By Jessica Delfanti | February 18, 2012
Director: Trent Haaga
Writer: Adam Minarovich
Starring: Timothy Muskatell, Will Keenan, Mark Irvingsen, Camille Keaton
Troma Entertainment has by now established an impressive reputation for heedless gore, nudity, and tackiness in the horror genre, so it is no surprise that when Troma royalty like Trent Haaga makes a film, the expectations are high. Sadly, Haaga’s Chop is a lackluster try at the horror comedy trend that fails both to amuse and terrify.
The film centers on the detestable Lance Reed (Will Keenan), an ex-druggie that is tortured and mangled throughout the film by a stranger (Timothy Muskatell) in a vague revenge plot. Lance, it seems, has committed some heinous crime against the stranger, of which he has no recollection. As the stranger, and the viewer, uncover more of Lance’s distasteful past, the stranger chops off more and more of Lance’s expendable limbs.
Playing Lance, Keenan is an over exaggerated clown channeling Robert Downey, Jr. in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, playing panic, fear, love, disappointment, depression, annoyance and all other emotions in neurotic fast talk that lacks the wit to entertain. It is difficult to determine whether it’s Adam Minarovich’s script or Keenan’s acting that makes Lance so utterly difficult to watch. He is objectively despicable with no charm or intrigue to temper it, and no matter how many ways Keenan can move his eyebrows, nothing can make us care even remotely about the character.
Naturally, if we judged every horror film over its unlikable or badly developed central characters, we’d have to throw the whole genre out the window. Perhaps if Chop supplied something decent to support its genre categorization, we would forgive it for Lance. But instead, Chop misses the mark constantly. As a horror film, it is nearly mislabeled: there is no suspense, no pop out scare tactics, and only one scene of laughable gore. As a comedy, the jokes consistently fail to land, often coming off as trying too hard or simply alienating rather than funny.
Perhaps the greatest error of Chop, however, is its resistance to committing itself too fully to one thing. It seems that Haaga and Keenan, both from Troma backgrounds, have failed to learn the lesson taught by Troma films: when it comes to blood and laughs, more is better. If Chop really committed to the absurdity of its concept -– for instance, if the premise of the movie was simply a man who woke up to find himself missing an appendage every time he fell asleep –- there might be more life in this. If the filmmakers embraced the brutality of its subject, and actually showed some of his limbs getting chopped off, maybe the giddy gore would at least elicit an emotion from the audience.
Instead, Chop doesn’t commit to anything, making it hard for the viewer to commit to even watching the film through to its dissatisfying ending. Movie watchers would do well to skip this in favor of the Troma catalogue for a bloody good time instead of a bloody mess.
(Don’t forget to check out all of the other films we previewed for the SF IndieFest 2012.)