High stakes and tension are on the menu in Cheap Thrills
Desperation brings out the worst in most people, but how far down the rabbit hole will a person go for a lump sum of cash that could turn their lives around? Cheap Thrills is looking to answer that very question.
The film is a black comedy thriller that can be separated into two portions; the first part of the movie relies on humour, the second takes a much darker twist.
Director E.L. Katz makes a strong debut with this film, which centres around four key characters and features both humorous moments and increasingly disturbing scenes.
After being fired from his job and given an eviction notice, family-man Craig (Pat Healy) ventures to a bar where he runs into Vince (Ethan Embry), an old friend with his own financial issues. The strangeness begins when Craig goes to the bathroom, where a mysterious man in a hat has left money in a urinal. Craig finds the money and returns to his table where the mysterious man introduces himself as Colin (played by David Koechner, from the Anchorman films and The Office), along with his wife Violet (Sara Paxton).
Dared by the cheap thrill — get it? — of playing some games for more money, Colin tempts the duo to participate in a series of challenges for an even larger piece of the wealthy pie. Given the dire financial situation of both Craig and Vince, the two friends accept and begin their dark and comical downward spiral.
Koechner as Colin is a brilliant and twisted mind, ready to give away $250,000 on his wife’s birthday because buying her jewelry means nothing to him. Paxton’s Violet, is a cellphone addict with a psychotic edge who lives in an open relationship. Paxton’s performance is surprisingly strong despite her previous acting gigs. It goes to show that appearing in a terrible movie like Shark Night does not mean an acting career is dead.
One of the supporting characters is played by Brighton Sharbino (known for her role as the troubled Lizzie Samuels in The Walking Dead), who plays Luann — the daughter of Colin’s neighbour. She appears in one scene when Vince is trying to accomplish a bet inside her house.
Despite the focus being on a lesser-known crew, the cast of Cheap Thrills is excellent. The chemistry is evident and each member plays their role effectively. Healy easily puts together a believable performance of his character’s hopeless life situation. Embry’s addition as an old friend bearing a grudge is believable and provides the audience with strong acting and excellent delivery.
Cheap Thrills employs a handheld camera, making the movie feel personal to the characters and less like a scripted series of events. The style resembles films like Cloverfield and The Blair Witch Project, but unlike those movies, the camera is kept steady, much like the type used in District 9.
If you are prone to motion sickness, don’t worry — you can keep your brown bag safely tucked away under your seat. The pacing is as strong as the supporting cast, and the movie never dwells too long on a ‘killing joke’.
Cheap Thrills does things differently than the average dark comedy, leaving some existential questions about one’s depravity in the face of the mighty dollar. We learn that there are games that are fun to play and there are those that we would rather commit to forgetting.
Cheap Thrills is currently showing in Cineplex theatres across the city.
With files from Jocelyn Beaudet