Cheap Thrills, the first feature length film by director E.L Katz, is an interesting little gem. 3 of the 4 main actors are horror alumni and bring a world-weary and compelling feel to the movie. At 1 hour and 28 minutes the story unfolds at a brisk pace. While it may be compared to two other recent films, Would you Rather and You’re Next, Cheap Thrills is markedly superior in terms of letting the audience feel like a voyeur in this macabre game.
The story gives us a glimpse at a day in the life of Craig, played by Pat Healy of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Innkeepers and the superb Compliance. Craig leaves his flat that he shares with his wife and toddler to find an eviction notice on his door. At his job as a mechanic, he is given a pink slip. Feeling defeated and not wanting to go home midday to face his wife, he heads to a bar. While drowning his sorrows with a stiff drink, an old friend of Craigs’ from high school wanders in. Vince was pals with Craig and they haven’t seen each other in 5 years. As they are reminiscing , Craig confesses to Vince about the day he is having . Craig uses the restroom, where he encounters a coked-up Colin, played by Saturday Night Live and Anchorman alumni David Koechner. Colin does some lines with a rolled up hundred dollar bill, which he then tosses into the toilet. Craig fishes out the money and returns to the bar to find that Vince has cozied up to Colin and his wife Violet, played by Sarah Paxton of The Innkeepers and the Last House on the Left remake. Colin and Violet are nouveau-riche yuppies out looking for adventure and celebrating Violets birthday. They have money to burn and while the four of them drink together Colin approaches the guys about doing dares for money. They start out innocuous enough, harass this woman, get that one to smack you by being rude and the like. When the party moves to a strip club, the ante is upped. Once the group goes to Colin and Violets house, the dares become more sordid and depraved. Vince is angry that Craig is earning more money and as the dares move into darker territory the scene and atmosphere changes.
The cinematography and lighting aspects are very well done and give us a fly on the wall view of the events. The movie does get quite gory and there is an off screen death of an animal. To say much more would be giving too much away. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and look forward to seeing more things from this director. Give it a watch and let me know your thoughts. Happy viewing.
Cheap Thrills is out now on DVD, and on Netflix (US).