Cheap Thrills (2013) Poster

(I) (2013)

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Entertaining but Somewhat Disturbing
SnoosReviews29 December 2014
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.

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a morality tale!
SpannersGerm66912 July 2014
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.
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Disturbing, Uncomfortable & Compelling
kevandeb5 March 2017
A dark, sadistic debasing experience in how low desperate people are willing to go to, ironically, raise themselves out of their dire life situation. This is a disturbing, yet compelling watch and draws parallels in how quickly society would collapse without order and is extremely depressing in that this kind of 'entertainment' is not something that would be discounted in a future society. We already have TV shows where people eat strange animal parts in the name of entertainment. It is depressing that this is a possible future game show in the making. All that said it is well acted and very hard to turn away as each dare gets becomes more extreme with a brutal finale. Well done to the director for keeping a realism to the film without wandering into fantasy.
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Nothing Cheap about this flick
thedukeofmovietown14 September 2014
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.
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Disturbing allegory for our modern age
Buddy-519 July 2014
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 American Dream.

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.
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A Brutal Dark Comedy; Not for the Squeamish
brando64726 September 2014
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.
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Cheap Thrills not short on thrills
mackistner18 March 2013
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 dark themes.

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.
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A funny, brutal shocker
outdoorcats10 November 2013
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.
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Great surprise
forni-n30 March 2014
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 very beginning.

Highly recommendable, no doubt.
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A Low-Budget Adult Black Comedy That You Won't Soon Forget
witster185 September 2014
Warning: Spoilers
The closest comparison's would have to be "Very Bad Things", or maybe even "Hangover 2".

"Cheap Thrills" is better than both, and while that might not be saying much, the film still deserves some mad-props for the entertainment value/budget ratio.

The cast, while small, is pitch-perfect for their particular roles. Ethan Embry stands-out here. It's obvious he's come a long way since "Can't Hardly Wait". The cast is small, but certainly efficient.

This film is NOT for the faint of heart. Definitely NOT for the kiddies.

I know this film is labeled as a black comedy, and it does start as more of a black comedy, BUT the last 30minutes or so gets quite serious.

Cheap Thrills works for me. It's a basic concept, but the film builds nicely, and asks some fairly pertinent questions, especially in ever-growing, ever-losing lower-to-middle class America where the value of a dollar is both down and up at the same time.

For a-dollar-thirty-two at the Redbox, this turned out to be the best 'Cheap Thrill' I've had in quite a long time.

You MIGHT like this if you liked:Hangover 2(not as good), Very Bad Things(not as good), The Last Supper(about equal), and Bindlestiffs(about equal).

"Cheap Thrills" isn't as laugh-out loud funny as some of those, but overall it's a fine film worth a rental for those who aren't squeamish or too young for this VERY ADULT film.

GOing on my "B-Movie Marathon"!! 71/100 MIght or might not hold onto a 2014 top-25 spot.
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Dark, twisted, and hilarious
Day_ImFivebyFive26 June 2014
Warning: 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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Funny & Insightful
westsideschl14 June 2014
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.
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Blummin' expensive thrills!
asda-man24 March 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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An Indecent and Twisted Thrill Ride
PStyles27 July 2014
If you like shock value in your movies, then look no further than "Cheap Thrills". I must say I haven't cringed in a movie for quite some time, but this film had me writhing in disgust on multiple occasions. But you know what? I loved it. "Cheap Thrills" has everything you could want in a gritty, grotesque thriller, with some extremely dark comedic undertones to boot. Supported by some very convincing acting and writing, this movie certainly delivered a unique viewing experience.

