Struggling to make ends meet, Craig (Pat Healy) heads to work, only to find out that he’s fired. Instead of heading home to his family, Craig hits the bar, where he runs into his old friend Vince (Ethan Embry). The two friends are catching up over drinks when they’re invited to join Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), a rich couple just looking to celebrate Violet’s birthday. Colin begins offering money to Craig and Vince to perform some childish dares, and the two men gladly oblige. When Craig wants to go home, Colin convinces him to come back to his house, where the dares become increasingly dangerous, and the money offered grows. How far are Vince and Craig willing to go, and what kind of pent up frustration will be released as the evening progresses?
Everybody has taken part in a conversation that runs along the lines of ‘what would you do for a certain amount of money?’ Director E.L. Katz and writers David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga take that idea to extreme levels with Cheap Thrills. It’s an incredibly disturbing, and downbeat film, highlighting the difference between rich and poor, and how money can allow people to get away with some despicable acts. The subtext is heavy, but it may be hard to decide what you think everything means while you spend most of the movie cringing.
There’s a very dark feeling to the film, starting almost from the first moment, and viewers will have a difficult time trying to figure out what will happen next. You’ll be thrown off by the lengths that characters are willing to go, either for money in the case of Craig and Vince, or for sick pleasure, like Colin and Violet. It’s unbelievable, and sickeningly realistic, all at the same time.
With just four characters making up most of the film, the entire movie hinges on the performances, and they’re all incredibly outstanding. Pat Healy and Ethan Embry are amazing as Craig and Vince, the old friends who reunite, but still hold some grudges against each other. As Colin and Violet begin offering more money for increasingly weird, and bloody dares, the history of the two friends begins to surface.
Sara Paxton and David Koechner are almost as good as the rich couple, but don’t get the same exploration of character as Craig and Vince. The lack of explanation for their demands only adds to the vileness of their characters, positioning them as the faceless rich people that so many others hate just for the fact that they have money. There is no happy ending in the world of this film, but what does occur is incredibly shocking, setting up repercussions that audiences will be discussing for days afterwards.
Should You Watch Cheap Thrills?
This is an incredibly powerful film, but it’s not going to leave you feeling good at the end. It’s definitely a must see film, but be prepared for an emotionally draining experience.