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Movie Review: ‘Cheap Thrills’

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If there’s one production company I’m keeping my eye on, it’s Snoot Entertainment. After the likes of You’re Next, V/H/S/2, and The Guest, I knew I was going to enjoy the show when I saw their logo pop up as Cheap Thrills began. Their movies are always chock-full of blood and laughs in equal measure and E.L. Katz’s Cheap Thrills measures up in just about every regard. With a game cast, the film escalates quickly with each scenario to the only logical conclusion, never cheating the audience. It’s garnering a cult following after playing the festival rounds including its premiere at SXSW, and is currently sitting at 100% Fresh on RottenTomatoes. Is it really that good? I think so, while certainly not perfect, the 88-minute runtime makes sure to keep things lean and mean, offering enough thrills while never feeling cheap.

CheapThrillsPicCraig (Pat Healy) is having a really bad day. After finding an eviction notice on his apartment door, he’s laid off from work and hits the bar on way home. Craig runs into Vince (Ethan Embry), an old high school friend he hasn’t seen in five years. After catching up, Craig comes clean with Vince about his recent misfortune, but both of their luck is about to change when they come across Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), a couple out celebrating her birthday. Colin and Violet like to bet each other on things like whether a man at the bar checks out a woman’s chest or behind, and ask the estranged friends to join them in the celebration. Soon enough, the betting starts to ramp up as they move camps from the bar to a strip club, back to Colin’s house. Now, Craig and Vince are in over their heads, with $250,000 up for grabs to whoever can one-up the other in a fight to the finish.

The cast members are having a ball as the one-upmanship mounts, with Healy and Embry willing to do anything on camera to win the grand prize. Let’s just say the neighbor’s dog eventually comes into play and Colin has seen some outrageous menu items in his worldly travels. Paxton even throws caution to the wind in an impromptu sex scene making it clear why Violet is dressed the way she is. Director Katz, and screenwriters David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, keep things from getting too disgusting you have to stop watching, while still pushing the limits as to how far our contestants are willing to go. It’s one thing to have someone get a pinky chopped off, but even that goes farther than you’d think. The laughs are of the blackest variety and the film won’t be for everyone, in spite of its acclaim, but Cheap Thrills offers a ton of fun and plenty of visuals you won’t soon forget, clearing its path to becoming a new black comedy cult classic.

Photo courtesy Drafthouse Films

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival.