With Cheap Thrills finally arriving today on Movies On Demand, I’m willing to bet that a lot of you are planning to cuddle up tonight and descend into this movie’s fast track to madness.
At its center Cheap Thrills shows an encounter between the conniving and the conflicted, focusing on two old acquaintances that force themselves to challenge each other with extreme acts of deplorable human behavior. It’s also a hell of a lot of fun, and they win lots of money.
The day after the film’s raucous premiere at Fantastic Fest back in September, actors Pat Healy and Ethan Embry sat down with Dread Central to talk a little about the film.
PH: Oh, Dread Central, the Rastafarian magazine, right?
DC: (laughs) That’s right. We only cover horror films from Jamaica.
EE: (laughing) That’s probably one of your top shelves! That was really good, buddy.
PH: Yeh, Dread Central, mon! No, I know what is, I’m just teasing.
DC: So, I’m guessing last night was probably the craziest premiere you’ve been a part of in a while. At least, the first one where you’ve taken your pants off, I hope.
PH: No, I can’t say that that’s true.
EE: Usually, it’s after the movie.
PH: I knew I was going to do that because I had the pants still and everything and I knew that it would be of value to someone. I certainly don’t care. I’m not that attached to them. The kid that got ‘em was the kid who dipped his balls in the sriracha sauce. I ended up talking to him after that all night, and we had VIP seats at the [Fantastic] Debates. He told me it was one of the greatest nights of his life.
EE: Out of context, that sentence is going to be very interesting.
DC: So, Pat, you were originally up for David Koechner’s part, right?
PH: Yeah, they wanted me to play this part, Craig, and I’m not financeable or whatever. The producers or someone who was giving money somehow was trying to get a bigger name to do it. So, when I met with them, it was with the intention that I’d be playing Craig, but they let me know that such-and-such and so-and-so was going to be reading for that part. So, they asked me if I would be interested in this role of Colin and I was disappointed but I loved this script and it wasn’t something I’d done before. Certainly, on the page it’s different. It is the role that it is because David played it and he does all the improv that he does. I can’t imagine that now.
EE: He brought an entirely different thing than what was on the page.
DC: It’s a lot more physical.
EE: It’s hard to see it any other way now.
PH: I don’t know what I would have done. My mind went immediately to some kind of sleazy, Hollywood hipster guy. It took a couple of months with casting and trying to get the money together and then this movie Compliance came out and it did pretty well. So that finally convinced them to hire me.
DC: Were earlier versions of the script a lot gorier and a lot darker? There’s really only one really gory scene and I think that the fact that it happens that way makes it a lot more powerful when it happens. Was there anything that went further than that?
EE: Not in what I read.
PH: There are earlier drafts from what I understand. There’s one that’s much more broadly comic and I think there’s one that’s much more dark. I think Evan [Katz] said something like that they kill a pregnant woman or something in one. If that was in the script, I probably would have asked for that to be removed.
EE: Because it doesn’t go that far. It really doesn’t. It doesn’t go beyond plausibility.
PH: It’s just trying to shock people and there’s nothing in our movie that’s just to shock. Everything logically follows from what comes before it and that’s what I liked about the script. That’s why the movie moves so well.
DC: Do you think that if Vince was a family man, too, it would have gone as far as it did? Or even further? One of the things I like about the movie is it’s asking the question of who is going to go further? Someone who has everything to lose or someone that has nothing to lose?
EE: Without ruining anything for people who haven’t seen it, I think that the reason why I stop doing what you think I’m about to do is because all I have to think about is myself. And I think I stop doing it for the same reason that he does it. He does it for his family. There are still selfish reasons behind it but I think the reason why I stop doing it is because I think about his family. Because it’s just me, I’m the only one that pays the consequence. Being a father, ninety percent of what I decide to or decide not to do is based on my son’s well-being. So, I think if he had a family I think he would have continued.
PH: I like a twist in the movie that [Vince] is the only truly moral person and you think of him as the dirtbag. He’s the one that really has a code and stands by his word. There’s a great vulnerability to his character that’s sort of unexpected.
DC: Do you think the film will be therapeutic in a way for some people that have held some old grudges?
PH: You know what’s amazing? I don’t have a grudge with this guy but my old punk rock buddy from high school lives here now with his family and he came last night. And we haven’t seen each other for twenty years. He’s been in the Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan and we reconnected recently. It was just really emotional for me. We did have that kind of relationship. He couldn’t stop smiling and he couldn’t stop hugging me. It’s interesting that I could kind of relate to that experience and I’ve certainly had relationships that did not stand the test of time. I wondered what would have happened if I’d stayed around.
DC: How crazy was the set? Was there a lot of Dubstep pumping out? With all the fake drug use, were you doing jumping jacks to stay pumped up? How was the atmosphere?
PH: The entire shoot was fourteen days and eleven of those days was the stuff in the house. It was a hundred degrees and we had a heat wave around the middle of September. It was like a hundred and twenty in a house without air conditioning. We didn’t have any prep time and it’s a tough movie so it was really crazy intense. You know the big scene in the movie where the big scene happens and it’s all gory and crazy? Somebody lost the chip from the camera that that was shot on. It got recorded over.
DC: Oh no, you had to do it all over again?
PH: I had to do it again two days later. That was insane. I’ve been telling people, it was like the microcosm of that Apocalypse Now documentary or Burden of Dreams about the making of Fitzcarraldo. It was like that but like a mini-version. And actually, someone did film everything so, someday, they’ll be a documentary.
EE: As crazy as that shit was and as panicked as it could feel, and as kinetic as the sort of energy we had going on, I am only happy on a set. I am the most content as a human and as a man doing what I live to do.
DC: Well, you really grew up on set more so than Pat, I believe.
EE: That’s my home and I know Evan found his home. Everyone was the orphan that finally got adopted by Orphan Annie’s Pop. It’s just my home now. It’s the most uncontrollable, wild ride ever.
The directorial debut from E.L. Katz, Cheap Thrills was acquired by Drafthouse Films, in partnership with Snoot Entertainment, following its world premiere at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the “Midnighters Audience Award.” Cinedigm holds the home entertainment distribution rights, including DVD, Blu-ray, VOD, and digital platforms.
Cheap Thrills follows Craig (Pat Healy), a struggling family man who loses his low-wage job and is threatened with eviction. In an effort to delay facing the music at home, he heads to a local bar and encounters an old friend (Ethan Embry). The two friends are roped into a round of drinks by a charismatic and obscenely wealthy stranger (David Koechner) along with his mysterious wife (Sara Paxton). The couple engages the two friends in a series of innocent dares in exchange for money over the course of the evening, with each challenge upping the ante in both reward and boundaries. It seems like easy and much needed money, but the couple’s twisted sense of humor pushes just how far Craig and his friend are willing to go for money and cheap thrills.
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