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  Cheap Thrills How Far Is Too Far?
Year: 2013
Director: E.L. Katz
Stars: Pat Healy, Sara Paxton, Ethan Embry, David Koechner, Amanda Fuller, Laura Covelli, Todd Farmer, Elissa Dowling, Eric Neil Guterriez, Ruben Pla, Claudia Salinas, Brighton Sharbino, Eli McLaughlin
Genre: Horror, Comedy, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Aspiring writer Craig Daniels (Pat Healy) has had better days. This one started out fair, as he woke in bed with his wife Audrey (Amanda Fuller) and they began to get amorous, but were interrupted by the sound of the alarm, and he had to be ready for work. After feeding the baby, and bidding his spouse goodbye he received his first bombshell of the day: there was a notice on the door of his apartment informing him he would be evicted today, and the fact is he doesn't have the forty-five thousand dollars necessary to pay his debt. If that wasn't bad enough, when he does arrive at his job as a mechanic he is told it will be his last day as he is being fired, so couldn't raise the money even if he wanted to. His next stop? A local bar to drown his sorrows...

So what do you do if the funds have run out and you're in a dead end situation, besides pray for a miracle? Maybe a miracle is just around the corner in this bleakly comical thriller, though not all of those come without a price to pay, and the script from Trent Haaga and David Chichirillo was intent on illustrating what would happen to the truly desperate in a manner that must have resonated with a sizeable proportion of the audience who recognised that they too could do with a lot more in their bank accounts than their present situation granted them. This being released at the time of a global recession, it was difficult not to put yourself in Craig's place and see how far you would go for a more comfortable existence.

This was director E.L. Katz's directorial debut as far as features went, having trained himself in a number of short works, and he must have been gratified that the general reaction was hey, this is down and dirty and all those nasty things that grab the attention of a certain section of the moviegoing audience, but far from being cheap it really earned its credentials as a novel thriller which took its single idea through to its logical conclusion. If you could call what Craig and the old friend Vince (Ethan Embry) he meets in that bar get up to logical, as no sooner has he spilled out his guts to the long lost pal, who is more of a waster than he will ever be but still has managed to stay reasonably solvent, than another pair of characters enter the frame: characters with moolah.

They were Colin and Violet, played by David Koechner, his not always well hidden sleazier persona well-exploited in this role, and Sara Paxton, who was at this point fast becoming a poster girl for indie efforts with an interesting edginess. They claim to be husband and wife, and while she doesn't say much until it is absolutely necessary, he is the gregarious type, or it could be the effects of the cocaine he regularly snorts which is making him spend money like water. It quickly becomes apparent Colin is a gambling man, yet you never get the impression that he has anything to lose, not even when the tables are turned, so when he begins to offer dollars for japes and hijinks the two friends must carry out - their choice entirely, but they could do with the bonuses - he is always in control.

You could see how Cheap Thrills would just as effectively operate as a theatrical play, given there are really only four main characters and most of the action is confined to one or two settings, the bar and the home of the rich couple. The notion that anyone will do anything for money, that everyone has their price, was not exactly a new one, and it was possible to regard this as a cross between John Waters' Pink Flamingos where the characters are urged into fresh depths of degradation, and The Magic Christian, the adaptation of Terry Southern's cult classic novel which demonstrated what suckers people were when some bills were waved under their noses. Skirting close to outright horror movie territory, this had a few laughs thanks to just how low everyone was willing to go, yet that plot was more likely to hold you in something approximating rapt attention as the script devised suitably inventive bets for Craig and Vince to debase themselves with. By the end, the only surprise is that it went where it appeared to be going in the first place. Music by Mads Heldtberg.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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