29th Aug2023

Frightfest 2023: ‘Cheat’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Corin Clay, Kyle Corbin, Danielle Grotsky, Paul Ignatius, Will Bunk, April Clark, Brady O’Donnell, Michael Thyer | Written and Directed by Kevin Ignatius, Nick Psinakis

On the surface it’s believed to be another urban legend – a supernatural being from the afterlife is violently killing anyone who cheats on their significant other in the small college town of Silvercreek, Pennsylvania. But the town’s unusually high suicide rate is finally convincing both locals and college students that everything is not as it seems. When Maeve – a female college student – sleeps with Charlie, the married man of the host family she is staying with, both sense the deadly curse is closing in on them. Unable to get anyone to believe them, Maeve and Charlie seek out a local history student to help find answers and figure out a way to defend themselves. It all comes undone, however, as several people are horrifically killed by the savage being – one-by-one at a rapid pace. Eventually, Maeve, Charlie and the few survivors band together in an attempt to defeat the monster once and for all…

Cheat is, at its core, a very slow, overly dramatic take on the old-school 80s slasher movie – complete with an overly moralistic antagonist, who kills anyone who cheats. Literally (hence the title). Cheat on a test? Dead. Cheat on a partner? Dead. In fact, so close to the morality-led killings of the like of Friday the 13th (where the puritanical view is that sex = death) that when one of the characters mentions “the curse of the farmer’s daughter” you realise that would have been a PERFECT title for this film it had been released a few decades earlier.

Of course being a morality tale our antagonist’s motivations are, like Jason Vorhees, based on a “moral good”. Our ghostly killer, Clara, is the product of trying to do the right thing – in this case, trying to stop her father’s infidelity (hence the title Cheat) cost Clara her life. That she’s stuck around to stop others from cheating feels akin to Jason’s rise from the dead to seek vengeance for his mother’s death. And, of course, the fact that both characters take things too far is entirely coincidental!

Though unlike those 80s-lensed horrors, Cheat is light on the gore – in fact, it’s also light on the horror too, instead relying on atmospheric chills and an eerie soundtrack rather than anything else. Which, unfortunately, makes the film a tad dull. In fact, Cheat has more in common with the likes of the slow-burn horrors of It Follows and even the J-horror terrors of the 90s like The Ring and The Grudge – so if that’s more your taste then you might get a kick out of Cheat.

** 2/5

Cheat screened as part of this year’s Frightfest London.


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