The guise of genre provides an easily-enforced get-out clause for too many movies. It encourages unearned, inauthentic flattery, and subjective opinions, as the viewer responds to the movie's position within a broad cultural landscape, rather than as an individual entity. E.L. Katz's own cheap thrill is to riff on midnight movie staples with a pseudo-intellectualism that's nastier than any of Cheap Thrills' violence. In fact, this is a movie that gets off on pushing the envelope, yet Katz's style and imagery are tame and restrained. He intends to play to our prudish sides, that we might be repulsed by what he proposes, but not unduly repulsed by how he eventually stages it. The crassest he gets is in the garish use of sound effects, really. Working from an overblown script by David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga, Katz crafts a movie that's basically a less-horrible, more manipulative Saw sequel, not as viciously violent but not as forthcoming about its delusions toward intelligence. In embedding its psychological pretensions within its characters, Cheap Thrills aspires to a Chinese Roulette style of intense character study; it does hold some interest in this regard, especially in its first half, before it becomes clear that no-one has an ace up their sleeve and that the movie they're making is just going to conclude with a lot of silliness. But these characters are stereotypes anyway, not archetypes, all of them derived directly from low-rent genre movies, not highbrow philosophical drama. Cheap Thrills is attracted to a certain genre, but consistently dragged down by its nature as another.