(On Cable TV, September 2015) There’s something admirable and repulsive in what Cheap Thrills is able to do: even as a very-low-budget film (200,000$ is the reported number), it manages to come up with a compelling hook, a controlled pace and a memorable ending. It’s also the kind of film that you never, ever want to see again once you’re done. The premise couldn’t be tidier, as a recently-fired family man, already anxious for money, befriends a couple of rich people willing to pay for entertainment in a series of dares pitting the protagonist against a recently-reunited friend. The dares and the payouts escalate gradually, until the characters are crossing irremediable moral lines and doing irreparable damage to themselves. While occasionally billed as a dark comedy, Cheap Thrills easily veers into horror midway through, and manages to make audiences hate the protagonist well before it’s over. The performances are good, with David Koechner, the only “name” actor in the film, delivering a disquieting role far away from his usual funny-redneck persona. Arguably more disturbing than the grand-Guignol gore of the Saw series, Cheap Thrills is very successful at what it attempts. Unfortunately, what it does attempt to deliver is the kind of nightmare that you never want to experience again.