“What do you want me to do next?”
A seemingly innocuous request for tasks takes on a whole new light in E.L Katz’s Cheap Thrills, a film about two old friends, both struggling financially, who succumb to a rich couple’s twisted pleasure of getting them to do increasingly bizarre dares, all for money.
Craig (Pat Healy) has a wife, a 15-month-old son, and has recently been fired from his job changing oil at a garage. The cherry on top of Craig’s shit-cake of a life is that he’s also been recently served with an eviction notice. In need of some liquid courage, Craig hits up the local bar, where he runs into his old friend Vince (Ethan Embry), who he hasn’t seen in 5 years. It doesn’t take long for these two to fall in with a rich couple (played by David Koechner and Sara Paxton) and for the warped game show to begin.
Cheap Thrills is hands-down one of the most fascinating films I’ve seen in a long time; oscillating seamlessly between drama, comedy and horror (with a pinch of home invasion thriller), the film takes precision turns at full-speed, leaving you totally at its mercy. The film is also at its core a comment on the ridiculously wealthy – think the Lindsay Lohans of the world – who have so much money they have to take their thrills from other persuasions, like perhaps paying a man $1,200 to take a shit inside their neighbour’s house. Koechner and Paxton’s characters are throwing their money at Craig and Vince and watching them viciously compete for it, taking advantage of their disadvantaged situations for entertainment purposes. It’s almost a twisted inversion of the ideals behind Occupy Wall Street – taking the wealthy/poor division and holding it upside down by its ankles.
Cheap Thrills is a darkly comic, unrelentingly savage film that was a totally unexpected treat. Two thumbs up for Katz’s directorial debut.