Cheap Thrills (2014) Review

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Rated: R

85 mins.

Written by: Trent Haaga, David Chirchirillo

Directed by: E.L. Katz

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Cheap Thrills premiered at the South By Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in 2013, and there was a day-long auction that took place for rights to the film in a rare bidding war after the festival was over.  So was the film worth all the early hype?  I left the film with mixed feelings, so I guess the answer is… kind of?

First off, I felt like the trailer revealed a little to much about the events of the film, which is something that annoys the hell out of me.  The movie follows a man (Pat Healy) who loses his job and is facing eviction, so of course he decides to drown his worries down with some alcohol.  While there he bumps into an old high school friend (Ethan Embry) who joins him, and before they know it they are joined by the sadistic couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) who give them money for completing certain tasks.

Eventually, as the night goes on the game becomes more twisted, challenging not only both of their friendships but also their morality codes when it comes to the greed of money.  So as you can see the movie has a great concept and also a talented main cast, but unfortunately there are also some things about the film that aren’t as great.  If the morbid concept appeals to you like it did to me, however, many of these faults can be overlooked.

 

Positives:

Entertaining Concept.  Cheap Thrills is basically triple dog dare but taken to the extremes.  Personally, if I was as rich as the couple in this film, doing something like this would be something I might consider doing.  The fact that this couple is so rich that the husband has run out of things to buy his wife on her birthday and has to result to this for ‟cheap thrills‟, and the other two are poor and willing to do anything for money is just a fantastic concept.  There were so many entertaining directions this film could have taken.

Fast Moving.   There was never a time during Cheap Thrills run-time in which I became bored.  As a matter of fact, an hour went by of the movie and it felt like only twenty-minutes had gone by.  The main joy about going to see a movie, and the reason why I find movies to be an invaluable part of American life, is cinema’s ability to make us forget about our real-life problems and get invested in someone else’s problems, even if it’s only for 90 minutes.  In this way, the movie succeeds.

Good Morbid Fun.  If the term Morbidly Amusing was a genre of film than this movie would definitely be classified as such.   Cheap Thrills is darkly amusing and features a scenario that becomes more morbid as the events proceed, eventually culminating in acts of bloody violence.  If that doesn’t sound like a good amount of fun to you, than what are you doing on a website titled: Morbidly Amusing.  I would love to play a couple of drinking games with David Koechner after watching this film, sounds like a bloody fun time!

 

Negatives: 

Not Much Beyond Initial Concept.  Usually when you go to see a great movie you expect a little bit of substance beyond just the initial concept, except if maybe its a slasher film or a  stoner comedy.  But the title Cheap Thrills turns out to be the perfect title for this movie because it is about little more than just cheap thrills.  The trailer also reveals too much about the film, which not only shows the concept of the film, but also many of the thrills that you should be anticipating seeing.  If you can, avoid the trailer and you will be able to fully enjoy this fun little popcorn film.

Unlikable Characters.  One of my biggest problems with the movie had to do with the fact that all of the characters were generally unlikable.  This wouldn’t have been a problem if only the main character, Craig, was sympathetic and likable.  But, besides the fact that I know he has a family and money problems, I just didn’t feel any sort of investment in his  character.   Also, the friendship between Craig and his old college friend seemed to be paper thin to begin with, so there wasn’t any real meaning between them turning on each other later on in the film.  If I was more invested in the characters than maybe I would have cared more about what happened to them at the end and how far they would end up going to make a quick buck.

 

Cheap Thrills did not live up to its early hype, but very few movies do.  If you’re looking for a meaningful movie about greed and characters that you can sympathize with, look somewhere else.   But if you’re just looking for a morbidly twisted movie that will maintain your attention for 90 minutes, than this movie is the one for you.  Also, if you want the events that happen in this movie to be fresh and unexpected, avoid watching the trailer.   If I ever become filthy rich and I have run out of things to buy, I would definitely follow in the footsteps of David Koechner’s character and mess around with a couple of poor people just to see how far they would go.  After all, there is a reason that they call me Dr. Morbid.

7.5/10