‘A seemingly fun game of dares goes horribly bad for some unfortunate individuals…’ It’s not the most groundbreaking idea for a horror film.
From Saw to Truth or Dare, putting the audience in the uncomfortable place of an unwilling participant in game of death gives a unique sense of tension and responsibility which equals big scares and big bucks for the producers.
Cheap Thrills is the latest product of this breed of film, and although it masquerades as something different, essentially little has changed.
Pat Healy (The Innkeepers) takes the lead as Craig, a family guy down on his luck who just happens to go to a bar after losing his low paid job at a vital time. Whilst there, he happens upon an old school friend, Vince (Ethan Embry) who works as hired muscle, and although the two have little in common they share a drink for old times sake.
Predictably one drink turns to two and by the time they reach five the pair are comforable and inhibitions are suppressed. For Craig and Vince, the night then takes a bizarre and unexpected twist as they happen upon married couple Violet (Sara Paxton, also from The Innkeepers) and Colin (funny guy David Koechner).
The newlyweds seem to have a lot of money and they’re willing to spend it on drinks, drugs and fun. But when the fun becomes games and the games turn into challenges it soon becomes clear that Craig and Vince have ended up in a ‘seemingly fun game of dares that goes horribly bad for some unfortunate individuals’.
The key question here is ‘how far will they be willing to go for some cash?’
Although my tone may seem unhappy at the predictability of the film, it’s refreshing at least that money is the incentive in Cheap Thrills, straying slightly from the usual method of persuasion in the horror dare film – blackmail. However, the degredation and humiliation still remains.
Rather than being forced into having to make a decision, Craig and Vince are offered the opportunity to participate, which makes the idea upon which the film sits more interesting.
For the most part, Cheap Thrills is intriguing and involving, with the early challenges devised to shock and amuse the audience. The performances are tight all round and the only confusing thing is the strictly rationed humour in a film which has been pushed as being a ‘black comedy’ and which stars someone (Koechner) who usually spends his time going for more obvious laughs.
Even the poster of the film is misleading because there’s no real fun to be had watching Cheap Thrills. The comedy is a thin veil under which lies a rather depraved film that does enough to lure you in, but lacks the inventiveness to keep you guessing.
Indeed, no amount of soul searching can prevent you from seeing quite early on the way that it’s going to play out.
But although it fails as a dark comedy and it’s unlikely to surprise you, the film’s design and execution is a success.
And if you’re the type that likes moral dilemmas and to spend your time wondering what you would do for a certain sum of money, Cheap Thrills will no doubt bring you pleasure.