Married couple Liv and Chuck Matthews are enjoying a quiet and romantic night in at their apartment complex. That is until a pizza delivering psychopath, who relishes chopping off the heads of his victims, knocks at their front door, interrupting the Matthews’ serenity with his own homicidal desires. The skirmish puts forth the Matthews onto a series of misguided and bizarre encounters with an underground criminal syndicate that upends and jeopardizes their very lives, but the Matthews are not as innocent as they appear and harbor a dark secret of their own that just might get them out alive, barely.
Flying under the October release radar this year, amongst a swarm of horror films that we thankfully have this unprecedented Halloween season, ekes in the debut feature film, a USA-made, independent horror-thriller entitled “Chop Chop,” from writer-director Rony Patel. Co-written with Andrew Ericksen, the sleeper film echoes notes of Lynchian themes embroidered with idiosyncratic personas toiling uncomfortable tensions that are dryly humorous. The Temple University educated in film studies Patel is no stranger to the metaphysics of the genre, pulling influences from and expanding upon his short film catalogue over the last decade with narratives that revolve around the dread of situational surrealism and detour from tropes of traditional tangible horror. “Chop Chop” is a production of the Patel founded LA based company, Fairwolf Productions, LLC.
Jake Taylor and, the uncanny Zoe Saldana lookalike, Atala Arce, star in their first principle roles as a seemingly normal husband and wife, Chuck and Liv, who are introduced into the initial beginnings of date night that turns into a stay-at-home night of relationship bliss, but as the story progresses, even before the psychotic pizza boy’s entrance into their lives, setting off a string of deadly incidents, a latent secret itches within them as if toiling an escape plan from a previous unsavory life connected by the unexplained red spade symbol tattooed on both of their bodies. Ambiguity fills the air between the mysterious tattoo and Taylor and Arce’s sanctum mind and side-eyed performances that convey very little of their unspoken plight and reveal very little about their existing purpose in an organization comprised of odd, but dangerous, jobs and dubiously offbeat and clandestine characters. However, the face of “Chop Chop” draws an intense paroxysm of eye popping curiosity from the character actor David Harper (“Sick Boy”) in a dual performance as Teddy, the head chopping pizza delivery man, and Teddy’s mute twin brother who wields a samurai sword with a glaring look conveying malevolence. Harper’s distinct face becomes transfixing when the scarred skin and bedecked with silvery braced teeth jut out from the bowed lips of a sinister smile. To continue the trend of eccentric, quite rememberable, dark characters, Mikael Mattsson (“Scariest Night of Your Life”) and Nicholas Correnti contribute warped opposition encased inside an intermittent individual of horrid killer instincts reinforcing the already loaded with tension thriller. “Chop Chop” rounds out with Jeremy Jordan, James McCabe (“Drifter”), Natasha Missick, and Lizzie Chaplin to wring Liv and Chuck’s out, whatever that might be from, even more life-and-death.
“Chop Chop’s” immensely cryptic diagram tones more evocatively by the uniquely rich characters planted from moment to moment inside Liv and Chuck’s inescapable conundrum of cascading misadventures. Whereas Patel and Ericksen scribe persona diversity that’s interlinked to the fermenting innards of the scene, these characters would not be as fruitful if not exuberated by the actors who portray them, instilling a symbiotic coexistence of selling viperous rouges. Mysterious elements don’t solely lie with the veiled married couple, but also with Terry and his brother who are said, and is shown to an extent, to have powers with the abilities to walk through walls and be clairvoyant; yet, cliff notes of the beyond elemental are nixed and the omission of faculty talents are obliquely positive. Where the characters flourish in a cesspool of strange and usual criminal activity, the story steps back as a murkier shadow game that’s about as translucent as pea soup and while understanding Liv and Chuck’s more exact role in the whole scheme of events isn’t a complete necessity, Patel and Ericksen’s narrative shell loses the cohesive glue to hold and sustain everything in into a diatonic cadence to the end. Viewers will be kind of left stuck on the precipice by the finale led up by a perpetual tease of haphazard affairs thinly connected by one inexplicable common source that was surrounded by spies, murderers, and a malicious carcass disposer. Evading a near total fumbling of the story, “Chop Chop” whips up fresh, new characters for the fray scattered throughout the playing field, keeping the loosely lassoed narrative structure from disastrously crumbling down into hollowed heap.
Ding, Dong! Pizza’s here! “Chop Chop” is a deliciously devilish dish from newcomer Rony Patel, landing onto Digital HD and Cable VOD on October 20th to rent or own on Amazon, iTunes, Comcast, Spectrum, Vudu and more, distributed by Kamikaze Dogfight in partnership with Gravitas Ventures. Since a digital screener was reviewed, critiquing the A/V aspects will not be covered. There was also no bonus material available and no bonus scenes during or after the credits. The cinematography scenes from Ryan Emanuel and Carter Fawcett produce striking setups that immediately dictate an artistry of vest-pocket anarchy that stick out gorgeously from the more darker laden respite between meetups. The English audio mix entangles the dialogue into murky territories underneath the swathed action, creating minor clarity issues to chase when trying to understand Liv and Chuck’s subdued spats that are telling of who they really are in “Chop Chop’s” lethal, but still trippy, Alice in Wonderland variation. Keep an eye on Rony Patel’s future cinematic endeavors as the young filmmaker’s tenebrous thriller, “Chop Chop,” has a meticulous sound design and a marvelously simple flare for character prototypes that energizes the rough enigmatic mystery.