As soon as I saw the list of crew members that helped to bring Cheap Thrills to fruition, I knew I was going to love it. I’m a huge fan of Adam Wingard, and his style seems to rub off on his friends, and those he tends to work with. Couple that with the exceptional cast, and I was instantly on-board, despite the plot summary sounding derivative of several lesser films. Cheap Thrills played at Toronto After Dark this year, and as some of you might be aware, Jeff and Heather were there to take it in with a crowd, and I’m insanely jealous that I had to miss that. This was absolutely one of the best genre films I saw in 2013, and I would be shocked if it didn’t land pretty high on my end-of-the-year list. The story is simple, and honestly, it has been done several times before. The difference is, this time it has been done extremely well. Just recently, a similarly themed movie was being touted by some, Would You Rather?, and while I didn’t find that to be a terrible film, compared to Cheap Thrills it is far less effective, and far less competently crafted.
I found it much easier to identify with the characters in Cheap Thrills, both because of the exceptional performance from all involved, especially Ethan Embry, who wowed me with what I consider to be one of his best performances ever. But the writing is also extremely solid as well. The director, E.L. Katz, who some of you know as a writer and producer in the world of Adam Wingard films, wears his influences, and the lessons he’s learned from colleagues prominently displayed on his sleeve. As much as it feels like parody to say things like this for me, Katz, if he continues to direct, is definitely a newcomer worthy of keeping track of. Now that that bit of cliche is out of the way, I promise you I won’t make a Jaws comparison.
At the 2013 SXSW film festival, Drafthouse Films picked up the theatrical, video on demand and home video distribution rights to Cheap Thrills. It is stated that the film will be released at a minimum of 20 markets, which is not surprising. For most of us, this means there is slim to no chance that we’ll be able to see this with a crowd. But, that also means that prior to, or at the same time as the theatrical exhibition, which is slated for “Spring 2014”, we will undoubtedly get a premium/digital VOD release as well. I hate hyping movies up for people who currently have no way to view it and come to their own conclusion. Several times in the past, I’ve been guilty of this, and ruined the genuine enjoyment a friend or colleague might have had otherwise from a great film. But, I cannot end this review in any other way than to recommend all that may be reading, to go out of your way to see Cheap Thrills when you have the chance. This film will definitely make its way onto my top of the year list, and it managed to do so with me already having extremely high expectations before pressing play.