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on 28 May 2015
Cheap Thrills has the type of concept which could easily live up to its title. Two rich sickos torturing a couple of poor strangers by daring them to do progressively twisted tasks could result in an exploitative B-movie designed to shock the audience for the sake of it. Thankfully, Cheap Thrills manages to offer much more than a few cheap thrills. It’s actually an intelligent, engaging and darkly humorous little film with a few hints of postmodernism not too dissimilar to Funny Games.

Pat Healy and Sara Paxton made a terrifically witty duo in Ti West’s limp, The Innkeepers and deserved to appear in a much better film. Cheap Thrills is that better film, and whilst Sara doesn’t have particularly much to do, Pat puts on a similarly likable performance as the down on his luck protagonist, who we can all relate to. In fact, all of the characters manage to be engaging and interesting. I love how realistically the film progressed from a friendly encounter on a night out to a sick set of dares.

For a film largely set in one location with just four characters, it’s never boring. Quite the opposite, in fact I was left wanting more and I think it could’ve pushed the boundaries more, but that’s probably just my twisted horror nut coming out! Where the film actually succeeds is that it doesn’t make the dares the focus of the entire film. Instead it’s much more concerned with the characters and how they develop, thus making for a much better quality and more involving piece of filmmaking.

The comment it makes on society is quite heavy-handed but nevertheless an intelligent and relevant one. It’s best to view the two rich psychos as symbols, rather than characters. They’re obviously representative of the bourgeoisie and how they exploit the poor minority. However, the film also makes a subtle comment on the psychotic nature of audiences too. I thought that the ending kind of made out like the psychos were doing it all for us, the viewing public, thus adding another intelligent and postmodern layer to the film.

Overall the film is a striking debut and this E.L Katz bloke looks like he has a promising future in the horror movie industry. His directing was consistently intense and he managed to build some massive amounts of tension. Cheap Thrills may falter on repeated viewings (due to the lack of a surprise factor) but for a first time viewing there’s very little to complain about. Perhaps it could’ve been a little more twisted, but really I was surprised by how intelligent the screenplay actually was. Cheap Thrills offers a lot more than its title suggests. It’s probably one of the best horror-comedies we’ve had in a while.
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"Cheap Thrills" is a modest budget indie from the USA, directed by E.L. Katz. It has a proper script and proper actors. I thought it was well made and acted, but the tone was very uncertain.
-------SPOILERS-------
Pat Healy plays Craig, a married man with a young kid, who has just been made redundant and is about to be evicted. He meets an old school friend, Vince (Ethan Embry) in a bar, where they also meet a rich couple, Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), who offer Craig and Vince money to compete in completing various "dares". Over the course of the evening the whole thing escalates (or descends, depending on how you see it) into bloody murder.
I thought Koechner was very good as the manipulative Colin, but I didn't really buy (sorry) the basis of increasingly psychotic and violent behaviour of the two friends towards each other as the evening progressed (they just weren't well enough drawn to explain their actions, for me personally). I thought script was not funny, or clever, enough to carry me along and past their unrealistic behaviour. While the acting is good, the tone left me a little confused whether this was meant to be a social satire or a straight black comedy (that I didn't find amusing).
Okay, but not as clever as it thinks it is or as funny as it needed to be to overcome a fairly crude (and unoriginal) plot.
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on 1 August 2014
A thought provoking but nasty little film. This creates the age old dilemma of what would you do for a large sum of money. Themes of money and class are prevalent as the two old school friends become rivals in their bid to hit that big payout. It becomes almost voyeuristic as slowly you can see and feel the kick this gives the bizarre couple of hosts/captors, as they begin to relish their hold over our anti heroes. Barriers come down and boundaries are stepped over as the challenges spiral ever downward in there depravity and you now realise that the two challengers/victims are stuck in a maelstrom of macho posturing, farcical set ups and pure greed as the film rushes towards its denoument. If you have a strong stomach and enjoy being strapped in for a rollercoaster ride be prepared!!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 June 2015
Cheap thrills is an excellent movie if you are a fan of the seedy and disgusting side of life. Rather than a thriller or a horror, this film is a very, very dark comedy which asks a serious question......when times are hard, how far will you go to survive?

Craig, the main protagonist, is already facing eviction when he loses his job. Having one last drink in a local bar to put off going home to give his wife and child the bad news, he comes face to face with an old school friend, Vince, who he hasn't seen in years. Whilst they are catching up they encounter a couple, Colin and Violet, who are out celebrating Violet's birthday, and as part of the celebration they want the two friends to spend the evening with them, doing "dares" for money. The first dare is simple, down a shot, so how hard can the game be?

The dares get more and more depraved as the money amounts increase. How far is too far?

This film is not going to be for everyone. It is downright nasty in places, but if you like horror, thrillers, and dark comedy you should definitely give this a look, if you don't mind gore. I found it very entertaining.

Content warning: Swearing, Blood & Gore, Sex, Drugs.
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on 8 December 2014
You don’t have to be a genius to work out “the game” that the couple are playing, the clue is given away very early on in the film, but yet this doesn’t take away from the sheer hilarity and what if moments this dark comedy offers up.

The magic to this film is the pace, style, and character performance from David Koechner. In my opinion he brings his character Colin to life like no other actor could do, it was almost like it was written to his personal strengths. There is enough humour in what he does to cause a number of decent laughs, but he also manages to keep a slight sinister edge so not to become a clown within the film.

