Wednesday, 26 March 2014

CHEAP THRILLS - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Raven Banner's Sinister Cinema presents first-rate sicko thriller!

Cheap Thrills (2013) ***1/2
dir. E. L. Katz Script: David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga
Starring: Pat Healy, David Koechner, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton,

Review By Greg Klymkiw

You need dough. You need it bad.

If someone were to offer you substantial wads of cold, hard, tax-free cash for your troubles, would you consider any of the following?

- Chop your pinky off, then allow cauterization with an iron?

- Slap a stripper's ass in a club with a no-touching policy?

- Break into a house and take a shit in the living room?

- Kill your friend?

- Eat a pet?

A better question might be, who in the name of Jesus H. Christ would even make such grotesque offers?

The answer is simple - a very generous gentleman (David Koechner, one of the world's greatest living character actors) who merely wishes to give his gorgeous girlfriend (Sara Paxton, the sultry star of The Innkeepers) a birthday celebration she'll never forget. This seems reasonable, mais non? After all, we live in a world sharply divided between the haves and the have-nots. In such a world, anything and everything is possible.

Such is the world of Cheap Thrills, a horrifically funny and terrifying thriller with a great script by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, taut direction from E.L. Katz in his feature debut and a cast to die for.

Craig (Pat Healy, intense, funny indie darling co-star of The Inkeepers) seems to have it all - a beautiful wife, a bouncing chubby baby, a nice place to live, a university education, a joe-job at a nearby service station to pay the bills while he tries to kick-start his career as a writer and a kind of geeky charm that makes you think he'd be a cool guy to know. Whilst leaving home for work one fine morning, he finds an eviction notice on the front door. He's in arrears for the amount of 4500 smacks and has 7 days to rectify matters or everyone's going to be booted into the streets. To add insult to injury, he loses his job that day. Times are tough for everyone.

Understandably depressed, he wanders the streets and finds himself in an old neighbourhood where he made a few wrong moves 5-or-so years ago during a not-so-sober phase. He's a recovering alcoholic, you see, and it's probably not the best idea he's ever had to step into a bar he spent far too much time in during those booze-fuelled days. He runs into Vince (Ethan Embry), an old friend he hasn't seen since those seedy days of debauchery. It's a happy reunion, but tinged with a bittersweetness. Craig has moved on with his life, Vince is stuck in the same old rut. Craig admits all is not peaches and cream, while Vince reveals a shade of feeling abandoned by his old pal.

No matter. It's a man's world, and in a man's world, a bud's a bud and you put shit behind you so it's like nothing ever happened. The notion of "so it's like nothing ever happened" becomes an even stronger thematic element as the film proceeds. And proceed it does - our buds meet up with Colin (Koechner), a hip, friendly, funny and boisterous mans man adorned in a cool pork pie hat who asks the guys to be a part of the birthday celebrations for his sultry girlfriend Violet (Paxton).

Soon, he's asking the lads to engage in all manner of naughty and/or downright dangerous shenanigans for wads of dough that he keeps flashing and tossing at them after they've done his bidding. Violet uses her smart phone to capture the tender moments forever (offering politely to email the snaps to the lads if they desire copies). As the intensity of the requests increases, our lads are convinced to hang in for the duration as Colin reminds them that no matter where any of them are in their lives, they will never forget the events of this evening.

The truth of this sinks in, not just for our old pals, but for us too. This is a fantasy worth sticking with and we're almost convinced, as we live vicariously through the lives of our onscreen characters, that we might almost want to experience something like this is real life. Watching people do increasingly nasty stuff for money is fun, but the thought of possibly engaging in such activities ourselves is not only tempting, but makes for an especially thrilling ride.

