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Cheap Thrills is one of my favorite movies of 2013. It’s a genre fan’s paradise: one messed-up idea, explored to the limit of its potential, with some supremely squirm-inducing moments. It is also a damn good movie, period — a killer directorial debut from E.L. Katz, with good performances all around, and work from Pat Healy and David Koechner that you won’t forget. If you’ve ever sensed that Koechner has a weird mean streak running through his comedy, this is the movie for you, because he taps into that and turns it into a river that propels this movie along.

Healy and Ethan Embry play a couple of guys, both facing hard times, who reconnect at a bar. Then a couple at the bar, played by Koechner and Sara Paxton (who co-starred with Healy in The Innkeepers) offers them a potential economic windfall. All the guys have to do to win some big bucks is follow through on the dares proposed by the couple. And then things get weird.

Watch a red-band trailer below.  Read More »

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Cheap Thrills is a great movie not just for the fact that it is freaky and unsettling in a very realistic way, but because it will make you look at the film’s four major actors in a new light. Ethan Embry and Pat Healy play two guys who need cash, and David Koechner and Sara Paxton play a rich couple with money to burn.

The four people collide at a bar, and the rich couple is soon paying their two new “friends” to engage in a bit of anti-social behavior. It begins in a relatively innocent manner, but things quickly get crazy. Really, crazy, and very bloody. This first international trailer will give you a creepy, messy idea of what the movie has in store, without giving too much away. Watch it below.

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A cornerstone story aspect of the thriller, codified on film by Alfred Hitchcock, is fear of persecution. Hitch was famously afraid of police, and a constant element in his films was the horror of being pursued and/or persecuted for an infraction real or imagined. The Law — the “capital-L” version — can seem like an unfathomable force that guides our behavior, and the persuasive power of that force can make one feel incredibly vulnerable.

The power of that particular perception of Law is at the heart of Compliance, too. The indie became notorious at Sundance this past January for expanding on real-life stories in which an anonymous caller impersonated police officers and talked business managers into strip-searching and violating employees. The instigating factor would be a reported infraction of the law, with the caller reasoning that the fastest way to deal with the situation was for the manager to do some of the work of the cops before officers were able to arrive. Inevitably, the caller would push the situation deep into scary territory, and those on the other end of the line would comply.

The real-life stories are chilling, in part because it is horrifying to consider that anyone would follow the instructions of someone who purports to be a law officer without attempting to verify the caller’s identity. Compliance seems to exploit that horrifying behavior quite well, and now you can get a glimpse of just how weird things get in a new trailer for the movie. Read More »

There is a definite echo of The Shining in this trailer for The Innkeepers, a film which comes to us from The House of the Devil director Ti West. I was a big House of the Devil fan, though I understand why the movie’s very deliberate pace wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

That deliberate pace seems to be a factor here, too, based on early reviews, but this trailer suggests that there are some good scares in the story of a couple hotel owners who take advantage of the failing status of their business to investigate stories of ghosts haunting the halls. Check the trailer below. Read More »

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