Chopping Mall (1986)

chopping_mall_poster

Tagline: Where shopping will cost you an arm and a leg.

Director: Jim Wynorski

Writers: Jim Wynorski, Steve Mitchell

Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Dick Miller, Nick Segal, John Terlesky, Suzee Slater, Pau Bartel, Mary Woronov, Dick Miller, Gerrit Graham, Mel Welles, Angela Aames, Paul Coufos, Arthur Roberts, Ace Mask, Will Gill Jr.

18 | 1hr 17 mins | Horror

Budget: $800,000 (estimated)

Review

Long before Amazon and Facebook turned us all into hermits, shopping malls were our cultural epicentre.

Each weekend teenagers would flock in their legions, hanging out at their favourite arcades or fast food restaurants and marvelling at the colourful array of consumer products that were not yet accessible at the click of a touchpad. Inevitably, these monuments to consumerism became schoolyards away from home, and in an era when Reagan proclaimed that ‘all great change in America begins at the dinner table,’ ghetto blasters and bubblegum could only lead to all out rebellion, right?

Fear not irrational parents of the 1980’s, for Park Plaza has a new bastion of shopping centre law enforcement: the Protector 101 series robots, otherwise known as the Killbots. Chopping Mall is a garish roller coaster of ineptly-plotted action, third-rate acting and all-round silliness. Made after the genre had succumbed to the chastening whip of ‘video nasty’ censorship, it is a savvy exercise in the self-reflexive that could charm even the most conservative of horror naysayers, turning to the kind of camp self-awareness that saved the genre from cutting room mediocrity. 

chopping-mall-1

So to summarise, this haircut was the best three-hundred bucks I ever spent.

The movie begins with a presentation video displaying the murderous capabilities of the Protector 101 Series. Probably not the smartest approach, and one that does little to assuage the gaggle of mall rats clamouring for answers. One watching citizen isn’t convinced and asks how this tank/toaster hybrid could possibly distinguish between the good guys and the bad guys, leading their smug host assure them that absolutely nothing can go wrong.

And perhaps it wouldn’t have if not for the random flash of lightning that strikes the mall’s control panel, immediately sending the machines doolally. At first glance this might not seem like much of an issue. After all, this is not ED-209 we’re dealing with, and the Killbots are more Nintendo‘s R.O.B than Robocop. But don’t let their cheap aesthetics or lack of mobility fool you.

Chopping Mall chase

Those head starts often proved deceptive.

For a machine whose sole purpose is to restrain and reprimand, it is certainly surprising that the designers decided to install a plethora of deadly weapons, including razor sharp implements and lasers that with one direct hit can make a human head explode like a watermelon. For the group of teenagers who decide to sneak into the mall after hours for some premarital sex, this superfluous oversight could not have come at a worse time.

Featuring the kind of melodramatic cast that most stalk-and-slash killers would run away from, Chopping Mall is an affectionate send-up of the 80’s B-movie boom, but instead of fleeing omnipotent maniacs through darkened woods, our skimpily clad girls have the seemingly straight-forward task of evading clunky hunks of tin metal, while Schwarzenegger and Stallone are replaced by this trio of pencil dicks.

Chopping Mall douchebags

Their day at the douchebag convention would take a nasty turn for the worse.

Luckily for them, they have resourceful final girl Alison Parks (Kelli Maroney) to fall back on, a cutesy All-American chick with mammary glands of steel who would land the lead based on the director’s real-life infatuation with her.

Featuring one of the best and most misleading promotional posters of the era, the movie would later achieve cult status due to its schlocky practical effects and all round cheapo charm―particularly that of its tin-man antagonists. Not only are the killbots dubiously designed, they snap their little claws with unabashed glee whenever they dispose of a fresh victim. They even have their own cute catchphrase, making them the most acerbic androids this side of The Terminator.

‘Have a nice day!’

Kelli Maroney

Kelli Maroney (right) tells co-star Barbara Crampton how to get ahead in the business.

Borrowing more from the genre than gimmicky one-liners, the second half of the movie is reminiscent of a Cannon action flick – and a half-decent one at that. As well as the many shoot-outs, explosions and vent-crawling, there are stuntmen in ladies wigs running around on fire, and a scene in which our newly ferocious protagonists disguise themselves as mannequins, successfully fooling the most advanced robotics technology in the world.

Made on a minuscule budget of $800,000, Chopping Mall is a cornucopia of commercial titbits wrapped in a cute little package. Produced by the wife of legendary B-movie mogul Roger Corman, the movie was shot in three weeks with Corman himself pulling the strings. According to director Jim Wynorski, the famous producer met him for lunch and laid out in no uncertain terms what he had to do to make the movie a success. Wynorski would take notes in a little yellow pad, one that he lives and dies by to this very day.

Now that’s good eating!

Best Kill

After finding her douchebag boyfriend Greg with his throat slit, skimpily-clad temptress Leslie Todd (Suzee Slater) flees a barrage of Killbot lasers, before inexplicably turning to catch one in her face. Remember what I said about exploding watermelons?

Most Absurd Moment

After watching his girlfriend Linda (Karrie Emerson) catch a stray laser from a shorting Killbot, dillweed Rick Stanton (Russell Todd) decides to mount a nearby electric cart, driving at 2 mph into the mechanical menace and electrocuting himself to death in the process.

Most Absurd Dialogue

While busy making out, Greg and Suzie stop for an impromptu exchange.

Greg: You smell like pepperoni.

Suzie: Well, if that’s how you feel…

Greg: Wait a minute…

Suzie: What?

Greg: I like pepperoni.

Revival Rating

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Chopping mall is a heady brew of commercial goodness guaranteed to intoxicate horror fans ― especially those trash connoisseurs with a critical eye for the scandalously inept. Any movie that could have ended an hour before it did has a plot hole the size of a chasm. If only someone had realised that all they had to do was shut off the power to the escalators! Killbots have wheels, people! Wheels! Actually, they’re known as tank treads.

AUTHOR BIO

Bio
 
Cedric Smarts
: Editor-in-Chief and Art Director

 
Science fiction author, horror enthusiast, scourge of plutocracy, shortlisted for the H. G. Wells Award, creator of vhsrevival.com
 
Likes: 80s poster art, Vangelis, classical liberalism, dystopian allegories, dissident political activism, Noam Chomsky, George Orwell, George Saunders, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut

 



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2 responses to “Chopping Mall (1986)

  1. I just recently rewatched this and I remember catching this as a kid because I recognized Russell Todd’s name from Friday the 13th Part II (a shining endorsement, to be sure).

    Everything about this movie is so over-the-top and you’re pretty dead-on with this whole evaluation (and I had no idea about Maroney’s casting “process”, so I got to learn something, haha). Nice write-up!

    Like

  2. Thanks.

    It fit nicely with the acerbic tone of our less serious reviews. Just to be clear, Kelli Maroney is a sweet woman who Wynorski had a thing for. I’m sure it was much less cynical than our image pun suggested. Hopefully it will all be taken in good jest because she actually follows the site.

    I’m sure she’ll see the funny side.

    Like

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