Sara Paxton and Pat Healy in «The Innkeepers.»Magnet Releasing
‘Cheap Thrills’ and ‘The Innkeepers’
The lean-and-mean horror-comedy “Cheap Thrills”(2014) wastes no time raising the stakes for Craig (Pat Healy), its Everyman protagonist whose day begins with an eviction notice, the loss of his job as an auto mechanic and no means to keep a roof over his family’s head. Rather than square up to this humiliation at home, Craig parks himself on a bar stool and winds up running into an old high school buddy (Ethan Embry), a guy he probably wouldn’t have befriended as an adult. Soon, the two are having drinks with a gregarious rich guy (David Koechner) and his new wife (Sara Paxton), who offer to give them money for an escalating series of dares.
In this gleefully deranged morality tale from E.L. Katz, Craig and his friend go skidding headlong down a slippery slope. The dares begin innocuously, but as the evening wears on, they grow more lucrative and more sinister, and distrust mounts. As the haves toy with the have-nots for sport, “Cheap Thrills” naturally devolves into a stinging class critique, but it’s mostly just a grisly good time, without a moment of its 87 minutes wasted.
Two years before, Healy and Paxton starred in another indie horror film, Ti West’s “The Innkeepers”(2012), which plays like a twist on the classic dare of convincing people to spend the night in a haunted house. Only it’s not a dare; it’s a job for the only two employees (Healy and Paxton) left on the last night of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, which is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a hanged bride. With only one guest (Kelly McGillis) in the place, the two employees set about ghost hunting with great enthusiasm — that is, until they discover there’s something to the legend, after all. A follow-up to the terrific ’80s throwback “The House of the Devil,” this film builds tension gradually but also gives the leads plenty of room to goof off. SCOTT TOBIAS
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