a comedy, but it won't be like my Evil Dead either. We need to honor the fact that every Evil Dead, always departs from whatever the previous one was, don't you think?”
If Bruce Campbell's Ash and Mia (Levy's character from Alvarez's Evil Dead) ever cross over in a film, he wants to write the script but thinks (original Evil Dead director) Sam Raimi should direct it.
Lang wore special contacts during filming that made him “virtually blind.” “Most of the time during the film he's not faking it,” said Alvarez. “He really can't see.”
He doesn't think Levy will “ever submit herself to my films ever again.”
He would love to make an “R rated STAR WARS.”
Best of luck with that.