CHEAP THRILLS – Fantasia Review
Way back in 1993, the industry was buzzing over the controversial subject matter of INDECENT PROPOSAL. Demi Moore was offered a ton of money to have sexual relations with Robert Redford and we all asked, “What would we do for a million dollars?” This was an intriguing question then and it still is now, but is being paid one million dollars to sleep with another man when your husband agrees to it from the get go really all that taboo by today’s standards?
I say “Hell no! This is 2013 and we want to see some hardcore shit, man!” Thankfully, we have highly principled philosopher filmmakers out there willing to push the envelope and shove our faces in the gritty truth of humanity. I say “Thank you, Mr. Katz! Thank you for showing us how utterly flawed we are and allowing us to enjoy ourselves in the process.” CHEAP THRILLS is exactly what the title suggests and an unfiltered look at our modern moral standards that doesn’t truly settle in until the movie is over and you have sufficient time to digest what has just been seen… and depending on your constitution, possibly also change your shirt.
E.L. Katz wrote, directed and produced CHEAP THRILLS, which is more grind house than full-on horror, as Katz’ history in filmmaking and fandom may otherwise suggest. The story begins innocently enough as Craig, played by Pat Healy, leaves the comfort of his wife’s sexual embrace for another day at work. The moment his front door closes behind him is the moment his life begins to spiral into chaos. Craig’s world is falling apart around him, threatening his family and his home. When he gets to work and learns he’s been downsized, he does what any red-blooded American would do… heads to the local bar to drown his sorrows.
CHEAP THRILLS truly begins at the bar. Craig’s old friend Vince, played by Ethan Embry, shows up and it’s immediately apparent that these two characters no longer have much in common. Craig is a straight-laced family man while Vince never grew up, still parties like its 1999 and makes his living breaking guy’s knees over petty loans. Craig appears weak and defeated by the weight of the world. Vince couldn’t care less, throws caution to the wind. Neither of them is prepared for Colin and Violet.
David Koechner, best known for his role on TV’s THE OFFICE and ANCHORMAN: THE LEGEND OF RON BURGUNDY, carries a surprisingly even performance as Colin, a fun-loving mysterious man throwing money around like its yesterday’s newspaper. Colin is out on the town, celebrating his wife Violet’s birthday. Ridiculously sexy and silent for much of the film, Violet is played by Sara Paxton, who starred along side Pat Healy in Ti West’s unforgettably spooky film THE INNKEEPERS. Violet seems too young and too pretty for Colin, but her quiet and sultry demeanor combined with Colin’s subtle creepiness work well together to develop a sense of uneasiness that festers in the background as the audience teeters between shock and laughter.
CHEAP THRILLS is highly adept at two things on the surface, pleasing the most discerning shock enthusiast and disgusting the more easily offended of viewers. E. L. Katz spares nothing in his endeavor to take the simple philosophical question to a new level. Colin and Violet invite Craig and Vince to join them in celebrating by offering them large amounts of money to do incredibly stupid things. To describe CHEAP THRILLS as INDECENT PROPOSAL meets JACKASS really doesn’t do the film any justice, but it does begin to illustrate what the audience is about to experience. The film has blood and gore, violence, a touch of sex (but no nudity) and an endless supply of moments that will make you wince. Fear not, this is all done in the name of exploring a deeper philosophical question: How far will you go for a large sum of money?
E.L. Katz doesn’t just present a large sum of money and let the dogs loose. Instead, Katz sets up a more complicated scenario involving desperation, family, friendship, betrayal, greed and guilt, a scenario that truly asks the viewer to consider the underlying implications once the film has ended. All of this intelligent filmmaking wrapped up in a disturbingly comical package that features breaking and entering, drugs and alcohol, lust and larceny, bodily mutilation and perhaps one of the most offensive scenes in the history of cinema involving a small, cute puppy dog.
CHEAP THRILLS is a wild ride into depravity derived from desperation. Having earned the Midnight Films Audience Award at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival is a sure sign of this film’s appeal and expected longevity as a cult favorite. Not since John Waters’ films have you seen something as shocking and potentially offensive as you will see in CHEAP THRILLS. Dog lovers beware!
CHEAP THRILLS premieres in Canada on August 4th during the 2013 Fantasia International Film Festival.