Saturday, July 05, 2014

Penny Thoughts ‘14—Cheap Thrills (2014) ***

NR, 88 min.
Director: E.L. Katz
Writers: David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga
Starring: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner

E.L. Katz’s “Cheap Thrills” is a very dark movie indeed. It involves a man played by Pat Healy, whom horror enthusiasts might remember from Ti West’s “The Innkeepers”. He finds himself in a desperate financial situation. He has a new child and has just received an eviction notice on his apartment door. He loses his job and finds himself in a bar where he runs into an old friend. They share a few drinks and are asked to share a few more by an eccentric couple who seem to have money to spare.

After a time the couple brings them back to their house overlooking the Valley and the couple proposes a game where the two men must compete for money by doing whatever they are asked by the couple. Katz’s script is very convincing in establishing how the men feel desperate enough to accept this offer. It helps that the couple has already paid up on a few bets that seemed off hand at first.

As I said, and can’t iterate enough, this is some very dark stuff. There was a moment when I had trouble not skipping ahead to a less disturbing scene in the movie. His cast is very well chosen and plays their roles well. Sara Paxton, who plays the woman, is also from West’s “The Innkeepers”. While David Koechner—better known for his comedic roles in movies like “Anchorman”—plays the man of the couple. He’s a good choice here, since his almost buffoonish nature makes it seem like he’s not really capable of really harming these men. Koechner always seems to carry an air of concealed intelligence beneath his buffoonery, and it serves the film well here.

“Cheap Thrills” is not for the weak of stomach. You might think twice about anything you ever eat again. Many people might wonder what the point could possibly be for this type of “entertainment.” It explores the fringes of our human nature. Just where can desperation lead us? The movie succeeds by making us believe that it is possible for people to dig this deep into their own darkness.

Warning! In case you didn't catch it in the review, this is some very dark stuff, so even the trailer is only for adults.

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