19 Mar 2014

Review - Cheap Thrills (2014)

What Would You Do For Money?

Director: E.L. Katz
Writer: David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga
Stars: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner
Running Time: 88 mins
Sub-Genre: Comedy, Thriller
Release: 4th May 2014

Cheap Thrills follows Craig, 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. The two friends are roped into a round of drinks by a charismatic and obscenely wealthy stranger along with his mysterious wife. 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.

Have you ever watched I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here? Maybe even Big Brother? Well, imagine all those grotesque trails they go through, but then add in a lump of pain, a dollop of gore and a shit load of cash and you will get the soon-to-be-hit pitch black comedy Cheap Thrills that knows how to thrill without playing it cheap (see what I done there?). If you're looking for that film that makes you squirm to your very core yet not once take your eyes of the screen then E.L. Katz's Cheap Thrills should be your next, as this is one cinematic debut you would not want to miss.

From crack to crunch, Cheap Thrills goes from strength to strength, delivering something that could only be described as quirky mumblecore madness that knows how to throw a few punches and to throw them hard. To its merit, it makes the most out of a plot that only seemed suited to a 30 minute slot, and considering the source material, the writers did a fulfilling job at creating something that is both shocking and funny, something contemporary cinema hasn't been able to quite grasp lately, especially that of the horror genre. Yeah You're Next pretty much achieved what Cheap Thrills did and then some, but both were equip with a simplistic script, fleshed-out characters and an impressive execution. It is without its faults like most films, and although Cheap Thrills suffers strongly from its predictable third act, it never really over-shadows how impressive the rest of the film was, regardless of it lacking a build up, causing the film to stay at a level it reached an hour before. Horror films need that build up to the ultimate final act, Ala The Cabin in the Woods, Evil Dead, You're Next etc. Did I expect them to take it a little further? Yeah, perhaps a group massacre, was I annoyed they didn't? Not at all.

For a lesser-know flick such as this, the performances are surprisingly strong, especially that of the lesser-known Pat Healy and Ethan Embry who may as well have carried the film on their shoulders, making us endure each and every stomach-churning moment whilst balancing the comedic elements that were of course were enhanced by the hilarious David Koechner. I still strangely can't stop thinking about him as Champ from Anchorman, but I suppose that's what you get for being in one of the most hilarious films ever! He is also in Final Destination 5, but that's just the horror buff in me knowing that. 

Cheap Thrills isn't the obvious in-your-face type of flick, it gets sometime to get into, but once your in, you experience the vibrant bursts of fun and energy that doesn't be established too often with a film that's central theme is self-torture for money. We have all seen Hostel and we have all endured the many sequels of Saw, but you have not yet sat down and watched Cheap Thrills, because it's then when you realise just what it is to make a substantial torture flick.

Incoherent indeed but very much in tact, Cheap Thrills is a fun, nasty romp with plenty of gags to make the squelching gore more digestible.

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