EAST COAST PREMIERE
2013, USA, 85 min.
Director E.L. Katz
Screenwriter Trent Haaga, David Chirchirillo
Cast Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner, Amanda Fuller
What would you do for a Klondike bar? is transformed from dessert to just deserts, as two recently reunited friends are pitted against one another in a series of escalating bets by a couple of onepercenters looking for the eponymous jollies promised in E.L. Katz’s fiercely critical feature debut.
When Craig (Pat Healy) gets hit with a layoff, he heads to the bar to hit the bottle for temporary respite. At this seediest of watering holes he reconnects with an old friend (Ethan Embry) whose life has meandered out of prison and into loanshark waters since they last saw one another. While the two play catch-up, they catch the eye of Colin (David Koechner) and his blasé bride Violet (Sara Paxton). In one fell $300-tequila-bottle swoop, it becomes clear this power couple has money to spare as friendly dares with friendlier pricetags are dangled before these two down-and-out dudes in a friendly game of one-upmanship. When they take the party home, the night spirals out of control as the outlandish dares begin to resemble Pasolini’s Jackass.
Humanity has a hardwired history of reveling in the misery of those condemned to the lower echelons of society. From gladiatorial displays of bravado to the gross-out fascination ofFear Factor, in this dog-eat-dog world, a man will eat dog if he has to, especially when high stakes command the price of dignity. Chirchirillo & Haaga weave a soberingly cruel and hilarious parable that cuts flesh, pound for pound, and evaluates its monetary worth through the actions of a pair of desperate men reduced to bourgeoisie playthings.
Where 1987’s Eat the Rich shoves a blackly comedic proletariat agenda down the titular rich’s (and the viewers’) throats, Cheap Thrills prefers a subtly left-leaning but-no-less-blackly-comedic shiv to the McRibs, appealing to our sense of humanity by forcing us to witness the devastating and utterly convincing dissolution of our everyman hero’s very own.
— Nicole McControversy