Cheap Thrills (2013)

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Director: E.L. Katz

Stars: Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, Ethan Ebry

Blummin’ expensive thrills!

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.

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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.

David Koechner in Cheap Thrills

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.

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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.

eight-out-of-ten

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