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|Index||53 reviews in total|
Saw this at SXSW and I must admit it was very well done. This won the
Audience Award for the Midnighters at the festival and it is
wholeheartedly deserved. The film is a hybrid genre film with a
constantly shifting tone of hilarity, drama, thrills, and extremely
The story follows everyman Craig (Pat Healy, who should finally get some deserved recognition for his extremely demanding role in this) who is down on his luck after having a really bad day. He hits the local bar on the way home from work and sees an old high school buddy (Ethan Embry, in an against-type role that completely works) and the two meet up with a strange couple that wants to have a drink with them (David Koechner and Sara Paxton, who are both deliciously hilarious and mysterious). The four then have what can only be described as a truly horrific night and that is all I really want to say about it because the less you know the better. The concept of the film is laid out easily and quickly, which is developed fully throughout the film as the stakes are raised higher and higher with every passing minute.
I must say that I was very happy to see the movie take so many risks. The content of the film is definitely not for the faint at heart, but if you like envelope-pushing pieces than this is the film for you. Im sure this will divide audiences, but the theater I was in had a great energy and made the film really fun to watch. The director EL Katz introduced the film and told the audience that "it is okay to laugh." After seeing the film, I understand why he said that. There are so many uncomfortable, cringe-inducing moments in the film that the only thing to do is either to curl up in the fetal position or laugh your head off. I had no clue where it was going and the final image in the film will go down as a classic final shot. It is perfection.
People will be definitely talking about this one. It is highly entertaining, the performances are excellent, the writing is tight, and the content of the film is entirely original and unpredictable. I actually saw it twice during SXSW and it was even better a second time. Tons of twists and turns, so please DO NOT spoil it for yourself. Go into it with little knowledge and enjoy the twisted mayhem.
Pat Healey of The Innkeepers fame plays a family man and blue collar
worker who receives an eviction notice and is laid off on the same day.
On the way home, he runs into an old friend at a bar, and the two of
them run into an eccentric rich couple played by David Koechner and
Sara Paxton (again of The Innkeepers) who propose a twisted series of
games for money at their private residence.
To compete against each other for large rewards, Craig and Vince engage in more and more disturbing acts of depravity, self-mutilation and moral bankruptcy.
This is a shocker, and a hard-to-watch one at that. What keeps it bearable is that it's a very FUNNY shocker, particularly with Koechner providing most of the black comedy.
Ultimately this is an allegorical haves-and-have-nots tale that looks at the lengths people will go to in the name of financial desperation. The climax is disturbing and had me doing some sharp self-reflection. Not bad for a first-time director and a tiny budget.
Cheap Thrills is a film that doesn't come with a lot of hype, which it
greatly benefits from , because it will surprise you!
Its a morality tale. What would you do with the lure of big money? Will you turn on your friend and family in order to earn a quick buck? What can pressure do to us? All of these questions are asked and they are answered in a very blackly comical way! The main character's chemistry with his best friend, who both embark on this dark game, is what carries the film the most. Comedy aside, it feels real. It feels like these guys have known each other for a life time, so when the games get darker, you sense that money has overridden all sense of loyalty and rational thinking. Its a scary reminder of what money can do to a person.
As well as being scary and comical, there are a few scenes of shocking violence that will please the more extreme fan. Thankfully the director doesn't overdo it, which gives the violent scenes all the more impact.
Acting, Cinematography, Script, and a sense of connection, makes Cheap Thrills another movie that proves that lower budget films are capable of matching it with the mega budget movies as far as enjoyment is concerned.
I have to admit I didn't feel attracted either by the poster or the
plot summary. Yet the experience was thrilling and full of surprises:
the acting of the four protagonists is excellent and I enjoyed it all
the way. Also, although the genre of psychological thriller is not my
cup of tea, the director did a great job creating a disturbing
atmosphere sustained by a very good script, good dialogues and deep
human characters. The first work of Katz as a director is, in my
opinion,a successful debut: the movie is filmed with great sensibility
and the art in general is perfectly in tone with what we feel from the
Highly recommendable, no doubt.
