USA | 2013 | Directed by E. L. Katz
Logline: A mild-mannered man out on his luck reluctantly humours a reunion with an old buddy only to find himself embroiled in the lucrative game playing of a wealthy couple.
I missed this dark gem at last year’s Sydney Film Festival where it screened as part of the Freak Me Out section (and I wish I'd got to see it with a late night cinema crowd). Finally I get to see what all the fuss is about, and I can very happily agree that Cheap Thrills is as brilliant as I’d heard it was. A black eye comedy as perverse as it is entertaining, as clever as it is simplistic. It slaps your funny bone and kicks yer ass into the middle of next week. Boom! Whack! Tish!
E. L. Katz is good mates with Adam Wingard and Ti West, and the three directors share a similar penchant for inventive fiendishness. I’m not much of a fan of Wingard’s work, and although I loved West’s The House of the Devil, I was very disappointed by You’re Next. Katz, on the other hand, has raised the bar. Cheap Thrills is easily one of my favourite movies of the year, and up with Sightseers as the best black comedy/horror of the past ten years.
But it’s not just Katz dynamic direction, and the fantastic performances he gets from his cast of four leads; Pat Healy as hapless Craig, Ethan Embry as his dodgy old pal Vince, David Koechner as scheming Colin, (and who threatens to steal the entire movie), or Sara Paxton (who was great in West’s disappointing The Innkeepers) as Colin’s dark filly Violet. The screenplay to Cheap Thrills is a fucking corker. David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga (who penned the irritating, but compelling Deadgirl) have written an instant cult classic.
Craig’s having the day from hell; an eviction notice on his front door, then he’s let go from work. Whilst drowning his sorrows in a beer, plucking up courage to face his wife and toddler, he’s grappled by an old buddy from his more reckless days of youth gone by. Vince is an ex-con, but he seems to mean well. Hey, one more beer for the road … Enter Colin and Violet, the couple with a serious agenda for fun. Yup, there’ll be plenty of tears before bedtime. Tears of laughter, tears of pain.
Cheap thrills, indeed. Such a witty, bang-on title. This modestly-budgeted, well-paced morality tale has more stings than a fierce wasp, and the buzz is well-deserved. I can’t stop thinking about how fucking good this movie is. Sure, it’s far-fetched, but, and here’s where the script and direction jump in bed and roger hard, Katz and his small cast nail the dialogue and scenes with a furious bam! Thunk! Crack!
Vulgar and gruesome (oh yes, I winced, grimaced, and gagged), Cheap Thrills is the most reckless, hilarious, twisted night you’ve had in a long time. Leave your sensibilities at the door, grab a bottle of top-shelf tequila, prepare to be knocked to the floor.
Cheap Thrills is courtesy of Madman Entertainment, many thanks!