By Darin Skaggs
When you think of a family, you think adorable child, a loving mother and a hard working father. In a traditional sense the father works hard to pay rent, bills and for food for his family. In E.L. Katz’s new film Cheap Thrills, he takes on the male role in the family system.
The story begins with Craig; he has a lovely wife, a new born child and an eviction notice looming over his family’s head. Before going to work that day he is reminded to ask for a raise at his mechanic job. And before asking for the raise he is let go, not because he is a bad worker, but merrily because of downsizing. He then goes to a bar to drink away his sorrows when he sees his old high school friend, Vince. Vince and him have a conversation about how low they are on money and then met an odd married couple, Colin and Violet. These two do drugs, are violent and creepy and just pay off the people who are bothered by their antics. After Craig wins $500 to punch a bouncer and gets knocked out they head back to Colin and Violet’s place where Craig and Vince are offered money for various tasks that get more and more crazy as the night goes on.
Pat Healy plays the titular Craig and very well. The casting is strange and very perfect for this film. Ethan Embry does very well as Vince. Sara Paxton, who starred with Healy in the previous The Innkeepers, does well as the bored, crazy wife of Colin. The most interesting bit of casting is David Koechner of Anchorman fame. He tones it down for the role still being his silly self, but acts like a normal human being that needs to make people do crazy things for money. All these actors help out the films humor that the filmmaker realized it needed with all the darkness. This makes it a wonderful dark comedy that is both hilarious and hard to watch.
At first Craig is reluctant to do any of the tasks. He does not feel like spanking a strippers butt or doing any drugs because these things are morally wrong. It actually takes a long while for Craig to get in to the tasks. He has an internal debate whether doing the right thing is better than doing the wrong and getting paid for it. When he does though, he goes full throttle. He starts with craping in the neighbor’s house and goes into many unspeakable acts. It seems that the film is almost a shorter version of Breaking Bad. A man needs to do bad acts to raise money for his family. But how far should he go and how far will he go?
The film really does take on that question. Many moments are hard to watch and we wonder if we would do the same thing to save our family. It is a truly conflicting film that makes you think how dark life can be and even if you believe you’re a good person you might be just as dark.