In many ways, the movie is the ultimate adult fantasy. "Hey, fuck my gorgeous wife in front of me while I jerk off and I'll pay all your back rent." You pretend to go all tut-tut-tut and say this is beyond the pale. Fuck you. I'm going to pull out the Klymkiw Family Motto that goes back to the Old Country when Mongols were raping our ancient Ukrainian grannies' twat-in-skis off: "You can't bullshit a bullshitter." Dearest Reader, seriously, don't get all high and mighty on me here. You'd do it, too. It's a good deal, a shitload of fun and yes, something you'll never, ever forget.

Of course, this is what the clever script of Cheap Thrills is up to. It wants you to face the hard truth about yourself. It does it with morbid, laugh-out-loud humour, total conviction, no annoying tongue-in-cheekness and best of all, no bullshit moralizing. By rendering this all with a straight face, but with the spirit of good, old fashioned American chutzpah instead, say, that of Michael Haneke (or recent Cronenberg) preciousness, ephemeral mindless studio-styled roller coaster rides with no subtext or worse, Canadian indie twee-ness mixed with Toronto Presbyterianism. This team of filmmakers and actors hand us our innards on a silver platter and we scarf the fuckers down with relish and abandon.

This is blistering movie-making at its finest. If I'm gypping the movie out of half a star (yeah - using "gyp" is pejorative, I'm not fucking stupid), it's only because I kind of saw the genuinely shocking (as if the movie wasn't shocking enough) denouement coming from a few miles away. I'll chalk that up to being a sick-fuck and/or just seeing way too many movies, reading too many fucking books and just being a smart-ass son of a bitch.

In the meantime, don't miss this on a big screen (or at least on Blu-Ray) - it's too damn good to simply V.O.D. (Though if you must, it's better than not seeing it at all.)

Raven Banner Entertainment's Sinister Cinema presents CHEAP THRILLS March 27, 2014 at 7:30pm all across Canada. Additional showings in Toronto will be featured at the Yonge-Dundas Cinemas (formerly the AMC) on Mar 27, 28, 29, 30, Apr 1, 3, 2014. Check Toronto listings for confirmed dates and times. The cross-canada showings on March 27 will be at the following venues:

Scotiabank Theatre Chinook - Calgary, AB
Scotiabank Theatre Edmonton - Edmonton, AB
Cineplex Cinemas Saint John - Saint John, NB
Cineplex Cinemas Avalon Mall - St. John's, NL
Cineplex Odeon Victoria Cinemas - Victoria, BC
SilverCity Riverport Cinemas - Richmond, BC
Galaxy Cinemas Nanaimo - Nanaimo, BC
Cineplex Odeon International Village Cinemas - Vancouver, BC
Colossus Langley Cinemas - Langley, BC
SilverCity Polo Park Cinemas- Winnipeg, MB
SilverCity Sudbury Cinemas- Sudbury, ON
Galaxy Cinemas Regina - Regina, SK
Galaxy Cinemas Saskatoon - Saskatoon, SK
SilverCity Fairview Mall Cinemas - Toronto, ON
Cineplex Odeon Winston Churchill Cinemas - Oakville, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Yonge-Dundas Cinemas - Toronto, ON
Cineplex Odeon Eglinton Town Centre Cinemas - Scarborough, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Queensway and VIP - Etobicoke, ON
Colossus Vaughan Cinemas - Woodbridge, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Mississauga - Mississauga, ON
Coliseum Ottawa Cinemas - Ottawa, ON
SilverCity Gloucester Cinemas - Ottawa, ON
Cineplex Cinemas Bayers Lake - Halifax, NS
Cineplex Odeon Forum Cinemas - Montreal, QC
Cineplex Odeon Devonshire Mall Cinemas - Windsor, ON
Galaxy Cinemas Waterloo - Waterloo, ON
SilverCity Hamilton Cinemas - Hamilton, ON
SilverCity London Cinemas - London, ON

CHEAP THRILLS is distributed through Pacific Northwest Pictures, currently playing in select Canadian cities and will be released theatrically in the US via Drafthouse Films.

For further info on Raven Banner and Sinister Cinema, Click HERE.