Exclusive: Director E.L. Katz Gives Dread Central Cheap Thrills and More - Dread Central
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Exclusive: Director E.L. Katz Gives Dread Central Cheap Thrills and More

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Exclusive: Director E.L. Katz Gives Dread Central Cheap Thrills and MoreFor his directorial debut, screenwriter E.L. Katz stunned audiences during the 2013 SXSW Film Festival with Cheap Thrills, a wickedly twisted dark comedy that finds two longtime friends at odds when a huge payday is offered to them.

The first film to get nabbed for distribution out of this year’s SXSW, we caught up with Cheap Thrills helmer Katz during the fest to hear more about his experiences working on the project, which was co-written by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga (Deadgirl). During our exclusive chat with Katz, he also discussed working with the movie’s fantastic ensemble including Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, David Koechner and Ethan Embry and much more.

Read on for our interview with Katz, and look for more on Cheap Thrills from co-star Sara Paxton soon!

Read our Cheap Thrills review here.

Dread Central: Congrats on a great debut- I really enjoyed the hell out of the movie. Can you start off by talking about your approach to David and Trent’s script? We’ve seen stories like Cheap Thrills before, but I don’t think we’ve ever seen it presented like it was in this film.

E.L. Katz: Oh, thanks so much; I really appreciate that. And yeah, I think there are definitely different ways to tell this story, but I don’t think any of those ways really feels as personal and as intimate as this because we chose to focus on these two friends. To me, that’s what made the story really intimate, and if we would have made this about more people than just these two guys, we would have run the risk of watering down our characters, which can sometimes happen when you’re trying to make sure everyone gets their moment and through lines.

I always knew that this was never going to be a ‘big’ movie; I wanted to have the stuff that was operating here really have the time to find the tension and the drama and the intensity that we all brought to the story so that we could develop these real dynamics between these four characters. So we have these two people who are slowly butting heads and just building intensity between them more and more.

Then you’ve got these two rich people who are basically paying them to do all of this, which just added an entirely new layer to everything.

Dread Central: Yeah, there’s definitely a sort of dark quirkiness that arrives in the film once we meet Colin and Violet.

E.L. Katz: Oh yeah- because it’s all random shit. It’s not like Jigsaw, where they have to put their head in a bear trap or anything like that, but the intensity eventually gets to that level for sure. But for me, we needed to have some other things at play in Cheap Thrills; there really are only so many dynamics to the episodic back and forth of two guys just trying to outdo each other for money. Other things have to be changing so we see this friendship that starts in one place but then goes through some dramatic arcs by the finale, and to me there’s some storytelling there and that’s fun.

You always want it to be something more than just a series of events set amongst some fucked up set pieces because that’s really just an F/X reel; and for as much as I love gore and violence, it’s always going to be more impactful if the characters feel like real people with real relationships. Even (David) Koechner and Sara’s characters- they’re crazy, but you can see underneath the little bits and pieces of them that make them human and relatable.

Dread Central: I think what also makes the film relatable is that it starts off very subtly and then just grows so it’s easy to see how these two friends could get caught up in this because right now most people out there would probably take Colin up on his offer to do stupid things for money.

E.L. Katz: Yeah, I wanted Cheap Thrills to start off casually where they’re drinking and throwing darts and just having some juvenile fun for money. That’s a great place to start, and no matter how far we take this story or the violence, you always think back to those moments because they really cemented these characters.

Plus with where we take things, you can’t start off your story amped up at the beginning; if I walk up to you in a bar and offer you $15k to cut off your finger cold, you’ll never do it. It’s absurd really. But if throughout time you’re getting a little bit of money here and there for these other dares, it’s easy to cross certain thresholds when you’ve already gone a certain distance. When you’ve already compromised parts of your character, it becomes easier and easier to do the more violent things when it reaches that point.

Dread Central: I really thought the entire cast was phenomenal and almost unrecognizable; they’re all actors I’m very familiar with, and in Cheap Thrills they all managed to surprise me with some very unexpected performances, especially Sara and David.

E.L. Katz: It’s a crazy thing really because I’ve been a fan of all of them for some time now, and I was really stoked that I was able to have them be a part of this. The cool thing is that they all got to play something completely different. With Pat, if you look at his roles like Innkeepers or Great World of Sound, he’s just a funny and smart, totally approachable quirky guy; and so for this, to have him play a character who’s coming from such a desperate place and to go through such a violent transformation was really cool.

