Chopping Block is wholly original in all that it wishes to accomplish. Prior to screening the film, director Joshua Hull commented that his film is a comedy, first and foremost, and the horror is secondary. This thematic asymmetry is made clear with the opening flashback sequence. The horror of the film takes place on the outskirts of the main narrative and the lead characters haphazardly stumble upon it. Hull circumvents old and worn horror framework in favor of humor and character, but also relies on our knowledge of the typical slasher film to help provide a larger canvass on which the film rests.
From the onset, we witness a woman covered in blood. She is shambling home from what we can only assume was a very long night. As an audience, our mind wanders to images from I Spit On Your Grave, Carrie, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or probably the closest would be Judy’s walk home in Night Of The Demons. Whichever reference we choose, our interest is piqued and we need to know. Hull shifts the focus onto our quintet of novice kidnappers preparing to pounce. They have apparently chosen the worst possible candidate for their plan. In most horror fare, the story would have then focused on either the events that led up to the zombie-like bloody mess or continued the timeline from the kidnapper’s perspective. Instead, Hull utilizes his time to flesh out the five extortionists and their inebriated justification for breaking the law.
We are introduced to Steve (Raymond Kester), “The Sprinkle Bandit,” who fulfills a cheesy-oddball-father archetype. Hillary (Jas Sams), “Books,” is a straight laced career woman who loses all of her morals along with her job. Will (Bryan Wilson) is an overtly homoerotic cosplayer. Richie (Alex Raaen) is the apathetic millennial. Finally, there’s the leader of this ragtag bunch, the slacker Donnie (Michael Malone). When they all get fired due to Donnie’s incompetence, they decide to kidnap the boss’s daughter.
This may seem like a familiar plot so far, but Hull’s writing sets you up for the expected then veers drastically off course. We are invited into the fuzzy logic that transforms this group of office workers into a bumbling brigade of criminals. Each one more inept than the last. If this group can actually pull of their scheme, it will be the least of their worries. The boss’s daughter is not only from a privileged family, but also happens to be a final girl.
This year we will see both Tyler Shields’ Final Girl and Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls which will lovingly exploit the 1980’s Slasher trope. These two entries will take the idea of the virginal feminine hero and transplant it into the world of self-referential horror, while Chopping Block merely uses it as an aside. This is the strength in Hull’s feature, to understand clichés of the genre and restrain himself from falling victim to their allure.
Chopping Block affectionately references films such as Carrie, You’re Next, and Evil Dead 2 through dialogue and situations but doesn’t rely on the post-modern catechism of films like Scream. The humor comes in the form of homoerotic double entendres, dick and butt sex jokes, whore affirmations, and drug induced logic. To reaffirm what Hull said, it is a comedy first and foremost. The horror is peripheral, which makes this low-budget passion project immensely entertaining.