The premise of "Cheap Thrills" is rather relatable; A mid 20s man struggles to pay the bills for his wife and young son, and finds himself facing eviction from his apartment. After then losing his job, he seeks an out at a local bar where he reunites with an old friend from high school. Here, the two old friends meet a rather precarious couple who seemingly like to party hard. The couple puts the two friends up to some friendly dares for big money, with each dare pushing the boundaries that the men are willing to endure. Soon things aren't so friendly anymore, and the two friends find themselves in an all out war to compete for the couple's money. The reason I found "Cheap Thrills" so relatable is simple; the right amount of money can sway even the most reasonable people to do the most unthinkable things. People are capable of doing unbelievable things when faced with survival, and "Cheap Thrills" captures that essence perfectly. This movie is a dark, twisted take on the human condition, and what we as people deem important in society.

The writing in "Cheap Thrills" is solid, but what really made it come to life was the acting. I've seen Pat Healy in a few previous works(Magnolia, Rescue Dawn), but I will always remember him for this film. Watching his character, Craig, progress through the movie is quite incredible, as you see a seemingly normal and level headed man consistently test his personal boundaries to ensure his family's wellbeing. Ethan Embry, whom I had not heard of prior to seeing this, also delivers a very impressive performance as Craig's friend from high school, Vince. It's obvious Vince has lived a rough life since his high school days, and Embry does a magnificent job portraying those nuances. David Koechner, whom i've mostly seen working in comedy, is solid as the wealthy party man, and showed me that he has some range in this film. Sara Paxton's character, Violet, is pretty forgettable, which seemed by design. She has very few lines and seems to serve mostly as sex appeal. Overall, however, the acting is very good throughout, as it needs to be in my opinion to make such a crazy story seem plausible.

"Cheap Thrills" is one of the most unique movies i've seen in a while, and managed to capture the despair and greed that people endure in life perfectly. While shocking, and sometimes grotesque, "Cheap Thrills" is also very approachable and relatable. The characters in this movie seem very human, and I think many who watch this will find themselves connected to these people in some way despite how twisted the subject material can be. At it's core, "Cheap Thrills" is about the everyday man, and what he is willing to do for the right amount of money. With one of the most shocking finishes i've seen in a while, this movie will also have you thinking well after it's conclusion. I wouldn't recommend this to those who have a weak stomach or don't enjoy taboo material. This movie is meant to be shocking, so if that isn't your thing, I probably wouldn't recommend it. For those who enjoy the twisted and extreme, however, this movie will be right up your alley.

For some great acting and awesomely unique subject material, I give "Cheap Thrills" an impressive 8/10. I really didn't expect this kind of experience.
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Cheap Thrills - Quite a surprise
eamonnshadokarafferty14 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
We meet Craig, a family man that has just lost his job and gets a eviction notice and decides to hit up a bar to delay facing the music with his wife at home. There he meets old friend Vince, whom he hasn't seen in five years and begin catching up on what they've been up to since the they last seen each other then they encountered a married couple, Colin and Violet, who get them a few drinks and show off their obscene amount of wealth in doing so and they engage the two friends in a series of dares in exchange for money over the course of the evening, which at first is all in light hearted fun but soon takes a more darker and sinister turn as the stakes are raised and desperation of what the two friends need becomes more apparent.

Well this is certainly a ballsy film. Ballsy in the fact that the 'villains', except for the one moment that Colin and Violet are threatened as Craig and Vince try to rob the money from them, they literally don't do ANYTHING to these days other than plant the seeds for them to make their own choice, it's the greed…desperation if you will of the money on offer that corrupts them and eventually pits them against each other as the friendship between Craig and Vince is used as ammunition against one another as the night goes on that takes them to breaking point.

The power aspect comes from Colin and Violet being able to buy their way out of any situation and also show that they aren't stupid millionaires splashing their cash in sake of a long night of 'I dare' games for their cheap thrills when they're under attack.

Not going to lie, I still just see Koechner as Champ from the Anchorman films and here I just see him as a darker version of that character without the 'WHAMMY' catchphrases and such but he plays this role well and is a good serious actor. Paxton does well as the mostly silent birthday girl Violet who mostly speaks whispering sweet ideas to Craig throughout the film. Ethan Embry does a good job as Vince but the standout actor that we see do a complete 180 throughout this film is from this shy guy to someone that is willing to do anything to get the money to provide for his family and that is Pat Healy.