And with Koechner, there’s definitely a version of this movie where you have a creepy character actor playing the role of Colin. And I love creepy character actors; they’re so fun to watch. But I felt like it would be really fun if the guy who was leading you through this really deranged story was someone who you have a history with and he’s actually really fun and nice. We like this guy. And I love having people we don’t expect to do certain things play against type because it makes it more surprising and it also makes them give a shit because we’re not asking them to do the same thing they’re always asked to do. Actors always invest more when they feel like they’re getting to stretch and challenge themselves.

Dread Central: I know we’ve only got time for one last question so I wanted to ask about your experiences making your directorial debut; you’ve been working in the industry for some time now so I was wondering if you could talk about why the timing felt right and what made Cheap Thrills the perfect debut for you?

E.L. Katz: First and foremost, I thought the script was just really exciting and scary. It was one of those things where creatively I had hit a wall; I had been working on a lot of genre stuff, but I found myself burned out by a lot of assignment work and working in mainstream horror where they don’t really let you branch out at all. I got into this business as a passionate fan of genre films – films in general of course – but I’m such a huge fucking horror nerd. I’m so invested in the genre; not that this is necessarily a straight-up horror movie, but you get what I mean.

So to be able to step outside of that world where you always have to play it safe and do something that felt exciting and menacing and offbeat to me was awesome. Directing it, though, was daunting as hell; I’d never done it. I didn’t have the background really with making a ton of short films or music videos; I’m a screenwriter. So at least I had that experience behind me, as a storyteller, which kept me focused on the characters and where they would be going throughout this story. So maybe I didn’t have the biggest technical prowess when it came to directing, but I did at least have my instincts as a writer to help guide me through some of the tougher moments. It was fucking hard though, definitely.

Exclusive: Director E.L. Katz Gives Dread Central Cheap Thrills and More

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Check Out the Opening 2 Minutes of Another WolfCop

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It was just earlier today that we brought you guys The Dude Design’s the newest poster for writer-director Lowell Dean’s horror-comedy sequel Another WolfCop.

And now we have the movie’s opening 2 minutes!

The clip showcases the new flick’s villain trying to sell us on his “Chicken Milk Beer” before losing his cool and taking it out the commercial’s crew. We then cut to a ragtag group of criminals, dressed as homeless Santas trying to outrun the cops.

A fun two-minutes if you ask me!

You can check out Another WolfCop‘s opening scene below and then make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media!

The film is written and directed by Lowell Dean, produced by Bernie Hernando, Deborah Marks, and Hugh Patterson, and distributed worldwide by Cineplex.

Another WolfCop co-stars Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, and Serena Miller. The film also features special appearances from Canadian music icon Gowan and legendary filmmaker Kevin Smith. It was executive produced by Sean Buckley, J. Joly, Bill Marks, Brian Wideen, Michael Kennedy, and Michael Hirsch.

The film is slated for a wide Cineplex theatrical release on Friday, December 8, 2017, with the film seeing a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital home entertainment release through A71 and Black Fawn in 2018.

Synopsis:

A month has passed since the eclipse transformed hard-drinking Officer Lou Garou into the crime-fighting hellion WolfCop. Although the Shape Shifters controlling the town have been extinguished, Woodhaven is far from returning to normal. Lou’s liquor-fueled antics and full moon outbursts are seriously testing his relationship with Officer Tina Walsh – the new Chief of Police. An old friend has mysteriously reappeared with a truly bizarre secret to share, and a homicidal new villain has emerged from the shadows looking to finish what the Shape Shifters started. To defeat this lethal adversary, it will take more than a lone wolf packing a pistol.

Prepare for the next chapter of WolfCop that will be more dirty and hairy than the original! Consider yourself warned.

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Reviews

AHS: Cult Review – Clowns, Cults, Politics, and Peters

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Starring Evan Peters, Sarah Paulson, Billie Lourd, Cheyenne Jackson, Frances Conroy, Mare Winningham, and Allison Pill

Created by Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk


** NO SPOILERS **

It’s here. We’ve reached the end. The newest season of “American Horror Story” has ended and now we are here to provide you guys with our season review of AHS: Cult.

Spoiler free.

To start things off let me say I’m not the world’s biggest fan of “American Horror Story”. It breaks down like this: I enjoyed the absolute hell out of the first season of the series (“Murder House”), couldn’t get through “Asylum” (I know, I know, I’ve tried), dug “Coven” for what it was, really enjoyed “Freak Show”, and again I couldn’t get into “Hotel” or “Roanoke”.

