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Film / Cheap Thrills

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Cheap Thrills (2013) is a black comedy thriller directed by E.L. Katz. It debuted at film festival SXSW in 2013 and was commercially released March 24, 2014.

Craig (Pat Healy) is a father, a husband, and a blue-collar worker who loses his job the same day that he receives an eviction notice. Dejected, he goes to a bar, where he meets his old high school friend Vince (Ethan Embry). The two old friends cross paths with a rich couple (Sara Paxton and David Koechner), who make them an offer: the first one to down a shot gets $50. Things escalate from there, with the dollar amounts increasing and the challenges getting wilder to match them, and Craig and Vince race each other to claim those cash prizes. The film slowly takes on a darker tone as Craig and Vince are forced to consider what lengths they'll go to in the name of money.


  • Absurdly High-Stakes Game: The entire premise of the film. An "eccentric" millionaire sets out to create an entertaining evening for his jaded wife.
  • Affably Evil: Colin is a goofy, friendly guy, but he also wants to see two people destroy themselves and each other for cash.
  • All or Nothing: In each bet, there's no prize for second place.
  • At Least I Admit It: Craig calls out Vince for being a lowlife, and Vince agrees, but then goes on to point out that it was especially low of Craig to sink to his level, and even lower, for that matter.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: Colin and Violet really have a kick-ass party at the expenses of Craig and Vince.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Once everyone gets to Colin's house all of the characters start bumping lines of coke nearly every five minutes. It certainly doesn't help Craig and Vince's decision making process.
  • Downer Ending: Just when it looks like Vince has pulled a Heel–Face Turn, Craig shoots him and gets the $250,000 that Colin promised him, but when he finally gets home, his wife can only stare at him in horror. Given that he hung up on her and has a massive pile of money lying on the couch, the odds aren't looking so good for him.
  • Emotionless Girl: Violet is extremely jaded and rarely shows emotion.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Craig first encounters Colin by brushing past him outside the bathroom after Colin has just done some coke. Upon entering the bathroom, Craig see's that Colin left a $100 in the toilet and noticeably doesn't say anything, hinting that he's not above being shady to earn money. The moment he steps back outside the bathroom, it goes From Bad to Worse.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Colin is disgusted by Vince's suggestion that he kill the neighbor's dog. If the dog were already dead, however, that's another thing.
  • Fingore: $15,000 for a pinkie.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Craig was once a skateboarding, garage band rebel, but has gotten married and settled down since high school.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: Vince eventually decides that killing Craig wouldn't be worth any of the money that Colin has to offer him, and turns his back ... only for Craig to whip out Violet's gun and shoot him to death.
  • I Know Karate: A nonverbal version: when Vince tries to rob him, Colin points to his keys, which are sitting beside a picture of Colin in a gi with a black belt, holding two massive trophies. Colin then kicks Vince's ass.
  • Karma Houdini: Colin and Violet don't face any repercussions for destroying two lives, both physically and psychologically.
  • Loophole Abuse: Things quickly escalate when Vince realizes there is no rule that prohibits him from punching Craig during the "hold your breath" challenge.
  • Pet the Dog: There's one brief moment where Vince isn't acting like a total asshole, being genuinely shocked at Violet having sex with Craig on a dare.
    Vince: You did not deserve that. Not at all.
  • The Peeping Tom: Colin really enjoys watching his wife have sex with other men.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: As the contest becomes vitriolic, Craig and Vince each tear into the other about their failures, stating that the other doesn't deserve the money.
  • There Are No Police: A home invasion, screaming and gunshots. No cops.