Director E.L. Katz talks Cheap Thrills, Fulci, and a bunch of movies he wasn’t actually in [INTERVIEW] [FANTASTIC FEST]

Even though he might not have had to do too many interviews in his career as a director, I can guarantee that you are about to read the absolute best interview that E.L. Katz has ever given. And you know what? It’s probably the best interview he ever will give, because after you chat with Wolfman, there’s nowhere to go but down. I probably don’t have to remind any of you about how much I loved Cheap Thrills, and I didn’t need to remind Katz about that either. Rather than run the risk of inflating his ego even more than it already is, I decided to give him a few curveballs and ask him some of the questions I asked the rest of his cast. Luckily, I still got some good stuff out of him and any interview that ends up talking about Lucio Fulci is a good one in my book.

cheap thrills poster 2013 pat healy

WolfMan: You know I like the movie. I know I liked the movie. The internet knows I liked the movie.

E.L. Katz: This is not news.

WM: I didn’t do any research is what I’m saying. I’m just gonna give you the questions I gave the other guys.

ELK: Okay.

WM: So what was it like being in Anchorman 2?

ELK: …well, I was afraid of being typecast. There are several things that I’m great at, and there are some things that I’m specifically great at, and I was afraid of that. But I think people are gonna love the movie and that it’s going to make a lot of money.

WM: Hmm, good, interesting. Now you’ve got the Empire Records 20th anniversary coming up, what was it like working with Rory Cochrane? Ya know, he was coming off of Dazed and Confused

ELK: Typically when you act, it’s a collaboration, so if someone’s not giving you anything to work with, what would you do? You’d just stand there, you’re not living in it, it’s not real. Anything else?

cheap thrills sara paxton

Sara Paxton in Cheap Thrills

WM: You were investigating ghosts with Sara Paxton, so you guys had worked together before and then you starred with her in THIS movie…

ELK: It was confusing!

WM: Did you ever think you were in that other movie?

ELK: Sometimes I was forgetting my lines thinking I was supposed to be helping her look for ghosts. As an actor, you only do one movie every couple of years so it just sticks with you.

WM: What do you think of director Evan Louis Katz, as he prefers to be called?

ELK: I wish he wasn’t so fast and loose with his hands because he sometimes does some inappropriate stuff, but I think that comes with talent. A lot of artists are tortured and have a lot of demons. I think that everybody kind of gave him a little bit of a pass. Usually, as long as he had his medication by the end of the day, he was pretty good. He kept to himself and didn’t really bother anybody.

WM: Okay, now let’s get serious.

ELK: Let’s get serious.

WM: Some people have called you the “Punk Rocker of Hollywood”…

ELK: (laughs) Nobody…absolutely NO one has called me that. The Punk Rock Prince.

WM: Oh absolutely. It goes, that guy from Papa Roach, the singer from Hoobastank, then Evan Katz. I was thinking about it on my way over, and how fucking stupid it sounds, but that Cheap Thrills was made with a more DIY sensisiblity. It was just you guys, two weeks, this awesome cast, together for two weeks, put it together, and now it’s something that I know the more people will discover, the more people will realize it’s their new favorite movie.

ELK: It was definitely a full-hearted decision to make a movie in 14 days. It definitely helped the tension and made people legitimately crazy. I think you want a manic energy in movies like this that’s genuinely crazy. I look at old Tobe Hooper and obviously everybody kind of lost their minds on Chain Saw Massacre. He was a big inspiration, but also Friedkin. There’s just a real chaos in everybody’s mind when they’re making those movies. It’s interesting because it’ll never happen like that for me again.

WM: You already had your 7″ demo and now you’re going to be signing with Epitaph.

ELK: Yeah, that’s the thing, “Punk Rock Prince of Hollywood signs with Epitaph”. We’ll have too slick of a production on the next album, and everyone’s going to be saying, “It sucks, I can hear their voices now, it sucks. I don’t like his voice, it’s too clean.”

WM: Why are there all these harmonies?!

ELK: Too many ballads. We’ll see where it goes.

papa roach last resort punk rock

Papa Roach

WM: You and I have talked a lot about music before, and with Agent Orange being tied into the movie, how often did you keep music in mind while reworking the script?

ELK: I really think there’s nothing more evil than techno music. It really is the most sinister soundtrack.

