Cheap Thrills (2013)

cheapthrills01Pat Healy and Sara Paxton from The Innkeepers.  That’s all I really needed to know to make this a must-see

Sadly, it also stars the odious David Koechner, doesn’t give Sara anything to do, and has directorial problems.

Pat Healy and wife are a cute couple with a new baby.  His day is off to a great start as he notices an eviction notice on their apartment door.  Then he gets fired from his job at the garage.  The obvious solution is to go to a bar.  There he sees an old friend Vince, who he hasn’t seen for 5 years.

Vince works in collections as a knuckle-breaker; also a dragger.  Healy inquires about joining that prestigious line of work, but doesn’t seem cut out for it.

Healy passes a guy doing some coke in the bathroom, and sees a $50 bill in the  toilet.  Being American dollars, this is very appropriate.  Coming back out, he sees Vince has joined Koechner and Sara at their table.  Koechner portrays the same overbearing, obnoxious character he always plays.  He buys the group a $300 bottle of tequila and offers $50 to the first one to down their shot.  The games have begun.

The fun continues innocently with bets on darts, slapping asses, hitting on hookers. At a strip club, a more serious challenge ends with Healy being being punched in his face, which brings out his inner Tyler Durden.  The bets escalate, leading to the only place this can lead to.  That’s not to say it’s not possible to have fun while zooming toward the inevitable.  But it is to say that there should have been a lot more fun getting there.

cheapthrills02Audiences, especially in the horror genre, have been burned so many times that the barest hint of quality often becomes over-praised.

It’s like when you are forced at gunpoint to listen to jazz and unexpectedly 3 consecutive notes form something resembling a melody.  Your heart beats a little faster in anticipation of an actual tune.

This is only an OK movie, garnering praise way above its pay-grade.  Pat Healy does great work as always, but the cast falls off steeply after that.  Ethan Embry as Vince is overwhelmingly adequate, nothing more.  Koechner is just a repulsive blowhard; that’s his stock character and I guess he plays it well, but it doesn’t make it pleasant to watch.

And poor, lovely Sara Paxton.  Did she read the script before signing?  Other than one cringe-inducing fully-clothed sex scene, she is given nothing do to.  I mean, literally nothing.  She is silent arm candy to a jerk.  This is far, far beneath her.

The tone and pacing also seemed uneven.  This was director E.L. Katz’s first joint.  It isn’t horrible, but it doesn’t quite work either.  The pacing is off, the cinematography just seems wrong, and the fine line between comedy and horror is not adequately resolved.

In conclusion, poor Sara.  It was nearly impossible to find a single good shot of her to capture in the entire movie.  All in all, a huge let down given the stars and reviews I had read.


  • E.L. Katz was a producer on the low-budget Aggression Scale which I quite liked.
  • Writer Trent Haaga played Clyde in Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula.  Just the thought of that is so great that I refuse to watch it and be disappointed.
  • Even the poster above bugs me.  At first I thought the yellow shape backing the title shape was a theater ticket, but no; I got nothing.  Good maniacal shot of Healy; Koechner seems appropriately repulsive — a fair representation; Sara displays the same detachment she shows in the movie, so at least it is an accurate portrayal of how she is underutilized.  But what the hell does Vince find so high-larious?  OK, now the yellow backing looks like an open file folder — but why?  And why is there a single bill floating around?  That doesn’t exactly reflect the titular thrill, an out of control evening or coke-fueled insanity.  No one ever says “It’s all about a Benjamin.”
  • It is not uncommon to say some guys are baby-faced.  Healy is the only guy who seems to be infant-faced.
  • And Davey K, enough with the hipster hats — you’re 50!  Backwards baseball cap in the wash?

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