A first time director, a vicious, violent script, and a 14 day shoot. It could have easily been a disaster. However, the short shooting time produced electric performances, the script (by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga) provided emotional, philosophical depth, and director E.L. Katz had a clear vision, which was executed damn-near to perfection. Cheap Thrills is sometimes hard to watch, but it’s impossible to turn away. Long story short, Pat Healy plays Craig, a married man with a baby who has just lost his job doing oil changes and is about to be evicted from their tiny apartment. While having a beer before going home and telling his wife (Amanda Fuller) what happened, he runs into an old high-school friend, Vince (played by a nearly unrecognizable Ethan Embry) who makes his living breaking bones and collecting gambling debts. The two friends are lured into a series of bets by rich strangers Colin (David Koechner in a role that is both funny and frightening at the same time) and his wife Violet (Sara Paxton in an Innkeepers reunion with Healy) as they celebrate her birthday. A series of bets that get more and more disturbed — and profitable — as the night goes on. They’re not really bets, though. They’re more like dares or reality-TV-inspired challenges designed to break down the participants both physically and emotionally, until finally reaching a bleakly nihilistic endgame that just sucks the breath out of you. But it’s also pretty damned funny. The chemistry these actors bring to the screen is at once believable and enthralling, especially Healy’s Craig — a man who slowly realizes he has everything to gain if he just gives in, abandons his pride and morality, and plays the game. Embry is a ball of violent anticipation, ready to explode at any moment; pure id looking for his one big break. Koechner’s Colin is loud, friendly, ridiculously free with his money, and most likely a psychopath. But the small tender moments he shares with Paxton as Violet really set his performance apart. And Paxton is hypnotic to watch; virtually emotionless on the surface until exposed to the brutal truths underlying Craig’s and Vince’s friendship. She doesn’t cut herself to feel something, she pays other people to cut themselves to feel something. I’m not surprised that there was a bidding war for this film after it premiered as SXSW last year (Drafthouse Films won out). It’s a simple, but ruthless piece of social criticism that cuts right to the heart of contemporary culture without forgetting that its first job is to horrify and entertain. It’s successful in the same way the You’re Next or Big Bad Wolves was successful. By playing on your expectations, layering in some absurd humor, and then punching you in the guts when you’re not looking. I kind of loved this movie. Cheap Thrills (2013)4.0Overall ScoreShare this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Top Ten Favorite 2014 Crime Thrillers - Psycho Drive-In January 30, 2015 […] skip previews and get right to it and I’m definitely glad I didn’t the day I found out about Cheap Thrills. The premise is quite simple: What would you do for money? We’ve all heard it. “I’ll give you […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.