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DVD Released: 12/27/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 1/9/2011
There are certain genres which are abundant in theaters and in whatever passes for a video store these days (Redbox?). Dramas, romantic-comedies, action movies -- we see these come and go all the time. One of the more elusive sub-genres is the horror-comedy. Making a truly scary movie or a truly funny movie is difficult enough, but combining the two is nearly impossible. Seriously, how many great horror-comedies can you name? Dead/Alive? Re-animator? For the sake of argument, let's lump Ghostbusters in there. Still, this doesn't stop filmmakers from trying, so we get movies like Chop.
As Chop opens, Lance Reed (Billy Bashki) is driving to an appointment when his car breaks down. He's able to flag down a stranger (Timothy Muskastell), who immediately begins to ask Lance a series of personal questions and then shoots Lance with a tranquilizer gun. When Lance awakens, he finds that his brother bound and gagged before him. The stranger makes Lance choose between killing his own brother or having someone hurt his wife, so Lance kills his brother. The story then leaps ahead three weeks. Lance has tried to return to a normal homelife, but he's a nervous wreck. His frame of mind doesn't improve when the stranger suddenly enters his home disguised as a cable guy and attacks Lance and his wife (Tanisha). Following this, Lance has periods where he blacks out, only to wake to find one of his extremities missing. This continues as the stranger begins to torture Lance, seeking revenge for some past transgression. How long with Lance be able to live?
How do I know that Chop is a horror-comedy? Because the DVD box told me so -- otherwise, I would have had no idea. Why? Because it's not funny, nor is it ever creepy or scary. What we do get is an incredibly monotonous movie which would have made a fine 20-minute short. Stretched out to 80-plus minutes, it is an exercise in redundant tedium which goes nowhere. Once the central idea finally arrives, the audience is promised some sort of payoff, but when the groaner of an ending comes, it's the kind which would have set off riots had anyone seen this movie.
Chop comes from Trent Haaga, who is making his directorial debut here. He wroteDeadgirl, which was a gripping and interesting movie. However, working from a script by Adam Minarovich, Haaga isnít given much to work with. The two are both veterans of Troma and the sort of mentality shown by that company rears its ugly head at times. Tone-wise, Chop doesnít feel like a Troma movie. Despite some lapses into silliness, it tries to play things straight -- leaning more towards black comedy rather than splatstick. But, there are times when Chop has the DIY low-budget look of a Troma film. For example, Lance loses some fingers and his hand is wrapped in a bandage. Now, this should be shot from above, so that we just see the back of the hand, giving it a stumpy appearance. But, Haaga constantly shoots the hand straight-on, so that itís painfully obvious that Bashki is simply making a fist. This destroys any illusion created by the movie and really pulls the viewer out of the film.
Technical issues aside, the real problems still lie in the script. I can see how this would have looked good on paper. Take some of the torture-porn ideas from saw and lace it with absurd comedic elements. Then, throw in some Twilight Zone-esque tones where the main character doesnít know whatís happening to them. But, the final product falls on its face due to pacing and tone. Again, the story simply goes in circles, as the stranger (who is a dead ringer for a more put-together Randy Quaid) tortures Lance. A scene with a deranged biker brings the movie to a screeching halt...unless youíve always wanted an uncomfortable scene filled with Diffírent Strokes jokes. The movie wants to have tension, but it paints itself into a corner -- Lance is unlikable, so we donít care what happens to him and the stranger is a blank slate, so we donít care about his motives. And just to reiterate, the ending is a nominee for worst ending ever.
The idea of skewering movies like Saw is a good one, and one which has a lot of potential. However, Chop tries to cross this kind of idea with something which would have been found in a Gross Jokes book. The result is unsatisfying in all arenas. Itís not funny or scary, and only the most patient viewer wonít throw something at the screen at the end.
Chop convinced me that I donít know what a glass eye looks like on DVD courtesy of Vivendi Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing little grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, most notably reds and blues. The image is fairly crisp for a low-budget movie, but it is a tad dark at times. The picture shows a hint of softness and there is some mild artifacting. The DVD carries a Dolby digital stereo audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The musical score sounds fine and it never overpowers the dialogue. The stereo effects are intermittent and a few do a good job of illustrating off-screen sounds.
The Chop DVD contains only a few extras. We get a 4-minute gag reel of "Outtakes". There is one EXTENDED SCENE (2 minutes) and one DELETED SCENE (4 minutes), which features a cameo by Camille Keaton ofI Spit on Your Grave fame. This second scene is actually interesting. Not "it would have saved the movie interesting" but interesting nonetheless. They should have left this in and cut out some of the more redundant parts.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long