Great acting from all the cast and a brilliant script that allows the balance of humour and horror to play out at adequate levels that it should appeal to both comedy and horror fans alike. It’s not going to be a “classic” but if you have 90mins spare and you want to watch a film that is different with a solid performance then this is well worth an investment of time and money, especially at the current price.
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on 7 March 2015
I wasn't really sure what to expect with this film. Cheap Thrills is a movie that drives its point home like a nail to the head. It's a dark comedy, emphasis on the dark, that aims to sensationalize the perceived apathy of the upper class to the suffering of the lower class, going so far as to take perverse joy in it. I never recall laughing over the course of the movie, but there were a few chuckles scattered amongst the groans and cringes. Pat Healy stars as a family man named Craig desperate for money following an eviction notice and recent unemployment. Meeting an old school friend named Vince in a bar (Ethan Embry) the pair drown their sorrows until they are offered a chance to earn ‘easy money’ by a rich couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) looking for fun. Colin and Violet enjoy betting each other on the pettiest of prospects (i.e. how a bar patron chooses to ogle the bartender), and they see an opportunity to have some fun with Craig and Vince. It starts simple…who can drink their shot of tequila the fastest or who's willing to slap a stripper on the butt… but, as the night goes on, the game grows more sinister and disturbing. The premise of Cheap Thrills reminds me a lot of modern culture's obsession with reality television. Average people are paraded about and put into often uncomfortable situations with the promise of potentially walking away with a nice chunk of change. People have no problem going on national television for the amusement of others to chow on bull testicles or knock themselves around in some bizarre obstacle course for the chance at wealth. Well, it's no different than what Craig and Vince endure in Cheap Thrills. Colin and Violet aren't any better than the general reality TV audience except, you know, their pretty evil. Cheap Thrills is a film that asks questions of both the characters and audience whilst delivering a taut and twisting ride. I was also thoroughly impressed with this movie. It's exceptionally well acted with Healy, Embry and Koechner playing their respective roles brilliantly. For having a budget of less than $20k it is truly amazing to see how well this movie is made. Hats off especially to the art direction and cinematography in this movie which is all aces as it uses color and lighting very uniquely to give Cheap Thrills a dark and sickly cool look. Ultimately I really enjoyed this film and despite maybe not having the best ending in my opinion, it's still damn good movie which should be seen.
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This was a breezy, sleazy little thriller with a streak of the blackest of black humour running through it. It's violent and nasty in places but rarely less than entertaining.

Simple set up - two old friends who've not met for some time bump into each other in a bar. As they grab a drink and catch up, they befriend a couple in the same bar who are flashing a fair amount of cash around. They use this seemingly endless supply of notes to start daring our boys into completing certain challenges. These kick off with winding up a girl at the bar or slapping a stripper on the ass but quickly escalate from here and things rapidly spiral into bonkers territory. Friendships are tested as the immortal question of how far will you go for money is posed (repeatedly).

Things build up nicely and maintain a relative believability despite the inevitable carnage. The acting from the main foursome is strong and carries things well and the odd bleak chuckle is thrown up by the script to prevent things getting too dark and dingy. Overall, I found it a surprisingly rewarding effort and it flies by in a swift 85 minutes so doesn't outstay its welcome.
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on 6 November 2015
Compellingly watchable tale of simple choices which become increasingly difficult moral dilemmas, the corrupting power of money, and the lengths that mundane pressures of everyday life can drive a man to. You will go between having a grin on your face and having it rapidly wiped off - and it's up to you to decide which it is at the end...

It may seem a bit of a far-fetched idea that two friends would degrade themselves so much, but that's what makes the film so subtly sinister. The baddie is not really the guy who's setting them challenges - the choice is always theirs whether to agree to play along or not. He is just a nudge that opens up two people to playing a lethal game driven by their own pent up desperations.
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Craig (Pat Healy) has a new baby, a new eviction notice, a last twenty, and he made the layoff list at work. While drowning his sorrows he runs into high school buddy Vince (Ethan Embry) who manages to get by as a low paying collector. While at the bar they meet Colin (David Koechner) and his birthday wife Violet (Sara Paxton). Colin offers the men money for doing small embarrassing or socially unacceptable tasks. As the night progresses the money increases and the dare factor becomes more risky.

On the surface, the film has about the same thrill as a home break-in/slasher film. In this case our working class men can walk out at any time, but don't due to the income potential. The film is a microcosm of capitalism where the money goes to individuals who are willing to do the worst tasks for less money, under bidding each other and even willing to commit crimes.

Good job by the actors, although I would have enjoyed a Violet who was bubbly instead of a dead pan individual. While it doesn't tie into the metaphor as well, it would have been more entertaining. Maybe have Taylor Swift in the role and then have her write a song about how wonderful it was for the closing credits.

Parental Guide: F-bombs, sex, strippers bra/pasties.
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on 8 April 2016
Dark, funny and devastating, this is a four-hander featuring the under-rated Ethan Embry (Declan from Brotherhood) and the wonderful David Koechner in a role that seems custom-built for him as the wealthy, amoral, but not unsympathetic dude, who treats his girl on her birthday to a display of just exactly how low folks will go to win increasingly large sums of untaxable currency, and the sort of eye-opening fun that can be had along the way.
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