Cheap Thrills (2014) - Can't Stop the Movies
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Cheap Thrills (2014)

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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 Vince, an old friend from high school. 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. From Rotten Tomatoes.

Giddy upBack when I was in High School and was really getting into more challenging and independent type of films, I tried to expose my parents to these films, thinking that the message of the film and its artistry would combat the content in the film. After trying to show my mom violent films, I learned that no matter how arty the film might be and how great a visual poet the director might be, my mom would see the blood and gore and bolt. I quickly learned that there were “mom movies” and ones that weren’t and with 100% conviction I can say that Cheap Thrills is a not a “mom movie”.

Directed by first timer E.L Katz and written by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, Cheap Thrills takes joy in setting a line in the sand and gleefully stepping over that line. The movie is sick, twisted and dark but unlike films from such people as Eli Roth, there is more to the movie that just watching people in pain. The couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) never once force the two old acquaintances into playing the game and never keep them in the apartment. Instead the couple becomes the devil on their shoulder, reminding the two men about the financial troubles they are in or the resentments they hold towards one another and then watch the sparks fly.

Odds aren't good he's leaving the film with both of those intact.

Odds aren't good he's leaving the film with both of those intact.

One of the interesting things I find with the movie is that there are two people playing the game instead of just one. This adds a competitive streak to the film and might push the characters into doing things they would never do alone. Any parent knows that a toy that none of your kids are playing with will become the ONLY thing they will ALL want once one of the children picks it up. I think the same thing is true of the Craig and Vince. It is one thing to say no to $500 for getting hit in the face when no one is getting that money.

What happens though if you say no and your “friend” who you look down on does it and is $500 richer than you? The next dare all of the sudden you are up for a lot more. That is the case in this film. Vince and Craig might act like friends but there is an unspoken (that turns to spoken late in the film) hostility between the two of them that makes the night not just about becoming a little wealthier, but becoming a LOT more wealthy than the guy next to you

While the script was really interesting, it could have turned into a very talky film if it wasn’t shot with the style that Katz brings to the proceedings. While there are not many locations for the film, Katz has a way to keep the film moving and it never feels static. Katz also has a knack for balancing the macabre that it never becomes too much in the film. While it is sick and twisted, you never feel dirty watching the film as so much as entertained. Finally, the composition for the final shot was so perfect for the film that I felt like giving Katz a standing ovation for that alone.


David Koechner gets to put a new spin on his well-worn comic persona and comes out with a fresh edge.

Along with the script and direction, the acting was much better than expected for a movie like this. The two that stand out the most were Pat Healy and David Koechner. I have only seen Healy in a few small roles but he was the perfect anchor for this film. Craig was a man who was prideful, desperate, smart and vicious all at the same time. He is a character that could have easily been a one-note character, be it a sad sack or asshole, but Healy gives him enough layers that you never know exactly how you feel about him in the movie and it changes from scene to scene.

The actor that stole the movie was Koechner. While he is known as a comedian, his large frame and imposing demeanor gives him a sinister edge even when he is acting like a fun friend. Koechner has always been a comedian that had a different feel to him but here he takes his physical attributes and mixes it with his charisma to become someone who you would want to have a good time with but at the same time never trust. Koechner reminded me of a funnier version of John Carroll Lynch, and that is high praise for anyone like me.

Cheap Thrills is not a movie for everyone. It is disgusting, dark and makes you want to watch some of it between your fingers. It is not really in a genre of films that I usually care for. At the same time, I can’t say that it didn’t have some interesting things to say and great performances that shined through the gore. My recommendation would be to check this movie out if you have the stomach. E.L. Katz is a director that might hit it big in the future and after seeing what he did with this film, it would not be a huge surprise.

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Tail - Cheap ThrillsCheap Thrills (2014)

Directed by E.L. Katz.
Screenplay written by Trent Haaga and David Chirchirillo.
Starring Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, Ethan Embry, and David Koechner.

Posted by Ryan

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