That’s the story of me and “American Horror Story”. Plain And simple. But what did I think of the new seventh season of the notorious horror anthology series? Let’s find out.

Back when the seventh season of AHS was first announced (then going by the title “AHS: Election”) I was immediately intrigued by the new season because I heard it would not include any supernatural elements. Like the fourth season, “Freak Show”.

Now I’m a fan of ghosts and weird creature-men with drills for d*cks, don’t get me wrong. But the series has thus far relied almost exclusively on horrors of the supernatural variety (other than “Freak Show”) so this major change of pace was again welcomed by this guy.

Instead of vampires, aliens, and witches this season relied on terrors of the mind. Psychological fears and anxieties. The horrors man does to man. Deep issues.

Oh, and clowns. Like a lot of clowns.

But just because this new season didn’t include anything supernatural, that doesn’t mean the 11-episode season wasn’t filled with twisted visuals and horrifically disturbing acts. No, sir. This season boasted some showstoppers including S&M, gimps, and a house of horrors that wouldn’t be out of place in a Rob Zombie flick. It was all good.

But let’s backtrack a bit here.

Allow me to rundown the season’s plot for those who may be unaware. “AHS: Cult” tells the tale of a world post-election night. The literal dawn of Trump’s America. In one corner we have Sarah Paulson’s soccer mom, trying to fight through life with a series of crippling phobias (including clowns, holes, blood, and being a good person).

And in the other corner, we have Evan Peter’s angry, white (blue-haired) male, looking to seize Trump’s new position of power to bring about the end of… Actually, I want this to be a spoiler-free season review, so I’m just going to say the dude’s got big plans.

Like Manson-size plans. Let’s leave it at that.

With these two characters established, the new season then proceeds to send them spiraling into a collision course of political sabotage, intrigue, and clown-based nope, nope, nope-ing that can only end with one – or both – of them dead as Dillinger.

Overall “AHS: Cult” belonged end-to-end to Mr. Evan Peters. The young actor has continued to show his striking range from season to season of Ryan Murphy’s horror show and this season was no different. Peters’ turn as not only Kai, the blue-haired leader of the titular cult, but as infamous leaders such as David Koresh, Jim Jones, and Charles Manson – to name a few – owed this season.

I can only hope he doesn’t pull a Jessica Lange and opt-out of more AHS next year.

Speaking of top performances, “AHS: Cult ” showcases some other chilling and memorable turns with Alison Pill’s strangely vulnerable, put-upon wife character being the best next to Peters in my eyes. This actress needs to be in more films/TV!

Along with Pill, actress Billie Lourd killed it time and time again. The “Scream Queens” breakout star and Carrie Fisher spawn was yet again a highlight in her second Ryan Murphy series. Bet she has the starring role in next season. Mark my words.

Add to that, the season also boasts a handful of fun cameos, including John Carroll Lynch’s return as Twisty the Clown, Emma Roberts as a bitchy reporter that will do anything to end up on top, and Lena Dunham as SCUM Manifesto writer Valerie Solanas. The cameo cast killed it and I wish they would have been present for more episodes. What are you gonna do?

On the sour side of the season, I didn’t dig Sarah Paulson’s character. At all. But I’m sure that was the point. Right? I’m still not sure. But, boy, I wouldn’t even want to be stuck in line behind her at a Starbucks for three minutes, let alone spend the better part of this season’s 11-hours with her and her whiny bullshite. Urgh.

That said, she pulled it out by the finale. That’s all I’ll say.

In the end, I enjoyed this season as much as – if not more – than any other of the series. “Murder House” will still no doubt go on as my favorite season of the series, but “AHS: Cult” will rank third after season one and “Freak Show”.

While I was on the fence about the season after three episodes, the show ended up ditching Paulson’s character (and/or shifting her arch) after a lull so the episodes picked up quickly. Whenever the season turned its focus back towards Peters (in whichever incarnation he was playing at the time) the show got better and better. Every time.

Not a bad way to spend my Tuesday night for the past 11 weeks.

Bring on season 12.

  • American Horror Story: Cult (2018)
3.5

Summary

The seventh season of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story was Evan Peters’ show all the way through. The young actor pulled out all the stops time and time again to make what may have been a lackluster supernatural-free season a winner.

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User Rating 4 (3 votes)
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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.9 (10 votes)
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