‘You will never forget this night.’
Craig will most certainly not. Craig (Pat Healy) is happily married with a 15 month old son but has significant financial troubles. His family face eviction within a week if he cannot pay the outstanding rent of $4,200. He wants to ask for a raise at the local garage where he works but is made redundant instead. He decides to have quick drink at a bar before he heads home to break the bad news to his wife, but before he finishes his beer he is greeted by former school friend Vince (Ethan Embry), a chum he used to skateboard with and whom he hasn’t seen for five years. Also in the bar are a strange married couple Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton) who are celebrating Violet’s birthday by indulging in drinks for all, and they engage the financially bereft Craig and Vince in some games of dare in return for cash. Colin suggests that their requests are just a bit of fun, and Violet records the dares on her camera. At first the games are normal drinking challenges, progressing into social shenanigans such as getting a woman at the bar to slap them or spanking strip-joint staff – a few hundred bucks for each dare. But the payoff for each subsequent challenge seems to increase to a level becomes increasingly gross. The entertainment value for the rich couple (who think nothing of spending $300 on a bottle of tequila) and cash for the paupers results in the four heading to the couple’s residence for an unforgettable night. Craig and Vince discover the depths that Colin and Violet will go to -they have a vast amount of money that stashed around the property – approaching a clear $250,000 in cash. So do the old friends run off with the cash or compete in increasingly grotesque ways to win the money?
The black comedy has become something of a staple in cinema with varying degrees of enjoyment levels, some of which try hard to push the boundaries of taste or acceptability. The sub-genre often works best is when the budget is superseded by premise or script, often with minimal cast. Cheap Thrills is a high concept production with just four main players and draws on many influences but also provides something new. So while it is not Clerks (1992) or Very Bad Things (1998) it does at least provide something more challenging than the endless Hangover films and the like. As the premise evolves it reveals how the characters decline into grotesque extremities for financial gain.
Cheap? Very likely but that’s not a bad thing. Thrills? Not in an action sense, but at least the high concept idea is structured and doesn’t outlive its running time. Dark? Yes. Comedy? Yes. So, enjoyable low budget , high concept hokum that is recommended for sick people.