Starring: Pat Healy, David Koechner, Sara Paxton, Ethan Embry, Amanda Fuller
Directed by: E.L. Katz
Synopsis: A scheming couple put a struggling family man and his old friend through a series of increasingly twisted dares over the course of an evening at a local bar.
Cheap Thrills is a comedy so black that it is barely funny. It is frequently wince inducing and chock full of shocks, but despite some of the gross out moments, I don’t think it was malicious or exploitative of the characters. They were all, by the end, willing participants in the grotesque dares they were taking part in.
The film tells the story of Craig, played by Pat Healy. He has a lovely wife and baby at home and leaves for work in the morning full of smiles. He then gets outside and sees an eviction notice on his apartment door. His day gets worse when his boss sacks him. Out of a job and possibly out of his house, Craig seeks solace where all good men seek solace, a local bar. Here he bumps into an old friend, Vince (Ethan Embry). After catching up and lamenting their status in loserville, they are approached by a rich couple, Colin and Violet (David Koechner and Sara Paxton). It starts off innocently, daring each other to drink Tequila and slap strippers arses. Then they get back to Colin’s house and things take a turn for the macabre.
To say any more would remove the shock factor of what these two guys will do when they are desperate for money. In that regard the film has an interesting message to convey, albeit in an outlandish way. Just how far would you go to keep a roof over the head of your family? Pretty damned far if you are Craig!
Pat Healy was fantastic as Craig, starting off wary and hesitant and ending as a physically and mentally broken man. Ethan Embry, as his friend and competitor Vince was good too, playing the opposite to Craig. A man who is already broken, who just wants what he thinks he is due. David Koechner and Sara Paxton also worked well as the creepy couple willing to put these guys through a night of hell. Koechner, I was pleased to see, wasn’t playing close to Anchorman territory.
As the dares get more and more outrageous, you may find yourself looking more and more away from the screen, as it does get pretty graphic at times. I think it’s never nasty though, because it’s almost cartoonish in a way. I’m not big on sadistic violence so I appreciated that slight lightness to it.
Cheap Thrills may not be on many critics end of year lists, and it has certain faults, but I must say it kept me entertained and surprised for the whole ninety minutes, and even had me quite shocked by it’s downbeat ending. I honestly didn’t see it coming.
Check out my interview with the star of Cheap Thrills, Pat Healy, here.