Cinema Review: Cheap Thrills | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Friday, March 5th, 2021  

Cheap Thrills

Studio: Drafthouse Films
Directed by E.L. Katz

Mar 18, 2014 Web Exclusive
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Craig is a failed writer and new father who just lost his day job and can’t make his rent. During a night of remorseful drinking, he runs into his old high school buddy, Vince, now a low-rent criminal. The pair befriend an extravagantly wealthy and fun-loving couple, Colin and Violet, who rope them into a series of escalating dares and bets that progress from hilarious to disgusting to sadistic as the night goes on.

It’s unlikely that Cheap Thrills represents some ground-breaking new direction in the horror sub-genre affectionately known as ‘torture porn,’’ but if The Human Centipede represents the absurd, self-aware apex of the form, then Cheap Thrills is a clever and entertaining afterthought. At a lean eighty minutes, the film makes the most of its premise and small cast, zipping from low-budget drama to sick black comedy to gruesome thriller, rarely missing a step along the way. First-time director E. L. Katz sets his sights on the midnight movie demographic and never wavers, alternating humor and revulsion at a minute-to-minute pace. The film loses a bit of steam at the finish line, attempting to impart a deep, dramatic resolution that isn’t quite earned in the first hour, derailing the carefully calibrated tone found in horror/comedy classics like An American Werewolf in London or Shaun of the Dead

As the heart of the film, Pat Healy and a nearly unrecognizable Ethan Embry are believable as two faded friends turned sudden enemies, but the films’ greatest asset is David Koechner as the cheerfully depraved Colin. Smartly using audience expectations based on Koechner’s previous comedy work to both bolster the humor and subvert expectations, Colin remains entertaining and likable even as he reveals himself to be an unquestionable monster. Sara Paxton embodies a note-perfect balance to his motor-mouthed insanity as his nearly mute, perpetually bored wife. Together they do an excellent job of keeping the protagonists and the audience in their seats, as much as they may want to run for the hills.

Author rating: 7/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10


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