Vivendi Visual Entertainment // 2011 // 86 Minutes // Unrated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // January 6th, 2012
Revenge Is Best Taken Piece By Piece.
With his directorial debut, Chop, Troma veteran Trent Haaga delivers a horror-comedy that -- if it doesn't quite stick the landing -- sure as hell makes for an entertaining ride.
The plot itself sees Lance Reed (Will Keenan, Tromeo and Juliet) kidnapped by a stranger (Timothy Muskatell, Deadgirl) with a grudge. The Stranger is after an apology from Lance for a past misdemeanor; the only problem is Lance cannot remember ever having met the man. Feeling truly wronged, The Stranger sets about destroying Lance's life, piece by piece, and, when there is nothing else left, begins dismembering Lance himself, limb by limb.
Working from Adam Minarovich's excellent screenplay, Haaga fashions a tightly paced horror that sparkles thanks to the darkly comic streak that runs through it. Of course, the same can be said of many films, but what sets Chop apart is chief protagonist Lance Reed. We first meet Lance mere moments before he is thrown into a nightmare at the hands of a man he has no recollection of; he immediately earns our sympathies. However, as the film progresses, and we get to know Lance better, our opinion of him begins to change considerably. At this point many films would lose their audience on account of the massive disconnect between viewer and leading man, but not here. This is where the genius of Chop really becomes evident. Two elements are brought into play that carry the film brilliantly. The first is the mystery behind why Lance is facing death by dismemberment, which is never less than compelling; the second is the interplay between the film's two leads.
Make no mistake, regardless of the excellent work of both Haaga and Minarovich, Chop would not work to this extent without the contributions of its leading men, Timothy Muskatell and Will Keenan. Muskatell steels the picture with his portrayal of The Stranger. He is malevolent and remorseless, and yet, the more time we spend with him, the more he appears to be an average guy. In one scene he chastises Lance for being rude, clearly believing in justice -- albeit of a biblical kind.
The movie moves along at a measured pace, and ramps up the tension as a wave of bizarre new characters are introduced. It's impossible to know where the film will go next, as it takes a series of unexpected, but frequently hilarious turns. It's a shame then that Chop doesn't quite deliver the ending one would hope for it. When we get the final reveal, it's hard not to feel a little disappointed. Don't get me wrong: I can see how this is in part the intention of Minarovich and Haaga, and it is actually pretty funny. Considering how things had built up, gradually getting darker, it may not have been a bad idea to have left the mystery unresolved. Still, I suspect any disappointment felt initially will subside with repeat viewings, which are a certainty for anyone who shares the film's twisted sense of humor.
The standard definition 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is solid, if unspectacular. The picture is sharp, and contains good levels of detail. The Dolby 2.0 stereo soundtrack is a similar story, in that it does its job without making a fuss. A selection of outtakes and deleted scenes make up the special features.
Chop is an excellent addition to the DVD collection of any fans of horror-comedy. This is a simple story in truth, but its execution is absolutely gripping. Recommended.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Vivendi Visual Entertainment
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 86 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Unrated
* Deleted Scenes