Pat Healy

Drafthouse Films

The past couple of years seemed to see a rash of films dealing with the somewhat similar plot device of people doing increasingly dangerous, disgusting or risky things for cold, hard cash. 13 Sins, Would You Rather and others deal with the idea in different ways, but one of the most celebrated of the bunch is E.L. Katz‘s Cheap Thrills. The film follows a down on his luck man named Craig (Pat Healy) who’s fired from his job on the same day he receives an eviction notice. With a wife and baby son counting on him he willingly steps into a bizarre scenario involving a wealthy, thrill-seeking couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) willing to pay Craig and his friend (Ethan Embry) to take part in a series of often grotesque challenges. Things go about as well as you’d expect. It’s an alternately funny and tragic film that walks an incredibly fine and blackly-comic line, and it’s just been released on Blu-ray/DVD from Drafthouse Films. Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Cheap Thrills.

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Cheap Thrills

Director E.L. Katz‘s Cheap Thrills was the first movie to get picked up for distribution at this year’s South by Southwest, and it’s also the third movie in a row actor Pat Healy has had at the festival, following Compliance and The Innkeepers. All three movies have featured Healy in a starring role, but, according to Healy, that doesn’t mean he still isn’t crashing on people’s couches to make it to a film festival.

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Starry_Eyes_1

The Hollywood Nightmare is an idea we often see in films for a reason. Los Angeles is a city where broken dreams of stardom can be found on almost every street corner. One of the downsides for those people that crave financial success in Hollywood is they’re almost always surrounded by it. Beverly Hills is both their dream and their nightmare. Starry Eyes shows one actress that will go as far as she has to one day have that mansion in the Hills. Sarah (Alex Essoe) is that actress. At the start of the film she works as a “Taters Girl” in a cheesy restaurant that’s basically an even worse version of Hooters. Being a Taters Girl isn’t her endgame, though. She daydreams of stardom. After an embarrassing audition, Astraeus Pictures sees something in her. The off-the-wall casting agents call her back to see more of her dark side, which she may or may not know exists.

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review cheap thrills

Editor’s note: Our review of Cheap Thrills originally ran during this year’s SXSW Film Festival, but we’re re-running it here as the film plays Fantastic Fest. Hey, did you guys know the economy sucks? It’s pretty evident from the price of gas to the unemployment rate to the housing market that we’re still not out of the woods yet. So it’s the perfect climate for a movie critiquing how money rules all and offers peace and stability to those who desperately crave it. Cheap Thrills is both thriller and dark comedy at the same time. The lead character is Craig (Pat Healy), a regular guy doing his best to provide for his wife and small child, but his best isn’t good enough, and with an eviction looming he loses his job at a mechanic shop. Hurting from being kicked while he’s down, he heads to the nearest bar to drown his sorrows. He runs into Vince (Ethan Embry), an old friend he hasn’t seen in awhile, and the two are drawn into a conversation with Colin (David Koechner) and his wife Violet (Sara Paxton) who are celebrating and throwing money around the shithole dive bar. But it’s when Craig and Vince head back to the couple’s house that the stakes go way up and the money really starts flowing… as long as Craig and Vince are willing to play along.

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review cheap thrills

Like anyone else, I am all too aware that the economy isn’t doing so well. As a writer, I’ll gladly take an extra article for a quick buck or an extra sandwich. But Cheap Thrills, the new dark – dark – comedy from director E.L. Katz is taking that concept to another level and putting its protagonist through a night of hell as he tries to make ends meet. When the married father of a newborn (Pat Healy) loses his job and faces eviction, he can’t comprehend how he’s going to fix his situation. Enter David Koechner and Sara Paxton, who play a bored, impossibly rich couple who offer him and his friend (Ethan Embry) wads of cash to complete a series of dares and tasks over the course of one night. As the night wears on, however, the dares get more gruesome and provocative as the amount of cash increases. And it all looks like good, sick fun. Are those missing fingers I (don’t) see at the end? As equal parts thriller and dark comedy, it’s fodder for hiding behind your fully-attached fingers as this poor dude’s “night of his life” unfolds. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Actor Pat Healy doesn’t have an easy role in Craig Zobel‘s Compliance. In the controversial Sundance hit, Healy is mostly seen alone in his scenes, doing one of the most dull cinematic acts around: talking on the phone. Not only that, the character’s reasoning is all a mystery, motivations which Healy has to completely internalize. Those feelings he has to capture aren’t the most pleasant ones as well. “Officer Daniels” (as he likes to go by) is a self-loathing emasculated man who revels in power, or at least that’s how Healy sees him. Zobel doesn’t give plain answers for the many of the characters’ bone-headed and disturbing actions. Compliance could be about how far misogyny can drive an emasculated dweeb or, as our Kate Erbland put it, an “exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.” Here’s what actor Pat Healy had to say about having to carry around feelings of self-loathing, why he couldn’t do his scenes in his pajamas, and the childlike wonder of Werner Herzog:

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Editor’s note: With Sundance’s most controversial film hitting theaters today, here is a re-run of our Compliance review from that festival, originally published on January 25. It seems that there is always at least one film at Sundance that stirs up some sort of controversy – the kind the leads to people running out of screenings or ends with people screaming at post-movie question-and-answer sessions. In 2011, it was Lucky McKee’s The Woman, this year, it’s undoubtedly Craig Zobel‘s Compliance. Much like McKee was taken to task about presumed misogyny in his film, Zobel endured post-screenings Q&As in which the film was damned as being exploitative. In those cases, however, the hecklers were quite wrong. Compliance is an exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.

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Craig Zobel Interview

Compliance caused quite a stir at this year’s Sundance. Many labeled the film exploitative, finding its subject matter too much to bare. There were also other viewers, such as our Kate Erbland, who perfectly described the film as “an exceedingly well-made interpersonal drama that hinges on the limits (and, oftentimes, depths) of human nature and people’s response to certain carefully calibrated psychological tricks.” It’s a fine line between exploitation and conveying the harsh reality of the true story, but that’s not the sole challenge director Craig Zobel faced. A majority of Compliance features one of the most dullest acts to watch on screen: characters talking on the phone. There’s rarely anything cinematic about it, but Zobel managed to make every phone call ooze with dread, which probably helped him land a pretty nice gig with Tobey Maguire… Here’s what Compliance director Craig Zobel had to say about the film’s exploration of authority, never giving clear answers for the truly terrible decisions made in the film, and making one long phone call between a psycho and an average joe manager exciting:

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Ti West’s The Innkeepers was a hell of horror film – trenchant atmosphere, frightening moments and an antique feeling matched with the modern boredom of minimum wage. Now, we’re giving away a ton of great stuff from the movie. Two (2) winners will receive a special, limited edition (only 400 will ever exist) vinyl-style fold-out Blu-ray copy of the movie signed by writer/director Ti West. Check out the pictures below. One (1) winner will receive the truly gorgeous Dude Designs version of the poster signed by West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy. Five (5) winners will receive the standard DVD copy of the film. So how do you enter to win? Excellent question:

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published: 12.23.2014
B+
published: 12.22.2014
C-
published: 12.19.2014
A-


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