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Cheap Thrills: A Most Dangerous Game

March 28, 2014

Cheap Thrills movie poster

Cheap Thrills is the story of a down on his luck man who is drawn into a night of insanity. Pleasant it ain’t but it has an organic nastiness that doesn’t feel forced. It is a confidently directed trip down a rabbit hole of twisted human nature.

I was drawn to Cheap Thrills because of its distributor.  Drafthouse films is a Texas theater company who’ve been releasing risky films and documentaries like The Act of Killing, Bullhead, Miami Connection, The FP, Four Lions, A Field in England, Klown and The ABCs of Death. Their films have an indie pedigree that I enjoy so I knew Cheap Thrills had something to offer.

Cheap Thrills carries the Alamo flag (89% RT) successfully and it is the epitome of the Drafthouse motto:

Destroying the barriers between grindhouse and art-house

The barriers are coming down as this violent little film is beginning to collect widespread media attention (Grantland loved Cheap Thrills). Recently, it won the midnighter madness award at SXSW and has been making the rounds around the big media outlets such as EW and Forbes.

Director E.L. Katz who formerly wrote for Fangoria does a great job of capturing the claustrophobia, humor and horror of the situation. He draws strong performances from the cast and elevates the material to where even the most conservative of critic appreciates the work. The film can be frustrating and vague but I think that will only further discussion and leave more to the imagination of the viewer. It leaves you with questions in which there are no easy answers.

The film centers around a man having a very bad day. Pat Healy (Innkeepers) is drinking away his problems one night after losing his job. He is close to eviction and has to figure out how to provide for his family. He is about to leave when he bumps into an old friend played by Ethan Embry (Empire Records, Can’t Hardly Wait). The two catch up and their dialogue does a good job of defining the two soon to be hurting characters.

Cheap Thrills Ethan Embry

Eventually, they are invited to join up with David Koechner (Anchorman) and his trophy wife Sara Paxton (Innkeepers, Shark Night) and it all gets weird. The husband and wife are celebrating her birthday and they start throwing money away like nothing. They bring the two men into their betting games and the wheels of doom are set in motion.

It starts with a tequila drinking contest for $50. Then, whoever gets slapped first by a woman gets $200. The dares escalate (holding breath, revenge on neighbors, peeing on shoes) and it all culminates to a doozy of a final shot.

The movie has a nasty streak that will alienate many but capture a solid cult following. It wears you out but it doesn’t drain you with depravity. It walks a tight rope of gore and despair but manages to not fall into a nothingness abyss. David Koechner and Sara Paxton remain mysterious throughout as we never get any revelations about them. Are they really a couple? Have they done this before? The questions are welcome because it leaves you to come up with the answers.

Cheap Thrills is not for everyone. However, it is a fantastic genre piece that will garner a huge cult audience and push Alamo films to the next level of art-house grindhouse.

 

 

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. March 31, 2014 10:20 am

    The cast alone is what sold me on this movie. Glad to read that it doesn’t go too deep with it’s gore, but that it still is shocking. Great review

    • March 31, 2014 10:34 am

      Thanks! It could have been a crazy, gory and depressing story. However, it is told well. It walks a really fine line. Glad Alamo picked it up.

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