Chopping Mall – USA, 1986

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‘Where shopping costs you an arm and a leg!’

Chopping Mall is a 1986 American science fiction horror feature film directed by Jim Wynorski (Gila!; The Haunting of Morella; Sorceress; Not of This Earth 1988; et al) from a screenplay co-written with Steve Mitchell. It was produced by Julie Corman (Saturday the 14th), Roger Corman’s wife.

The film’s working title was R.O.B.O.T. and it was filmed and initially released as Killbots. Internationally, it is known as Robots asesinos (Spain), Shopping (France), and Supermarket horror (Italy).

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Buy Blu-ray: Amazon.com

Released in the US on Blu-ray by Lionsgate on their Vestron Video Collector’s Series label. The special features are:

  • Audio Commentary With Director / Co-writer Jim Wynorski, Actress Kelli Maroney, and Co-writer / 2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell
  • Audio Commentary With Historians / Authors: Nathaniel Thompson (Mondo Video) and Ryan Turek (Shock ’til You Drop)
  • Audio Commentary With Director / Co-writer Jim Wynorski and Co-writer / 2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell
  • Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino
  • Back to the Mall – Cast and Filmmakers Remember the Making of Chopping Mall
  • Chopping “Chopping Mall” Editor Leslie Rosenthal Discusses the Editing
  • The Killbots – Creator Robert Short Talks About Creating the Robots ( With Never Seen Concept Drawings)
  • Scoring “Chopping Mall” an Interview With Composer Chuck Cirino
  • The Robot Speaks! – 10 Questions With the Robot
  • The Lost Scene – Introduction With Filmmakers: Jim Wynorski and Steve Mitchell, and the Three Page Scene Itself
  • Army of One – a Visit With Chopping Mall’s Biggest Fan: Carl Sampieri
  • Chopping Mall: Creating the Killbots Featurette
  • Trailer

Main cast:

Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), Suzee Slater, Nick Segal and Dick Miller. Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov share a cameo as their characters from Eating Raoul, Paul and Mary Bland. It was the debut film for Rodney Eastman, who later went on to star in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.

Park Plaza Mall has just installed a state-of-the-art security system which includes security shutters across all exits and three high-tech security robots programmed to disable (using tasers and tranquilliser guns) and apprehend would-be thieves.

Four couples decide to have a party in one of the furniture stores where three of them work. They all stay after hours at the mall, drinking, partying, and eventually three of the couples make out in the furniture store beds, while the fourth couple, Alison and Ferdy, watch old science fiction films on TV.

Outside, a lightning storm strikes the mall several times and damages the computer controlling the security robots, which kill their technicians and a janitor before going on regular patrol in the now-empty mall.

Two of the teens (Mike and Leslie) leave the furniture store to buy cigarettes and are subsequently killed by the robots. The surviving teens have to face the attacking killbots…

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Review:

This 1986 American production is a good example of how a certain generation of cult film fans view the past through rose-tinted glasses. It has been all-too frequently described as a ‘classic’ by people who seem to think ‘classic’ means ‘any film I watched as a kid’. Inevitably, it is unable to live up the weight of expectations that such nostalgia places on it.

Originally titled Killbots, Chopping Mall is like the poor man’s Robocop (released a year later) with a prototype robotic security system installed in a shopping mall – because who wouldn’t think that giant robots with laser weapons were the answer to loitering teens, shoplifters and litter bugs?

Because this is an American horror film on the 1980s, a group of over-aged teens sneak into the mall at night to make out. On the plus side, they include cute Night of the Comet star Kelli Maroney and Re-Animator star Barbara Crampton. On the minus side – everyone else.

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Naturally, the robots take as kindly to teenage hormonal shenanigans as Jason Vorhees does, and before you can say ‘you have 20 seconds to comply’ they are blasting away at our hapless heroes.

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Yet, director Jim Wynorski knows how to make the most out of very little, and there is enough to make Chopping Mall an entertaining waste of time. The robots are entertainingly shoddy, the special effects very much of their time and the deaths surprisingly bloody – there’s even that Eighties favourite, the exploding head!

Maroney is perky and likeable as the heroine, the annoying characters all die fairly quickly (take note, modern horror directors!) and the whole film doesn’t pretend to be anything more than what it is. There’s no pretension towards art, no subtexts or hidden messages – this is just straight-forward exploitation cinema.

Guest appearances from cult stalwarts Dick Miller, Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel (Private Parts) reveal that the film is hardly taking itself too seriously, and neither should you. This is not great cinema, and neither does it try to be.

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But with giant killer robots, boobs, blood, explosions, an archetypal 1980s synth score, snakes and spiders all thrown into a running time of just 77 minutes, it’s a good way to spend an evening with a few undemanding friends. Oh, and though the film’s hardly the cult classic some people have deemed it to be, the trailer is great!

David Flint, HORRORPEDIA

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Buy Chopping Mall + 7 other movies on DVD: Amazon.com

Other reviews:

“Striking just the right balance between comedy and horror – and God knows that seems to be a difficult thing for filmmakers to do! Obviously made by horror aficionados, the in-jokes are generally effective without becoming overpowering – Dick Miller’s cameo as a cleaner who is electrocuted is especially fun. And somehow, considering the cheese value on show here, it never tips over the edge into downright silliness.” Hysteria Lives!

“Even in 1986, Chopping Mall didn’t exactly break any new ground; there were already enough “teens in peril” slasher movies that every character in the movie was already a stereotype and we get the usual jump scares and gratuitous topless scenes. However, the setting and execution make Chopping Mall an effective and fun horror movie and the killer robots are a welcome change from the ubiquitous masked psycho.” UK Horror Scene

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“It’s a bit obvious when they have to cut instuff that the robot isn’t actually doing (various actions with their “hands”), but the scenes where they chase our humans all look great – it’s obvious that the things (or at least, one of them) could actually move on their own, and without digital enhancement. The big screen betrays some of their rough edges (especially where the head meets the body) but they look a million times better than some CG piece of shit.” Horror Movie a Day

“Overall, I found Chopping Mall to be just as cheesy as you would think it would be from the title – but also very smart. It still has the fun 80s vibe with the light-hearted tone, and the pacing is good, with only a few lulls here and there. Otherwise, the action is good and the likable characters are very proactive in their situation, which I like a lot.” The Girl Who Loves Horror

“While it’s easy to lean back and nitpick about the gaping holes in logic or the shoddy dialogue, that’s all part of the experience. Chopping Mall is classic ’80s camp…” DVD Talk

“Obviously made by ardent genre fans, this deliciously fun slice of campy horror/sci-fi cheese cake rarely lost its game! It pleasantly never took itself seriously, hence when it was good, it was aces high and when it was bad it was actually much better! Granted with a bigger budget some aspects could’ve been improved (like more frequent and higher quality gore)…” Arrow in the Head


Main cast and characters:

  • Kelli Maroney as Alison Parks
  • Tony O’Dell as Ferdy Meisel
  • Russell Todd as Rick Stanton
  • Karrie Emerson as Linda Stanton
  • Barbara Crampton as Suzie Lynn
  • Nick Segal as Greg Williams
  • John Terlesky as Mike Brennan
  • Suzee Slater as Leslie Todd
  • Paul Bartel as Paul Bland
  • Angela Aames as Miss Vanders
  • Mary Woronov as Mary Bland
  • Dick Miller as Walter Paisley

Choice dialogue:

“Let’s go send those f*ckers a Rambo-gram.”

Trivia:

  • The mall diner is festooned with posters from other Corman productions such as Galaxy of Terror and Slumber Party Massacre
  • A clip from Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) is seen playing on TV

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