DECEMBER 11, 2011
The latest film from Bloody Disgusting Selects (which, I remind you, I have zero involvement with) is Chop, which as far as I know went DTV unlike most of the other entries, which received limited theatrical play via AMC. But that’s kind of odd; it’s far more suitable for a crowd experience than the dreary YellowBrickRoad or painfully boring Phase 7 – indeed, I wished I was with a few folks while I was watching. The filmmakers’ sense of humor didn’t always gel with mine, but I suspect if I had a group of friends that dug its style, I might have gotten “infected” by their laughter and had a little more fun.
At its core is a pretty great idea: a black comedy that follows the plot of one of the many torture/revenge movies that have come along in the past 5 years. Hell I just watched one last week; the only difference between this and Seven Days (besides the tone) is that here we side with the guy being tortured, not the one doing committing it. He spends most of the movie being abused, first with the loss of a few fingers, and finally spending the entire 2nd half strapped to a chair as his tormentor takes off other body parts.
So how is it funny? Well, first of all is the tone – none of the violence is played for intensity (in fact most of it is off-screen), and Will Keenan’s energetic performance as Lance wouldn’t be out of place in a Police Academy movie or something – he reminded me of Chris Kattan more often than not. Co-star Timothy Muskatell also earns some laughs with his turn as the most easy-going torturer of all time, occasionally coming off more as a pet owner trying to scold a dog than a crazed madman. Again, it wasn’t all my cup of tea, but even though I wasn’t laughing I admired the nutty concept.
More successful is the fact that Lance has no idea why he’s being tortured, and The Stranger won’t tell him – he wants him to REMEMBER. What could have become a detective story of sorts actually turns into a farce as Lance keeps confessing to awful things that he did that had nothing to do with The Stranger, each more heinous than the last. As the film goes on, you realize that even if Lance didn’t deserve this sort of treatment for whatever he did to the Stranger, he certainly deserves punishment for the things he’s done to others.
Thus, when you finally DO find out what he did to The Stranger (spoiler), it’s rather stupid - I suspected Lance had merely taken the guy’s parking spot at the mall or something, and the real answer is roughly the same in terms of how “bad” it is. And it’s funny, but it just reinforced what I had been feeling for a lot of the movie – that this should have been a great Tales From the Crypt episode, not a feature film. Once we get the basic joke (that Lance is a lot worse than this guy ever assumed), it gets rather repetitive, and the status quo doesn’t really change much – Lance never has the upper hand over the Stranger, and The Stranger never starts to regret his actions. There’s a quick bit where he sort of saves Lance from torture at the hands of one of his other victims, but it doesn’t really develop beyond that (which is a shame, as their brief conversation after that displays a fun chemistry that should have been exploited).
Plus, the final 40 minutes take place in the same single room location, with minimal breaks for flashbacks – it gets a bit dull, visually, and with the plot going in circles until the final 5 minutes. The first half was more enjoyable from a filmmaking perspective – more locations, more “action”, and more characters of note. Screenwriter Adam Minarovich also plays a role, and it’s the rare case where I wish the writer gave himself the actor more to do – his cop character (and his partner) were delightful would-be foils, but they’re only around for the first half. I almost wish that the film employed flashbacks throughout, using the scenes of Lance tied up in the garage as the “hub” for the entire movie, which would improve the flatness of the 2nd half while adding a bit more to the central “mystery”.
The DVD comes with only a few extras; a largely unfunny outtake reel (seems like a lot of “Guess you had to be there” material) and a pair of deleted scenes, one of which features Camille Keaton, a clever nod to the revenge sub-genre’s history. I can’t say the movie would have been improved had it been left in (it reinforces yet again what a piece of shit Lance is), but it’s a bummer that her role was excised either way – it’s not like she appears in a lot of movies. The other was just an extension of another scene and I’ve already forgotten what it added to the experience. A few trailers for other BD selects movies (the two I mentioned, plus Rammbock) are also included, though only accessible at the top of the disc.
It’s a shame that Scream 4 failed to truly satirize the “torture” craze of modern horror, because I think it’s an area that deserves that sort of takedown, and they had the talent and resources to pull it off. Chop will most likely be referred to as “a spoof of torture movies”, but it’s not – there’s little here to suggest anyone actually likes those films, in fact. Instead it’s just another way of going about one, where the line between good and evil is a bit vague, but they’re going for laughs rather than any sort of commentary. I just hope that this movie’s existence doesn’t dissuade someone from taking a Scream (or hell, even a Scary Movie) approach to this material. It’s entertaining and worth a look, but there’s not a lot to it beyond the one joke premise, and thus that joke run a bit thin by the end.
What say you?
P.S. My DVD came with a severed (rubber) finger, which is awesome. I gave it to my cat and he was fascinated with it – and he’s very picky when it comes to toys. Maybe I should have had him write the review.