Saturday, September 13, 2014

13 Sins / Cheap Thrills (2014)

It has been a long time since I've posted a review, and boy, it sure wasn't from lack of material. Now that I have my priorities straight, how about we catch up on all of the fun we've missed, eh? I thought I'd start off this new season of horror-ble movies with a double-header review of 13 Thrills and Cheap Sins. Oops, I meant 13 Sins and Cheap Thrills. Sorry, I'm not sure how I could possibly get these two movies mixed up like that. I mean, it's not like they have anything in common.

An unlucky main character is placed in a maze of sick opportunities full of enticing, destructive "truth or dare"-like scenarios, with the promise of riches should they reach the end.

Wait... Why does that sound familiar? That plot sounds just like another movie that came out 2 years prior to these films; a film with surprisingly worse acting than both of these movies that was much less entertaining; a film I thought was far too stupid to even review. You know what, screw it. It's happening. The only way to truly portray just how awful these movies are is to give you all of the information at hand, so you may grasp the reality of stupid horror movies being regurgitated in a shiny new box with all new actors and the same plot. So, here it is. This is now officially a three-movie review, including Would You Rather.

I know, it might seem unlikely that three movies with the same plot would be released so close to the same date to one another, but you should also know that 13 Sins and Cheap Thrills both came out in the U.S. in March of 2014! Not only the same year, but the same month. Come on! Not only that, but they both rip off a movie from 2 years earlier. I'm picturing two directors both in a studio apartment watching awful horror movies back in 2012 when Would You Rather came on. They both probably said, completely condescendingly, "I could make a better movie with that plot." After which they turned and looked at one another, wide-eyed, before debating about who said it first and therefore had the right to "remake" the plot. Eventually, both directors decided each had respectively said it first, and we wound up with two directors going head to head via an 80's montage while "Eye of the Tiger" played in the background, until finally the public was introduced to 13 Sins and Cheap Thrills at the same time.

All of that is of course speculative, but isn't it fun to think about?

Well, let's get right into it with a brief explanation of Would You Rather. A young woman who is financially responsible for her sick, younger brother is the main character of this one. The movie opens with her being called to her brother's oncologist's office. Once there, she is prompted by a gentleman sitting in the office with an invitation to a dinner at his house where he is hosting a game. He promises the young woman that her brother's hospital bills will be taken care of should she win the game. It takes a bit of self-convincing on her part, but to make the plot move forward, she agrees to the dinner.

Depending on the order in which you watch these films, should you do so even after I've warned you, you will notice right away the similarity with the opening of this movie and that of 13 Sins. Wherein, the main character is financially responsible for his younger brother, but instead of cancer, the younger brother has a form of mental retardation. To "one up" Would You Rather, however, 13 Sins also has the main character taking care of his disabled father - who just happens to be a racist - and the main character is engaged to a black woman. Perfect. Did I mention she is also pregnant? Well, none of that would be a problem except that the main character was fired in the opening of the movie, and now has no means of taking care of his disabled father, challenged brother, young wife and baby on the way... Until he receives a phone call inviting him to play a game...

Before I get into that, how about we go ahead and explain the premise of Cheap Thrills. A young, married man gets fired from his job and has no means to take care of his newborn baby and wife, until he walks into a bar and gets invited to play a game. Yeah, Cheap Thrills didn't waste any time with an incredibly in depth back story for other minor characters in the movie like Would You Rather and 13 Sins. There is no sick brother, no challenged brother, no disabled father and no underlying racism. Instead, a man loses his job and goes to a bar. Just going by the opening premise, I have to say that I prefer Cheap Thrills already.

Now, when I say I prefer Cheap Thrills, that doesn't mean I am saying one is "better" than the other. All of these movies are incredibly disturbing and should only be watched once and with appropriate company.

Well, as you might have guessed already, the games involved in each of these films are full of sickening "dares" for a predetermined amount of money. Why, you ask? What is the motive for the creators of these games? Well, in Would You Rather, it's as simple as a dude with too much money and a sick sense of entertainment. He likes to gather people in need of hospital treatment and pit them against one another in a truth or dare game for an escalating amount of money. In 13 Sins, there is a secret society of rich people who have infiltrated the government, police and more as a means to play a game. Yeah, this one seems far more unlikely. In this game, the participant is monitored via street cameras and satellite while a voice on a cell phone tells him to commit heinous acts. Lastly, Cheap Thrills just has a man and his wife celebrating her birthday by paying the main character and his old friend to commit sick and violent acts.

