While SXSW captured headlines recently for a rapper getting arrested for starting a riot and a pop icon being voluntarily puked on, one of the fruits of last year’s festival is hitting theaters this week with the appropriately named “Cheap Thrills.”
The cult classic in the making by first-time director E.L Katz starts off innocently enough, just like a crime drama or an episode of “Dr. Drew.” Loving husband and new father Craig (Pat Healy) is about to have one of the worst mornings ever as he rips an eviction letter off his door on the way to work. That’s not the only eviction he’s treated to, though, as he’s also fired from his job as a low-end auto mechanic. Instead of going home, he drowns his sorrows in the nearest dive bar he can find.
Of course, bars in the morning are filled with nasty drinks and even nastier characters, one of which is Craig’s old high school buddy, Vince (Ethan Embry), a collection agent who brags that he once broke a guy’s arm in front of his daughter for $80. And you thought collection calls were bad.
The two are approached by Colin (David Koechner), the type of guy that screams “I make good money in sales and can prove it.” He’s quick to hand out a handshake and, more importantly, free drinks alongside his trophy wife Violet (Sara Paxton), who has ten times the sex appeal and one tenth the need to talk. Before you can say “Fear Factor,” Colin is daring the pair to do crazy things for money. It starts out tame enough, like seeing who can down Tequila shots the quickest or get slapped by a cocktail waitress, but things take a turn at a nearby strip club where Craig takes the worst kind of dare by punching a bouncer. Our hero awakens in Colin’s home with a bloody nose and the introduction of Phase 2 of their night of Dollars for Dares. This time, the stakes are in the thousands and get as dangerous and seductive as their hosts.