Simple story that's executed pretty well. Good performances from the cast though the overall do anything for cash method may get too gory and far fetched for some people as the film goes along. Will be a hidden gem in the 2014 film year, in my opinion.
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Simply Intense and Surprisingly Smart.
Gregor_8131 March 2014
I did not expect to like this movie, but It slowly pulled me in with it's desperation, humor, horror, and ethical dilemmas.

Cheap Thrills has a little story, but it's big in suspense, intrigue, and insanity.

This movie excels at dark humor. Although the story becomes increasingly ridiculous, the character reactions are grounded enough that it makes the mayhem seem entirely plausible.

There's also a subtle depth to the movie that begs to be explored. It's thought provoking while being mostly entertaining.
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Best film of the year
grimesy_jnr1 September 2013
I saw this film as part of The Melbourne International Film Festival and needless to say i am so happy this was on my list. I wasn't really sure what to expect with this film. The summary on MIFF was telling me it was a dark comedy yet the trailer gave me none of that. Don't you hate that? When they sell a film completely out of context. Same thing happened with You're next (Horror/comedy) another film i saw at MIFF which i loved too but the trailers sold it completely as a horror. back to the film though 2 guys with financial troubles bump into each other at a bar and coincidentally meet a rich man and his wife who give them money for dares. As the night continues the stakes continue to rise and so does the money. A pretty simple idea that was executed extremely well. Pat Healy is fantastic in his role as Craig And massive props to David Koechner. I didn't know you could make such dark material hilarious. I'm not going to give anything else away just take my word and go see it. I know this movie had a limited release but if it turns up on DVD or online somewhere just watch it already.
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No matter what I'd pay you to shut it off... I bet you won't
bob_meg6 July 2014
Cheap Thrills is the stuff Indie debut wet dreams are made of.

It's got a completely off the hook storyline that's morbidly repugnant yet utterly transfixing; painfully vivid characters that you become almost instantly attached to; performances that are as natural and unstaged as they come; AND it has something accurate and meaningful to say to us in the bargain.

Is it as nasty and gore-ridden as you've heard? Yeah, probably --- but it'll speed by faster than any movie you're likely to see all year. And that's not due to the number of severed limbs, dead animals, or crushed skulls that accumulate in the process, either.

In Evan Katz's first feature, which hangs gleefully on a diabolical script by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, the real wreckage is emotional and spiritual. The victims? Mild-mannered everyman Craig (Pat Healy) and his long-lost high school bud Vince (Ethan Embry) who run into each other at a sleazy bar. Craig's just been axed from his job at a quick lube joint on the same day he and his wife and child are given notice they'll be tossed from their motel-room like apartment. Vince is a small-time thug who's merely "getting by" until his next inevitable larceny or strong-arm job.

The predators are Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), two obscenely wealthy LA layabouts who get their kicks dangling thousands of dollars in front of our two protagonists, baiting them with dares that are ever more risky, repulsive, dangerous, violent, and lethal.

It all sounds very much like an idea for a left-over Saw installment, and it could have been if the script and performances weren't so strong. In Cheap Thrills, the real pain comes not from the frequent graphic gross-outs but from the visceral evidence of the sick (and indisputable) power money has to destroy almost anything in its path. Even though Craig and Vince haven't seen each other in five years, they both carry an extreme amount of baggage that's pried ever looser as they compete for something less than the cost of a new luxury car. Their rivalry begins with subtle taunts, segues to ominous threats, and eventually explodes into irrevocable violence.

In the meantime, Koechner and Paxton drop just enough engaging hints about the well-heeled sadists they portray to make them more than intriguing cyphers.

