SXSW Review: CHEAP THRILLS

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Going into this movie, I had no idea what to expect.  The fact that David Koechner, an actor known for goofy, cartoonish characters, has a starring role, really threw me off. While this film does have its silly, light hearted scenes, the film slowly devolves into a dark and disturbing commentary on human nature and how low people will sink when money is involved.

Craig (Pat Healy) is father and husband struggling to raise his family. After he gets laid off from his job, he decides to drown his sorrows in the neighborhood bar where he encounters an old buddy from high school. He and his estranged classmate, Vince (Ethan Embry) decide to party with a married couple celebrating the wife’s birthday. Colin (Koechner) and his wife Violet (Sara Paxton) invite the old buddies to continue the party at their home. That’s when the fun night out takes a bizarre and most disturbing turn.

I am not going to lie. Cheap Thrills will not have mass appeal. When the film goes to really dark places, it is often difficult to watch. The movie does intend to shock and awe and does so with nauseating results.  Nevertheless, I found the movie to be quite intelligent and brilliant. The most distressing moments serve their purposes mostly well. The writing by David Chichirillo and Trent Haaga wonderfully sets up the foundation for director E.L. Katz and his incredibly talented actors Healy, Embry, Koechner and Paxton to play.

For those who missed the premiere of Cheap Thrills on Friday March 9, the film will screen again on Tuesday March 12, 11:45 pm. at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz.

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