An allegory of sorts for the Occupy generation, "Cheap Thrills"
endeavors to answer the age-old question of just how far you would be
willing to go for a boatload of cash. Especially when you've just lost
your job, you're being evicted from your home, and you have a wife and
toddler counting on you for support. This is the dilemma facing Craig
(Pat Healy), an Average-Joe, mild-mannered urbanite who's genuinely
trying to play by the rules but who just keeps getting dumped on by a
world that seems dead-set against him ever achieving his portion of the
On the night he loses his job as a mechanic at a Southern California garage, Craig wanders into a local bar only to hook up with an old buddy of his from childhood (Ethan Embry) and an obnoxious, borderline- sadistic millionaire (David Koechner) who keeps tossing money at the two men whenever they perform impromptu, trivial tasks for him. Things turn serious, however, when Mr. Moneybags ups the ante, throwing out ever more enticing financial rewards for ever more vile and degrading stunts.
Though fairly simple and straightforward on the surface, "Cheap Thrills," written by Trent Haaga and David Chichirillo and directed by E.L Katz, is really a modern-day parable about greed, desperation, exploitation and the dangers of unbridled macho bravado. It portrays, in miniature, a world in which a small number of people have virtually everything in terms of wealth and power, while the vast majority wind up with virtually nothing they can call their own. Craig and Vince have so little to lose, in fact, that they are willing to go to unimaginable extremes to get at least something to keep themselves from feeling like total failures in life. They sense that their very identity as men is on the line here and, thus, they will stop at nothing to assert their primacy over one another, the first step in securing that which they feel is rightfully owed to them and their families.
Colin, along with his equally amoral wife, Violet (Sara Paxton), on the other hand, represents the callous 1% who amuse themselves at the expense of other people's desperation, going so far as to pit the have- nots against one another for the sheer pleasure of watching them brawling in the dirt over the scraps that are condescendingly thrown their way. This is Darwin's "survival of the fittest" as it is played out in 21st Century America.
Crude, brutal, at times unwatchable even, "Cheap Thrills," nevertheless, manages to get under the viewer's skin, forcing him to face harsh truths about society and human nature and to ask himself just how far he would be willing to go to get what he needed to survive. It doesn't paint a very flattering portrait of us as a species, but, let's face it, sometimes you don't always like what you see when you catch a glimpse of yourself in a mirror.
I haven't felt this bad at the end of a movie since REQUIEM FOR A
DREAM. This film, from E.L. Katz, is the ultimate feel-bad movie of the
year. Believe it or not, I mean this all as praise. 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. It opens on the worst day of Craig Daniels'
(Pat Healy) unfortunate life. He wakes to an eviction notice posted to
the door of the apartment where he lives with his wife and baby, and
he's fired from his menial job at an auto shop later that afternoon.
While he's drinking his problems away at a seedy bar later that night,
he's reunited with an old friend, Vince (Ethan Embry) who earns a
living rough housing gamblers to collect on debts. The night shifts in
an interesting direction when they meet Colin (David Koechner) and his
wife Violet (Sara Paxton), out on the town to celebrate Violet's
birthday with some harmless. 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.
CHEAP THRILLS wears its message on its sleeve. It's a frightening glimpse at the power of money and the lengths some will go to get it, but it's also a statement on what passes for entertainment now. The first point is the most blatant, as it's basically the premise of the movie. Colin and Violet are filthy rich. We don't know how he acquired his money; we just know he's got $250,000 chilling in an unlocked safe in his office for the sole purpose of blowing on his wife's birthday. Money is nothing to these people. But for the common man (in this instance, Craig and Vince), money is everything. Craig has a family to look out for and every cent earned goes toward securing their future. Vince is a thug who'd made some poor choices and sees a chance at a better life. At first it's all a game, but then it all goes south and the greed takes hold. Meanwhile, Colin cheers them on like a man watching the latest UFC fight at the local bar and Violet well Violet's chilling. She says very little over the course of the night but it quickly becomes apparent that there's something disturbing under her gorgeous visage. She's calm and collected, often seeming disinterested in the events unfolding around her. Again, it's all a game to these two and Violet shows a chilling disconnect from Craig and Vince's pain.
But, really, the audience isn't much better. 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. Things get insane here. This is definitely not a film for the feint of heart. I'm not the queasy sort of dude but there was some stuff here that had me gritting my teeth. This movie is determined to show the ugliness of greed and how it corrupts even the best intentions. This becomes apparent in the final third of the movie when it's obvious there isn't really a "good" guy anymore. We essentially start rooting for Craig. He's the family man who needs the money to give them a life but, by the end, he's just as ruthless as Vince. If anything, Vince is the less sympathetic character but retains the most humanity in the final moments. CHEAP THRILLS is a punch to the gut with a cast of characters that's impossible to associate with and it leaves a sour taste in your mouth when the end credits roll, but it's an entertaining funhouse mirror of a movie that goes off the rails to reflect some of the darkest elements of our culture.
