Cheap Thrills follows the story of Craig Daniels (Pat Healy), a happily married man living in an apartment with his wife and newborn baby. After falling months behind in his rent and loosing his job, Craig is out of ideas. One night he unexpectedly comes across his old high-school friend, Vince (Ethan Embry), who invites Craig to join in with a sort-of-gambling-like game led by a man named Colin (David Koechner) and his what appears to be uninterested wife, Violet (Sara Paxton). The game? Complete as many dares as possible, each win resulting in a cash reward.
Cheap Thrills is a darkly comedic and always energetic movie with plenty to offer for those seeking a few thrills of their own. This film is a wild ride, cramming in as many criminally crazy scenarios as possible. The result? A film that will not be leaving your mind any time soon. As the film progresses we're taken through several different dares, each harder to watch than the last. By the time we've almost made it through the 88 minute runtime we're left, not necessarily hating what we've just watched, but thankful that it's over. It's a violent and ferocious movie that's relentless all the way until its closing tile card. There's a dare made in the film's third act that's incredibly hard to watch, but is then followed by a reaction that's even harder to watch. This scene I will not spoil, but it's almost guaranteed to arise some sort of reaction from all that view it.
The screenplay is wild, aided by excellent performances. A screenplay can be good, but it won't necessarily make the film good when placed on screen. Without a decent cast or a gutsy enough director, Cheap Thrills could have been a disaster. Even on paper the film may sound a little flat, but put together it makes for one hell of a movie. The cast bring pacing to this film, making every moment watchable. David Koenchner is granted permission to be his usual self, surprisingly heightening my enjoyment for this odd, yet brilliant piece of filmmaking that's both delightful and stressful to watch. Think Antichrist, but with more comedy and less (SPOILER ALERT) genital mutilations.
Towards the middle of the film it tries to take an out of place swerve to a different direction. There's a scene that begins by boasting with character traits, but then quickly changes directions into something unnecessary and out of character. This scene appears for just a few minutes (thankfully), before slowing back down and retracing its steps (quite literally too). How they avoid the possibilities may also come across as out of character, but I'm really just thankful that they stopped heading in that certain direction before it was too late.
To sum up, Cheap Thrills is a darkly comedic, always energetic, and ferocious viewing with a wild screenplay, excellent performances and heightened direction, offering more than enough for those seeking a few thrills of their own.
3 1/2 Stars