Cheap Thrills is one of the craziest black comedy thrillers that you will ever lay eyes on. It stars Pat Healy as Craig, a married man and father who has just lost his job as an auto mechanic. To make matters worse, his family is also facing eviction from their tiny apartment as they have fallen behind on the rent. While getting his drink on at a local bar, Craig runs into his old high school friend Vince (Ethan Embry) and they proceed to talk with each other about where their lives are at and how world is treating them so poorly.
Things take a turn when Craig and Vince meet Colin (David Koechner), who is at the bar with his wife Violet (Sara Paxton) celebrating her birthday. He ends up buying the guys some drinks and bets them to do silly dares, like slapping a waitress on the ass or getting slapped by a bar patron. Eventually, the dares escalate into unthinkable, and even repulsive, situations. But with Craig and Vince in desperate need of money to survive, how far will they go and what price are they prepared to put on their own lives?
Recently, I had the chance to meet up with Paxton and Koechner at the Los Angeles press day for the film. During our exclusive interview, they discussed what drew them to the project, what it was like watching it with an audience, and why their characters prove to be so enigmatic from start to finish.
Check it out below, and enjoy!
What drew you to this film?
David Koechner: Well, it was a great script. That was pretty much it. I had immediate faith in Evan and Travis to pull this thing off. The cast was remarkable, too.
Sara Paxton: When I read the script, I really loved the character. I had never played someone so psychotic and dead inside and bleak, so that was really cool to me. Also, I just loved the way the script made me feel afterwards. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t stop thinking about what would I do.
Did you ever create a backstory for Colin?
David Koechner: In a way. Evan and I talked about it, and clearly this guy was somewhat of an entrepreneur or some type of capitalist. My guess is probably the worst type, the kind of person that probably buys a company, leverages it and takes a golden parachute. And he just does it again and again and again. There are a lot of different tricks and ways of manipulating businesses and taking people’s money for your own personal gain. He clearly has no problem taking from people, so that was our kind of idea of who he is.
Sara Paxton: I kind of did, but I won’t share it with you because it’s really fucked up (laughs). You kind of have to create a backstory though, because I didn’t have this terrifying, fucked up childhood, and I had to make it real for me because she’s so dead inside.
David Koechner: She’s got that beautiful monologue about the breaking bones. That is close to defining her in the movie and actually gives a better insight into who she is than you get from Colin. The broken bones that she heard somehow broke her to pieces, so she’s seeing how far she has to go to have any reaction. Her memory of that incident is so neutral.
Sara Paxton: Yeah, that was my favorite scene. When I read that I was like okay, she’s really messed up.
David Koechner: Usually the script, if it’s good like this one, gives you clues to who you are and why you are who you are.
Sara Paxton: The first couple of dares, that’s like the boring trip for her, you know what I mean? I’m guessing that this probably isn’t the first time that they’ve done this, so that’s how I took it. And she knows that they are going to be tempted by the money and she’s going to lure them in. She’s going to get to where she wants them to be. That’s what excites her. That’s where she wants to get to. This is how she feels. She literally gets off on that kind of thing.
You had 14 days to shoot this movie. Would you say you benefited from the short schedule or did it hurt your performance?
David Koechner: Looking back on it, I think probably yes because it added an urgency to what we were doing and you don’t have time to overthink it. You’re in it, you don’t have a place to go away to necessarily, and if you do it’s a tiny little trailer because it’s so modestly budgeted. I liken it to doing a play.
Sara Paxton: To be quite honest, there is a lot where I wasn’t doing anything (laughs). It was really relaxing for me. They would bring me sandwiches. But it was also fun for me because I got to watch them do their thing. I’ve never been more traumatized in my entire life. I had goosebumps. So it was really a treat to be able to have moments where I could sit back and watch all that happen because they were so amazing. But yeah, I could see how that was really difficult for them. Tensions were rising and it was really hot.