I'm not going to get into each of the things these characters are dared to do, suffice to say they are all incredibly cringe-worthy. The only exceptions would be the first couple of dares in each film, which of course are miniscule and only act as a gateway to introduce and entice the main characters to play the games, after which they are told they cannot back out, like swatting a fly or drinking a shot of whiskey - which inevitably lead to dragging a dead body into a diner and ordering it coffee or shooting someone or eating your own finger. You get the idea.

While each movie has its own unique way of setting up the individual games, they all end with the same dare: shooting someone. I would warn you about spoilers, but if you're a fan and you've read my previous posts, then you know I don't mind spoiling horror-ble movies. In Would You Rather, the main character (the young woman) is told she must shoot and kill the man sitting across the table from her in order to win the cash prize. Only him, because everyone else involved with the game is dead by this point, including an old, disabled lady who gets electrocuted and stabbed in the leg. She doesn't hesitate to blow a hole in his chest. Boom. He falls over. She wins... ? She gets home with the money for her brother's hospital bills and finds him dead in the bedroom with pill bottles scattered around him. The end. Well, that was fucking depressing. Maybe 13 Sins will be better.

So, in 13 Sins the climax of the film depicts the main character and his mentally retarded brother standing in a room with their disabled father. Apparently, while the main character has been running around all day burning down churches and making children cry, his brother has also been playing the game, and now they have been led to their father's apartment. (I can't recall what they made the mentally challenged brother do in the game, but I think it involved a llama. I could be wrong). Their father explains that he played the game a long time ago, and killed their mother to win. This is followed by the disabled father cutting his own throat and dying. With the main character and his mentally challenged brother now pitted against each other, who do you think wins? Yep. He shoots his mentally challenged brother, killing him, and "winning" the game, if you can call that winning. If you're not depressed enough, you should know the main character stuck around and killed a cop that was involved with the game, effectively losing himself all of the money he would have won, leaving himself unable to support his fiance and baby on the way.

Okay, so I was wrong about 13 Sins having a better ending. If anything, I suppose it was more depressing than Would You Rather. However, we still have a slim chance that the ending to Cheap Thrills will help us recover from the onslaught of depressing jab after jab to the heart from the previous two movies. Here we go.

At the end of Cheap Thrills, after the main character and his best friend are dared to pooh in the neighbor's kitchen, eat the neighbor's dog, cut off their fingers and eat... well, you get the idea. After all of that, they are dared to kill each other. Once again, the main character doesn't hesitate to shoot the other person, in this case his best friend, in order to win the money. The difference in this movie is, however, once he kills his friend, he takes the money, gets a cab, goes home, puts the cash on the bed, picks up his crying baby and holds it while his wife stands in the room. He stands proud. Proud that he has provided for his family. Covered in blood, sweating, and with a dufflebag of blood-soaked cash piled on the bed, the main character is surprisingly not at all depressed at the ending of this movie. To that end, I guess I would have to say I recommend Cheap Thrills of the three films, if only for the less depressing of the three endings.

In closing, this is exactly what happens when you have multiple films with the same plot. Inevitably, they will all be compared to one another to see which holds up against the other. On the other hand, had only one of these films been released on its own, with no other film in which to compare, I would say that movie would probably suck very, very hard. Seeing as the odds are 2 out of 3 that one of the depressing-ending movies would be the one released, it's safe to say that this post would have been titled 13 Sins or Would You Rather. Regardless, you don't have to be depressing to make a scary movie. Hopefully, future directors will learn from the mistakes of past horror-ble movies and not repeat them - especially not three times.

1 out of 4 (Would You Rather)

2 out of 4 (13 Sins)

3 out of 4 (Cheap Thrills)

Cheers and goodnight.

Would You Rather Would You Rather (2012) on IMDb

13 Sins 13 Sins (2014) on IMDb

Cheap Thrills Cheap Thrills (2013) on IMDb

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