UTG’s 31 Days Of Halloween: ‘Cheap Thrills’

Cheap Thrills feature

Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the UTG staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of features and special announcements we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.

Now in its fourth year, 31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring feature that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this column is to supply every UTG reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you’ll follow along at home.

This year, the entire 31 Days series is dedicated to the memory of our friend, Justin Proper. We wouldn’t have a film department without him, and he specifically helped pioneer our involvement in the horror genre. Rest in peace, JP.

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Day 14: Cheap Thrills (2013)

I’ll admit, labeling Cheap Thrills as a horror film—when considering what most would list as qualifiers for the genre—is a bit of a stretch. However, there are no rules for ’31 Days,’ and besides, even as there are no ghouls, monsters, supernatural terrors or jump scares, E.L. Katz’s feature-length directorial debut is truly horrifying…in a very real way. The film, easily one of 2013’s most underrated, urges the viewer to consider a few challenging questions throughout its nearly 90-minute runtime. Most importantly: How far would you be willing to go for some quick (easy?) cash if you and your family were in need?

Cheap Thrills is an ostensibly simple story, and a succinct one at that, yet it makes a powerful statement, albeit one masked in the almost uncomfortable hilarity of gruesome, pitch-black comedy. Taking place over the course of 24 hours, the film primarily involves just four characters: Craig Daniels, played by Pat Healy (The Innkeepers, Starry Eyes), his old friend Vince, played by Ethan Embry (Empire Records, The Guest), Colin, played by David Koechner (Anchorman, The Office), and his wife Violet, played by Sara Paxton (The Innkeepers, The Last House on the Left). After Craig loses his job and faces eviction, he fears for his family’s well-being, but after running into Vince at a bar, the two come into contact with a peculiar couple who start offering them various amounts of money to complete seemingly random tasks. These tasks range from simply taking a shot of alcohol to far more violent, degrading and truly dangerous challenges that I’ll give you the pleasure of discovering on your own.

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Everyone’s had one of those nights that just gets completely out of control, but Cheap Thrills really sets the bar for insanity. Touching on greed, survival, desperation, fear and more, David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga’s script delves into various facets of human nature, making your viewing experience not only incredibly interesting, but also relatable; relatable in a way that’s likely elevated beyond anything you’ve experienced but still believable as it’s grounded in some kind of reality, featuring woes and challenges similar to your own.

Even with its unapologetically graphic nature that gradually becomes more and more disturbing, Cheap Thrills is darkly hilarious…until it’s not. What could have gone down as another Funny Games (which isn’t very funny; don’t let the title fool you), is set apart by an organic humor generated by the chemistry and natural ability of the actors involved. It all comes together in a fun and twisted display of real-life terror fueled by the fear of failure and its consequences. It’s like the most fucked up game of ‘Truth Or Dare’ or ‘Would You Rather?’ but there’s a lot of money involved—money that you desperately need. You just have to decide where you draw the line, or if there’s even a line at all.

If you’re looking for something a little less genre conventional this Halloween season, take a chance on Cheap Thrills…if you think you can stomach the challenge.

Brian Leak

Editor-In-Chief. King of forgetting drinks in the freezer. Pop culture pack rat. X-Phile. LOST apologist.
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