From an acting standpoint, this film is flawless. Pat Healy shows depths of pain and rage that are sometimes difficult to sit through, while Ethan Embry (a long way from his toasted record store clerk, Mark, of Empire Records) retains a smart-ass gravitas favorably reminiscent of Aaron Paul's Jesse Pinkman from "Breaking Bad."

No, what Katz is telling us with this film is not news. It is not clever or earthshaking. But it's truth. Hard, ruthless, often ugly truth. If you're looking for merely something cheap and thrilling, I'd pass.
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Entertainment does not have to be expensive
kosmasp3 December 2013
While there have been similar movies with that theme, I did like this one very much. It did go down very well with the Frightfest audience as well. It is a little independent movie with a nice idea and some really good actors in it. While at first I felt sad to see Sara Paxton play this character, I have to admit, she's doing a great job once again, playing off nicely with the other actors.

It's not many people that are involved and it's almost like a play (or it could be). But it works and you never think too much about it, because the setting and the people involved in it are far too interesting for you to catch onto that "trick". It may be a bit predictable, but that doesn't make it less "fun" (my definition of the word might be put under scrutiny, but we're talking about a movie here).

Relax, sit back and enjoy ...
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Worth a Watch
poundoffleshband20 March 2014
I had no idea what to expect with this film. It's a decent story with two men who are both pretty much going bankrupt meeting each other while drinking at the bar and then they end up making some money they desperately need when a rich guy starts offering them cash in exchange for performing different challenges for his and his wife's amusement. The money keeps going up to get them to do more and more things that get bigger and ever crazier.

The best part of the movie is David Koechner's performance, he is really hilarious.

Worth seeing but don't bother buying it or paying to see it at the theatre, it's just Okay.
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Fantastic little film, can't wait to watch it again!
rwunder16 November 2013
Saw this movie at the Chicago International Film Festival with a buddy and I've been thinking about it ever since. I mean that in a good way. Before I continue, I would like to make clear that this movie isn't so much a horror film as it is a very dark comedy and the less you know going into this film, the better. It contains some good surprises and twists not to be spoiled.

At the screening, the main actor was present and told the audience that it was OK to laugh. That little piece of advice was invaluable. It is worth noting that this movie won the Audience choice award at the SXSW film fest and I can confirm that it was well received in Chicago (based on audience laughter and applause). The premise is simple, but the execution, writing, and acting are complex and flawlessly executed; the combination of these elements were absolutely key to making this an enjoyable watch.

The film walked a very fine line and flirted more than once with turning into a twisted, gross mess, but it made the choice to stay true to the original premise and to the characters and in doing so it kept the attention of the audience. David Koechner's character was especially pivotal in performing this role. He delivers a fantastic performance and is perfectly cast in this. The three other primary actors also do an excellent job in their performances; they all were extremely challenging roles with lots of subtlety and depth. If you are into dark - very dark - comedies that push the limits of what is decent and right, you will find a well done and enjoyable flick here. But be forewarned, there are a number of grimace worthy moments in this one so it's better watching with an equally twisted friend.
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This film is not a comedy but that doesn't mean you shouldn't watch it...
death-hawk16 June 2014
Why this film is labelled with the genre of comedy unfathomable to me. It is all thriller. A tense, dark and ultimately disturbing film. I'm sure if it had been made differently it could easily have been funnier but in its current format it contains no mirth whatsoever.

The plot of the film is undoubtedly summarised in other reviews and by IMDb itself so I won't waste your time here. I will say that it escalates slower than I might have liked and ends abruptly and shockingly a short while after things had gotten very tense and I had started to pay proper attention and sit on the edge of my seat in anticipation.

