CUT AND CHOP (2020)
Directed by Drew Hale
Written by Drew Hale
Starring Drew Hale, Kari Alison Hodge, Varda Appleton, Shane Woodson, Art Roberts, Sevan Aliksanian, Anya Bay, Aleksandr Rykov, Tony Olayinka, Mike Allen, Arnella Barbara, Kim Nguyen, Conor Daniel Soules, Robyn Parks, and Ron Jeremy
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CUT AND CHOP is a low budget descent into madman-ness as a wannabe actor named Tom (played by Drew Hale) auditions for a role in a slasher film and takes the method acting a little too seriously and begins a reign of terror on his girlfriend and their friends. The film also sports a cameo by Ron Jeremy, simply because, why not?
Playing out like a low budget version of NIGHTCRAWLER, AMERICAN PSYCHO, and many a Scorsese film, CUT AND CHOP’s protagonist is already slightly askew even before he auditions for the role of a psychopath. His girlfriend, Esmerelda (played by Kari Alison Hodge) seems to care for him deeply, though he occasionally bites a chunk out of her during sex. Hale (who also wrote and directed this film and like Tommy Wiseau, enjoys focusing the camera on his own bare buttocks) does a great job of portraying someone who is absolutely creepy or at least completely socially awkward through stares that go on too long, long pauses in speech, and uncomfortable silences. The film really does seal the deal that Tom is a weirdo and one wonders why his girlfriend Esmerelda puts up with him. CUT AND CHOP highlights some truly disquieting scenes as Tom teeters on the edge of making his first kill (at least, the first kill we see on camera, who knows who Tom has offed before?). These scenes are effective in that I was squirming in my seat during most of them, the camera lingering just as long as Tom does with his pervy gaze.
But while the film does a good job of making one squirm, I think there definitely are some pacing issues. Some scenes are drawn out way too long, like the two dinner scenes we are privy to. With the scenes provided, it feels almost as if the film were prolonged simply to make feature length. Had there been some tighter edits all around and maybe more scenes focusing on Tom practicing lines or working on the film he was just cast in, I feel I would have liked this one more. Otherwise, as is, I think the film could have had a good twenty minutes lopped off and it would have made for a tighter film conveying the same story and feeling.
Still, I have to give it to Hale. He succeeds at being one of the creepier protagonists I’ve watched in a long time. The film really does capture those awkward scenes to perfection. Everyone has had an encounter with a socially awkward person at the bus stop or convenience store, where the urge to sympathize with the weirdo who is trying to connect with someone is balanced with the strong compulsion to beat feet the hell out of there. Hale captures that uneasy feeling over and over again in CUT AND CHOP, making this a compelling film that will get under your skin and linger well past the comfort point.