Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Chop (2011)(Minor Spoilers Review)

**This review contains MINOR spoilers. No major reveals or twists**

Lance Reed (Will Keenan) is on a road trip one day, but some unexpected car trouble ruins Lance’s plans. Lance is stuck on the side of the road without cell phone reception, when a mysterious stranger (Timothy Muskatell) in a pickup truck offers him a ride to the nearest town for a phone call.

During the trip, The Stranger asks Lance a bizarre hypothetical question, and he pushes Lance to give an answer. The scenario? Lance has to kill one of two people, who are very close to his heart: His half brother, Bobby (Chad Ferrin), and his wife, Emily (Tanishaa Mukherjee).

To play along, Lance chooses Bobby, and a few seconds later, The Stranger shoots Lance with a tranquilizer dart. Lance awakes in a warehouse, and Bobby is sitting in front of him, tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth. With some help from a friend, The Stranger is ready to pull the trigger on Emily’s execution, so Lance murders Bobby with an axe to the top of his head to save Emily.

Three weeks later, a distraught and paranoid Lance is trying to stall the two detectives assigned to the case for Bobby’s murder. Detective Williams (Adam Minarovich) and Detective Roebuck (Tamil T. Rhee) want a DNA test to clear up any suspicions, but Lance has to worry about bigger problems, when The Stranger returns. During Lance’s blackouts, The Stranger cuts off his fingers one by one. The Stranger’s plan? He’s going to dismember Lance piece by piece until there’s nothing left.

The Stranger uses another tranquilizer dart to kidnap a disfigured Lance. The Stranger takes Lance as his prisoner, and he demands an explanation and an apology for an incident in the past. Lances tries to think of a plan for escape, but Lance is running out of time and limbs, and his survival depends on two answers to two crucial questions: Who is The Stranger, and why is he so obsessed with vengeance?

Will Keenan and Timothy Muskatell deliver the two best performances here. Keenan is entertaining as this jittery nervous wreck, who’s trying to come up with a plan to outsmart The Stranger, but you‘ll see Lance‘s nasty side in flashbacks. Muskatell delivers a solid performance, as the kooky psychopath with a dark sense o f humor. Unfortunately, Keenan and Muskatell are alone for noteworthy and quality performances here. Mark Irvingsen (Ray Fielding) and Jeff Sisson (Jeff) had a chance to standout, but their screen time is cut short here.

Chop is loaded with screwball characters. Ray Fielding is a sadistic ex-drug dealer with a missing leg, and he’s got a score to settle with Lance. Ray’s cousin Jeff is a creepy pervert, with a few loose screws, and Stephanie (Malaya Manson) is a vicious and vindictive prostitute, who seizes the opportunity to make Lance suffer. Detective Williams and Detective Roebuck are two guys, who don’t take their jobs seriously, and they share a strange relationship as partners. So when it’s all said done, Emily is the only normal person in this eccentric cast of characters.

Enjoying Chop depends on your reaction to the big reveal/twist at the end. You’ll either laugh at the situational irony of The Stranger’s motivations for tormenting Lance, or you’ll take the “nonsensical” approach to dissecting The Stranger’s motivations, and you’ll hate this film.

But you have to consider something before you make your decision. Chop is a no holds barred horror comedy. It’s supposed to be a ludicrous and over the top film, and you’re supposed to laugh at the absurdity  behind The Stranger’s motivations. In the end, it doesn’t matter what side of the fence you’re standing on for reactions to this twist, because you’re going to ask yourself a series of questions after the finale. Does Lance deserve his punishment? Are The Stranger’s actions justified? Chop’s thought-provoking finale is full of questions, and it’s almost impossible to resist the urge for a dissection and answers.

Chop is a consistently funny horror comedy, with a twisted sense of humor, and the right amount of nasty blood and gore. The gruesome stuff never passes the overkill point, and Chop will show you just enough to pull a reaction. Also, kudos to writer Adam Minarovich for a few good twists, including Lance’s “glass” eye. The Stranger was one step ahead of Lance throughout the movie, because he replaced Lance’s glass eye with a mechanical eye, and the mechanical eye was equipped with a camera.

Although, I’ll admit, my score for Chop is bittersweet, because Chop had the potential to be a MUCH better film. Problem is, overall the cast is mediocre at best, and Keenan and Muskatell have to carry the load in the acting department. Trust me, Chop would’ve been a lot worse without Muskatell and Keenan. On top of that, I know this is a low budget film, but I can’t ignore the sub-par production values.

Rating: 7/10

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