Stephen Dorff and Emile Hirsch in The Price We Pay (2023)

‘The Price We Pay’ movie review: Stephen Dorff, Emile Hirsch star in grindhouse thriller

NOW STREAMING ON:

A trio of robbers and their lone hostage wind up at an isolated farmhouse that holds some dark secrets in The Price We Pay, a no-nonsense thriller-cum-grindhouse horror movie now available on VOD platforms worldwide.

The Price We Pay offers little audiences haven’t seen before, and is essentially another spin on overused Texas Chainsaw Massacre formula. But thanks to slick direction from Ryuhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train) and solid central performances, this one should satisfy audiences seeking out this kind of thing.

A sex worker (Sabina Mach) is stalked by an unseen killer at a highway rest stop in The Price We Pay’s tense (if familiar) opening, which would place the firm firmly in slasher-horror territory. But the action abruptly shifts to a sand-blasted pawn shop in the American southwest as a trio of robbers attempt to make a minor score.

Army vet Cody (Stephen Dorff, in a gruff and assured performance) wants a clean heist, but mad dog Alex (an over-the-top Emile Hirsch) gets trigger happy when his brother Shane (Tanner Zagarino) is shot by the store’s owner. That leaves the thieves with a pair of dead bodies and no vehicle after their getaway driver gets spooked.

Luckily for them, down-on-her-luck Grace (Gigi Zumbado) happened to be hiding out in the pawn shop’s backroom as the robbery went down — and soon becomes a hostage and unwitting getaway driver herself.

When the robbers spot a police block, they force Grace off the highway and onto a barren road to nowhere. The car predictably breaks down, but that deserted farmhouse across the horizon looks like the perfect place to lie low for the night.

With a dramatic shift in tone halfway through and a hulking female threat (here played by Erika Ervin, the “world’s tallest model” also known as Amazon Eve), The Price We Pay bears a couple similarities to the recent horror hit Barbarian. Unfortunately, the story twist here, more outdated urban legend than otherworldly horror, sucks a lot of fun out of the narrative.

The Price We Pay attempts to generate interest through grisly violence as opposed to narrative thrills during its final third, and to some degree, it succeeds. But what should be two showstopping gore sequences, including a finale wrapped up in barbed wire, lose some points for overusing CGI splatter.

Kitamura, whose slick stylistics and fast pacing resemble something of a grindhouse Michael Bay, is a talented director who can turn thin material into efficient thrills in movies like Downrange and No One Lives. But his English-language features have never hit the highs of his outrageous Japanese flicks like Versus or Azumi.

Still, The Price We Pay isn’t likely to disappoint audiences who seek it out. Short and slick, punctuated by some graphic violence and a standout performance from Dorff, it offers just enough to satisfy a minor craving.

The film is dedicated to young star Tyler Sanders, who portrays the benevolent Danny in the film and died of an accidental drug overdose prior to the The Price We Pay’s debut at last year’s Fright Fest.

The Price We Pay

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Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky

Jason Pirodsky has been writing about the Prague film scene and reviewing films in print and online media since 2005. A member of the Online Film Critics Society, you can also catch his musings on life in Prague at expats.cz and tips on mindfulness sourced from ancient principles at MaArtial.com.

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