Connect with us
Cheap Thrills Film


Cheap Thrills is a Nasty Piece of Work

Made on a modest budget of £100,000 and shot in just under 2 weeks, EL Katz’ Cheap Thrills inverts the traditional notion of torture porn as a moral lesson inflicted on the sinner, instead depicting a morally reprehensible individual coaxing a vulnerable man into self-inflicted, nihilistic mutilation. One can easily borrow the director’s admission of a social class allegory and take the film to bluntly translate as “How far would you go to ensure the economic safety of your family?” But such questions form only a small part of the film’s warped vision of an unreachable American Dream; no man is an island, and the rules of dog-eat-dog dictate that, finally, somebody will be eaten to ensure the other’s survival. There’s not enough meat to feed everyone. Katz is interested in where to pinpoint the blame, and how our ingrained anxieties can be manipulated to turn the working class against one another and consequently obscure the real threat to prosperity.

Craig Daniels (Pat Healy) has been laid off from his job at the imperfect time, right when he faces eviction and has a wife and new-born baby to support. Enter the devil: David Koechner plays a subtly demonic force in obscenely wealthy Colin, who invites Craig and old school friend Vince (Ethan Embry) back to his apartment for a game of dares. The first to defecate on a doorstep receives a few grand. The first to cut off their pinky receives a dozen grand. Cheat on your wife for another dozen grand. And so on and so forth, as social anxieties relating to healthcare and faithfulness are exploited in the cruellest ways, beginning as farce and ending as tragedy. Katz doesn’t give us room to breathe; the apartment is undeniably lush and well lit, but the camera never roams or gives us any sense of its geography, choosing to stick itself to the agonised competitors and their tormentor.

The audience lapped up the various means of self-harm, with one particular gentleman shouting “Yeah, baby” at the culmination of each humiliation. As much as we would decry the ritual embarrassment of a working-class citizen by a sociopathic millionaire, we nevertheless have no problem in egging it on. Our point of sympathy is therefore not with Craig, but with games-master Colin. His sadistic voyeurism is ours to share, and that can be an uncomfortable thing to realize. So focused are we on reading the text as an indictment of its characters’ cruel treatment that we discount our own complicity. Aware of this point, one of the festival organizers referred to Katz’ film as resembling a Michael Haneke film, though it’s hard to see the similarities. Katz’s film is nowhere near as cold and clinical as, say, Funny Games, nor does it openly wag its finger at the audience. It pointedly refuses to have us aware of who we unwittingly side within the grand scheme of the narrative – that’s something with which we’re left to come to terms.

  • Ed Doyle

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

Written By

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pop Culture From All Angles

Sordid Cinema Podcast


150 Greatest Horror Movies of the 20th Century 150 Greatest Horror Movies of the 20th Century

150 Greatest Horror Movies


TIFF 2021: Where is Anne Frank is a Lovely, Creative Re-Imagining


I Purple You: An In-Depth Look at the BTS ARMY and Their Stories- Part One


Barbara Stanwyck Barbara Stanwyck

The Career of Barbara Stanwyck: The Dame from Brooklyn


The Cultural Significance of BTS’s Appointment as “Special Presidential Envoys for Future Generations and Culture”


Midnight Mass Midnight Mass

Midnight Mass Is A Grand, Grotesque Horror Masterpiece


BTS at the United Nations 2021: A Historical Moment Watched by Over A Million


Coldplay x BTS My Universe Music Video Review: A Surprising Sci-Fi Spectacular


Coldplay X BTS’s “My Universe” Review: A Collaboration that Brings Together the Best of Both Musical Worlds


Seinfeld Season 05 Inside Looks 'The Marine Biologist' Seinfeld Season 05 Inside Looks 'The Marine Biologist'

Seinfeld’s Greatest Scene: “The Marine Biologist” Monologue


Q-Force Season 1 Review Q-Force Season 1 Review

Q-Force: They’re Here, They’re Queer, and They’re Going to Save the World


Hulu only murders in the building poster Hulu only murders in the building poster

Why You Should Be Watching Only Murders in the Building