WM: Have you seen Man of Steel? They have a goddamned dubstep machine going “WOMP WOMP WOMP WOMP”.

ELK: That’s evil. All that rave shit is evil.

WM: You heard it here first, ladies and gentlemen, “Punk Rock Prince of Hollywood proclaims Electronic Music Evil”.

ELK: Well our composer did the music for You’re Next–

WM: Which had an awesome soundtrack.

ELK: And he doesn’t really make techno music. In Denmark, we has like this Danish Mr. Bungle and it was kind of weird for me to force him to make this kind of music that he didn’t relate to. My whole thing was that it needed to be douchey, cokehead party music. It fed into the bad decisions. For me, I had that shit playing while I wrote it because it was the voice of Colin (Dave Koechner). It was just imagining him listening to that stuff and thinking “Isn’t this cool?!” and it was a little out of date, so it was probably the coolest version of that stuff.

WM: Which we know is really cool.

ELK: Super cool. At first, we wanted it to feel like it was just this shit that they had on, then it starts to become a little weirder and more thriller-horror music. But make it at least seem like transitional, you’re not 100% sure what’s score and what’s just douchey party music.

WM: That you couldn’t tell the difference between what the characters were listening to and what the score was.

ELK: Exactly. We didn’t have a lot of tricks, we just had people in a house the whole time, so we asked what we could use. Is it going to be score the whole time or whether it be music in their world and every choice would be different music they put on, and that was shitty.

WM: In the bar, early on, I swear I could hear Joy Division playing, but I wasn’t sure if that was them or not.

ELK: If we had that money, we would’ve blasted that the whole time. We just used a lot of bar bands that we thought we could get. I know a couple of record labels and they helped out on tracks but we didn’t have any recognizable stuff. The most well-known thing in there was Bloodstains.

WM: And even that, I’m sure a lot of people have no ideas about. “Whoa, they wrote this song for the movie! They’re saying  ‘Cheap Thrills!'”

ELK: It was almost like a theme song, where you have this bummer ending and then that comes on.

lucio fulci beyond bridge dog

Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond

WM: Yesterday we were talking about your Fulci tattoo, so is The Beyond your favorite Fulci movie?

ELK: I love a lot of his stuff, but it’s also kind of random. Like, Contraband is such a gory crime movie. Fulci was really sort of my introduction to the weirder horror. I grew up with John Carpenter and Tobe (Hooper) and once I found the Italians and what they did, all I watched for a while was horrible Italian movies. Horrible ones. I watched all of them. Like, horrible shit. I really enjoyed it. It felt so much riskier and that it was being made by crazy people.

WM: They get you in that context where what you’re seeing isn’t a linear narrative so you, as an individual, have a hard time figuring it out. Have you seen Room 237? They talk about how Kubrick constructed the hotel to be a building that could never actually exist so your brain can’t really figure it out.

ELK: And that’s awesome. You’re constantly trying to place everything in a box to understand it, and the Fulci stuff, I think people didn’t give him credit. He did have a lot of sloppy movies too, for sure, but he did some that were really well constructed and his influences of Lovecraft and Poe. He was a smart guy, I just think he had bad luck, and (Dario) Argento came from wealth, and he’s an amazing filmmaker, but if you give somebody the best DP in the world and the best composers, it’s going to be a win. Fulci died right before his biggest movie was going to be made, The Wax Mask, and he had a bit more money for it but he was sick, he was suffering for awhile. I like Fulci, I know he was kind of a beast on the set.

WM: Just knowing that at any moment in any of his films, you could enter an apocalyptic Hellscape. You could open a door and it would be Hell.

ELK: The whole world can change. It’s so dangerous. His movies are fucking dangerous. Bad things will happen to really good characters just because of where they were. It was really influential to show that much gruesome stuff. The filmmaker in me, I love his gore, but when it happens, it’s fucking there and it’s practical and it’s really mean.

WM: My favorite Fulci movie is the one where something happens to that guy’s eye…or that girl’s eye…

ELK: And I think head wounds are one of my favorite things. Anything that can happen to somebody’s noggin, I’m happy. Both Fulci and David Lynch do a lot of head trauma. It’s just my favorite. I was attacked by a dog when I was younger so I have like 20 scars in my head.

Cheap Thrills is available now on VOD and will be in select theaters March 21st.

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