Title: Cheap Thrills
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Director: E.L. Katz
Screenwriters: David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga
Starring: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton
Seen at the 2013 SXSW Film Festival.
There was a Simpsons episode like this: Homer is short of cash, and so Mr. Burns hires him as his “monkey,” throwing bills at him for humiliating himself in various moronic ways for the mogul’s amusement. In Cheap Thrills, a just-fired, about-to-be-evicted auto mechanic (Pat Healy), too despondent to go home to his wife and young child, runs into an old high-school pal (Ethan Embry) at a bar, and the two of them fall in with a rich couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) out for a night on the town. The rich couple starts blithely offering the two cash-strapped friends large sums of money for stupid shit: get that woman to slap you. Punch the bouncer. Take a shot before the other guy can.
The foursome soon retire to the rich couple’s apartment, and matters escalate in gruesome and (very) darkly funny ways. What I didn’t expect was that Cheap Thrills, the first film from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett collaborator E.L. Katz, would become a pointed allegory for capitalism: the way that ordinary people are forced to debase themselves and destroy each other to get by, while blaming everyone but the real source of their misfortune. There’s no big twist here, but the film’s sustained thoughtfulness is as surprising as any plot development; the last half hour is tinged with a sadness and desperation that transcends that of horror film victims.
— Eugene Novikov