I saw CHEAP THRILLS last night! In case you've never heard of it, Cheap
Thrills is a black comedy thriller directed by horror journalist turned
director E.L. Katz. The film stars Pat Healy and Ethan Embry as two old
friends who, while commiserating over their extreme financial woes,
meet a rich, thrill seeking couple, played by David Koechner and Sara
Paxton, that derive enjoyment from making wacky bets involving risky
dares and large amounts of money. The night starts off light and fun
but as the evening wares on and the stakes become higher, both the ties
of friendship and the limits to which each will go to make quick cash
and tested to the breaking point.
I was thoroughly impressed with this movie. It's exceptionally well acted with Healy, Embry and Koechner playing their respective roles famously. 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. Cheap Thrills gets a 4...out of 5.
Out of the four characters in Cheap Thrills I only recognised one of
them, David Koechner (Champ from Anchorman). I went into watching this
knowing very little about the film; I had a vague understanding of the
storyline but that was about it.
Cheap Thrills is classed as a dark comedy, I would disagree with this, there are a few chuckles along the way but in my opinion it is far from a comedy. It's a dark, disturbing and very tense film which makes the viewer feel quite uncomfortable at times.
Craig and Vince are old friends who have lost contact and bump into each other in a bar. Craig has been sacked that day and Vince is also struggling for cash. They get invited over by Colin; A millionaire who is out celebrating his Wife's birthday. He flashes the cash straight away, buying a $300 bottle of Tequila and handing out Cocaine like its candy. He starts by offering Craig and Vince money for fun things such as 'first one to down their shot' or 'talk to the girl at the bar'. They then leave the bar and go back to his place and his dares start to get much more dark and disturbing.
David Koechner plays his character really well. At the start of the movie I couldn't help see him as Champ from Anchorman, but as the movie progresses he really comes into his role and before long you forget he ever played Champ! His character comes across as very friendly and likable but there is always a nervy feeling, like he could do anything at any moment, he is very intense & Koechner is extremely convincing in playing him.
The divide between filthy rich and poor is huge and this movie makes it its aim to show you this. The millionaire takes advantage of his two 'guests' and plays to their desperation for his own twisted pleasure. A man, who has it all, still wants more and is willing to throw hundreds of thousands of dollars to play with two people desperate for cash. The view from Craig and Vince is also a simple one, how far would you and how low would you go if big bucks were being offered to you.
This movie certainly isn't ideal family viewing; there is sex, drugs, violence and some disturbing scenes. I did find it somewhat entertaining, I probably wouldn't view it again but I don't regret watching it. With a short run time of just under 90 minutes it did a good job of gripping me and giving me the experience that was intended by the creators.
I started out thinking I was in for a one star cheap production. Suggested by the cheap cover and the usual money saver of no subtitles along with Drafthouse Films and Snoot Films as the production companies. That, plus the cheap one room setting, did not put me into an accepting frame of mind. I was thinking along the B level film lines of Tarantino. But, about a third of the way into the film I began to glimpse it's potential. The judgmental viewer exploring forbidden territories in human behavior. The apparent raising of the stakes is not what carries the film - it's the great writing, acting (especially Paxton's mostly nonverbal communication), camera work and directing. Candidly funny, alternating with candidly disturbing, displays of what humans are capable of when fenced in by certain restraints. A good film for a psych or soc class as a vehicle for student discussion. Some alternate endings would have made it even more interesting.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At 1 and a half hours long, this movie never bores. The characters
behave realistically. There was never a moment where I questioned what
they were doing on screen, and the way the characters behaved hinted
brilliantly at what was to come.
The arc the main character goes on is great. At the start, he's an utterly defeated man in a financial pit. He has a rigid personality and doesn't take risks. But by the end, he has committed despicable deeds.
As I said, it's funny. The character reactions are both believable and hilarious. For instance, when Colin says "I'm cumming, too, baby" in response to his wife yelling, "I'm gonna cum!", and Vince goes, "Oh, f***, noo!" and promptly relocates away from Vince, I laughed out loud.
I would've liked to see more at the end -- give us more consequence to his actions, ie: how does his wife react? Do they go on living? Does she find out about what took place that night? Do they get divorced?
Overall, this movie is well worth a watch.
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