My Haiku Revu of the 2013 thriller/dark comedy Cheap Thrills
Maudlin money makes,
Birthday box bought by bribery,
Fallow for friendship
A down trodden mechanic, Craig (Pat Healy) loses his livelihood and knows that he will soon find his young family evicted and kicked to the kerb. With little immediate respite from his predicament, he enters a bar on skid row in consolation and is reunited with a long forgotten High School compadre, Vince (Ethan Embry,) who joins him in drinking away his sorrows. A couple, Colin (David Koechner) and Violet (Sara Paxton), out for a night on the town pull the pair into an unforgettable and suspenseful experience framed by their unique birthday celebration.
Another Frightfest film, this was shown as the Midnight Movie one warm Saturday night back in 2013. The dust of sleep that had me sinking into the soft velveteen seat that had been my temporary home during the festival was blown away, and the small cast held my rapt attention as the film grew from a simple premise into something quite macabre and unexpected. With a slew of faces from The Innkeepers and Anchorman I was expecting something perhaps more Ghostbusters than The Shining. What we were given was a murky trip into the time line of a couple of friends who thought that they were on their way to having nothing when they probably had everything within their reach without needing to lose their way. Their misadventures were funny inasmuch as the audience laughed with discomfort as the events ratcheted upwards with delectable malevolence over the course of the story. The birthday couple subtly wielded power as they cut away the friends’ inhibitions and we were left wondering what shape the final denouement would take.
It has been a few years hence since I first saw this, and outside of a handful of festivals, and some media streaming services which shall remain nameless, I haven’t seen a large release for this, which is a shame as it has all the hallmarks of a cult hit. With an 89% score on Rotten Tomatoes, the gleefully horrible turn of events and the subtext which sees the powerful misuse their leverage over others, it should have had more impact on release. Perhaps it will get more traction in the future, but in the meantime, I can strongly recommend this film to lovers of dark comedy morality tales with a splash of viscera for good measure, with a give-me-the-money-but-god-not-the-fingers two thumbs up.
The trailer is quite spoiler-ful, avoid if you’re going to watch the film…