|Pat Healy in CHEAP THRILLS|
Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
An Interview with E.L. Katz,
Director of CHEAP THRILLS
By Joshua Handler
Katz said he found the screenplay, originally titled Looking For Something, at a dinner he threw for genre screenwriters. The finished product of the film is very close to how it was originally envisioned. "In the final script," explained Katz, "everything that we...wrote ended up [in the film]…I don't think anything got lost there…but…there's other versions…[T]he script went through some different revisions and…David Chirchirillo and me worked on some other drafts where things got a little too fucked up, you know, we had…one where...a pregnant woman died…it just got too crazy, so we sort of went as big as we could on the page and then tried to find a way to kind of to get to a place where…we wouldn't lose the audience off the bat. [M]aybe we'd lose them at the end, but for a while, they're going to be on board that this is sort of a plausible situation. Once we started dialing that in, we knew what it was that we…were going to end up shooting, and that stuff didn't really change."
This film was definitely not for everybody. Katz recalled the following incident at a screening: "I was at a screening at the L.A. Film School…and I was just sitting out in the lobby with my wife and just kind of waiting, pacing around, and this big dude with a grocery bag and sweatpants cruises out, and he walks past me, and he's just like, I don't think he even knew I made the movie, and he's like, '[T]hat movie - no good. Trash,' and then he walks out towards this one exit door, opens the exit door which sets off an alarm 'cause theres this barricade that said…'don't walk out this way,' so this fucking loud alarm starts playing in the whole school, and I'm just like…'He just trolled the fuck out of this movie in the most effective way possible.' I couldn't help but just laugh."
Katz realizes that his movie won't be everyone's cup of tea. "It's not going to be for everybody and it shouldn't be…[T]his is crazy stuff...and not everybody's going to be into it, and I'm fine with that," he said.
Because Cheap Thrills was Katz's feature directorial debut, the film was a new experience for him. "I think just the transition from…being in your room and kind of being able to take your time with each creative decision to suddenly having a lot of them that have to be answered very rapidly while essentially having a construction…going on [was an adjustment]," said Katz.
Luckily his actors (Pat Healy, Dave Koechner, Ethan Embry, and Sara Paxton lead the cast) "were pretty game…I think they were excited to tackle the really disturbing stuff and..they all played it really straight…[T]hey took it seriously from the beginning. That's the only way you can make a movie like this. If people are sort of on board conceptually, but not really, you're gonna fall on your face."
Cheap Thrills has launched Katz's career. He will next direct a section in the ABCs of Death sequel. Cheap Thrills is well worth seeking out. It's highly disturbing, well-written, funny, and features stand-out performances from Healy and Koechner. Cheap Thrills will be released on Blu-ray/DVD on May 27.