I enjoyed this film but it is probably not something I would watch again. I will however be on the look out for more films by E. L. Katz as if they're anything like this then they're going to be just as dark and stomach twisting. A thrill ride if ever there was one.
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Cheap Thrills is an excellent thriller
Argemaluco25 December 2014
Cheap Thrills is an excellent film with brilliant performances, solid direction and a clever screenplay which brings a potent message about human condition, combined with such black humor that it's difficult for us to determine whether we have to laugh or cry at the display of sadism and perversion portrayed. I generally don't like "home invasion" films, in which a group of thugs tortures innocent people without a reason. Fortunately, Cheap Thrills isn't one of those movies; or it might be, but inverting the roles of heroes and villains. Instead of being invaders, the friends Craig and Vince let themselves be conducted to Colin's mansion, where the brutality of the "gambles" is incremented to inhuman levels. And as spectators/accomplices, we witness the domestic drama developed under the guise of a game with a combination of fascination and repulsion. Cheap Thrills plunges us into the characters' mental manipulation, leaving us with the question: "What would we do in their place?". I guess that every person will have to carry with the weight of his/her answer. Regarding the less controversial aspects of the film, director E.L. Katz could perfectly achieve an atmosphere of anguish and suspense without employing any tiring stylish tricks which infest many modern thrillers. And despite being quite a short film, there's enough narrative expertise to efficiently portray the main characters' nature, something which brings credibility to the most extreme scenes. The actors make an excellent work in their roles, highlighting David Koechner, who manages to bring a simultaneously affable and dangerous attitude to his character, and Sara Paxton, who doesn't need too many words to transmit the complexity and nuances of her character. In conclusion, Cheap Thrills is a brilliant thriller, and it definitely deserves an enthusiastic recommendation, mainly because of its audacity and expertise to keep us fascinated and very entertained with such a demoralizing and pessimistic story.
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What "Would You Rather" should have been.
TheBarleyGuy7 June 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This one … is a little bit different. I would call this a funnier version of the recent release "Would You Rather". It definitely lingers over in the Black Comedy territory, and is a pretty dark movie indeed.

A scheming couple put a struggling family man and his old friend through a series of increasingly twisted dares over the course of an evening at a local bar.

A pretty straight forward premise that delivers a pretty watchable movie. The characters are pretty likable considering the horrible things they do to each other. And a small cast, Pat Healy (The Innkeepers) and David Koechner (Anchorman) deliver some pretty solid performances, and over all they have a pretty engaging chemistry with each other.

The movie is definitely dark, and a few (one) of the places it goes it seems to go just for the shock value. If you're not one who deals with dead animals well in movies, this would be one to avoid. You don't see anything happen to the dog, but it still manages to make you think you have.

All in all though, the movie is effective and pulls the story off quite well. Better (in my opinion) than Would You Rather did.

It's very violent, gets pretty bleak, and still manages to be funny somehow.

I don't have a ton more to say about this one, it's pretty straight forward. If it's the kind of movie you enjoy, then you'll like it. I personally liked it, and would like to say check it out. It's well shot, slick and fast.

Watch it, or don't.

Final Grade : B

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"Got to play by the rules, guys."
classicsoncall18 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
It's not often one comes across a film that's entirely original in concept, so that's the starting point with this one. You have to wonder what kind of twisted mind comes up with these things, but you have to admit, the story line is unpredictable and shocking, with two of the principal characters involved in an expanding high stakes game that threatens to turn deadly at any turn. What intrigued me was the dynamic that developed between long time buddies Craig (Pat Healy) and Vince (Ethan Embry) when the prize money offered by Colin (David Koechner) began to escalate. They begin to turn against each other, to the point of negotiating the payoffs in order to gain a seeming advantage with their benefactor. Vince in particular couldn't handle the early successes of his rival, and it was disconcerting to see him resort to some of the tactics he thought would gain him an advantage. What's never made clear is how Colin ever acquired so much money that he treated it like water; that might have added another dimension to the story. Along with wife Violet's (Sara Paxton) seeming disregard for everything going on, the film moves along to a point of no return that turns both players into monsters, no longer capable of making rational judgments because of their lust for money. If your tastes go for the outlandish, this might be the flick for you, best summed up by coke snorting Vince when things start to get really hairy - "This is some weird-ass sh.., man!" I think you'll come to the same conclusion.
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