Directed by: E.L. Katz
Staring: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner
I first came to know Cheap Thrills from the website “Red Letter Media” and their review in “Half in the Bag”. It was clear from their middling review they didn’t like it so, not knowing much else about it I didn’t expect much. Upon finally seeing the film, my low expectations were completely blown away.
“No matter how much money is in that box, I am not sucking his…”
Cheap Thrills is about a guy named Craig (Pat Healy) who upon waking up one morning finds an eviction notice on his door. He happens to also be living with his wife and newborn son. Later at work that same day he finds he is also being effectively “let go” from work. With no job and about to be homeless he decides to go to a local bar to have a simple drink and think about how he is going to fix everything. While there he happens to find a long lost friend Vince (Ethan Embry) and they talk about their troubles. It isn’t long enough before the run into a couple doing simple bets with huge payoffs. It isn’t long before the series of bets turns into increasingly risky dares and bets.
For starters, I first heard this was from the producers of “You’re Next” a film that really had a freshness to it and some energy to a, currently, lifeless horror genre. With this film now under their belt, I personally can’t wait to see what these guys do next. The film is excellent in having personal self-participation along with the fun of seeing what these guys will do for money, essentially selling off their souls. Its easy for the main characters at first to do anything. $100 to do a shot the fastest, $200 to throw the first punch at a bar bouncer, $500 to whoever can hold their breath the longest. But everything changes as the stakes ramp up, $20,000 to use a knife to…I wont spoil it but it certainly asks the question not only to the characters, but to the audience asking, how much would you do anything?
It’s a bloody black comedy full of stuff that will try and shock you into the world of the characters and the lengths they will go to try and get all the money they can. The plot moves fast and is paced wonderfully, never having a moment that feels forced or too slow and the twists, you have to see to believe.
The film also has some great acting in it, but in a very subtle way. From the outside looking in it looks like normal acting, but it’s meant to be that way, to make these guys look as average and normal as anyone in the audience. A real stand out is David Koechner as Colin or one of the couple. In all of the movies I’ve previously seen him in he always plays the idiot man child (Anchorman or example) but in this, he really shines as a sort of sane but crazy guy willing to spend it all just to see what will happen next.
If I had to list some grips, and of course I do (because I don’t know how to have fun), its very small nit picky stuff. For instance, I felt like the setup, the eviction notice/job lost all in the same day is a little bit contrived and that there’s a brief moment in spoiler areas that feels stupid, in terms of logic, that didn’t quite work for me. The film also does not only feel, but also looks Indy with it only having two to three real set locations throughout the entire film but that never actually hurts the film because it fits within the story.
Cheap Thrills is a fantastic black comedy, thriller that kept my heart pumping and me guessing as to what was going to happen next. Personally I think this would be an excellent midnight movie experience with a room full of people laughing and gasping at the debauchery happening on screen. It’s a full tilt show that will leave you stunned, shocked, disgusted and busting out loud laughing all the way to the credits. See Cheap Thrills.