Director: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Barbara Crampton
Review Author: Tony
Synopsis: A bunch of young mall workers plan an after party in one of their stores within the town mall. Unbeknownst to the horny, frivolous teens is the newly deployed robotic security drones have been corrupted with murderous intent. What begins as a night of booze and sex turns into a fight for survival as the teens must escape their mall sized prison.
While the recent lack of Beer Goggles might give the impression of a much needed break from the devil drink, you couldn’t be more wrong! Currently, there’s a backlog of 9 worthy contenders for their own write up but Chopping Mall has taken the crown for this month. One of those cult B movies I’ve known about for years, the Laser head explosion scene in particular, but other than the odd clip or recommendation, I’ve never sat through the film in its entirety. Thankfully, I stumbled across it on Amazon Prime’s utterly useless interface and immediately went to the off-licence to stock up for a long anticipated watch.
Black Mirror, the cynical technophobic anthology series, released an episode in 2017 named Metalhead which exemplified the dangers of an overly relentless security system for basic shopping products. The episode was one of the leanest in the series, broken down to a bare bones Terminatoresque chase with deadly consequences; the gut punch ending revealing the victims were trying to collect teddy bears for their group of survivors. Chopping Mall is similarly a cautionary tale of machines going above and beyond their security function to viciously murder unsuspecting trespassers. A hilarious satire of the ruthlessness of American capitalism in the 80s.
The film is consistently hilarious throughout and completely aware of its hokey premise leaning into comedy rather than horror. The killer robots look like a cross between Cylons and R2-D2 and their catch phrase “have a nice day” never failed to make me chuckle after each kill. The opening scene is a hilarious promotional video of the machine’s functionality and prowess at taking down an unfortunate leather jacket wearing goon which looks ripped straight out of Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop. The mall remains a sacred haven for American consumers, an iconic piece of capitalism which must be protected at all costs, and who needs a Paul Blart when you have a military grade piece of hardware kitted out with tranq darts, tasers, and head exploding lasers.
Chopping Mall cuts to the chase pretty quick with little foreplay at all leaving little introduction to our main cast other than establishing the jock, his bimbo missus, the nerd, the good girl (final girl), and the rest just come off as overly horny assholes. As I prepared myself for the long haul with these inseparable characters, I was shocked at how quickly most redeemed themselves. Wynorski clearly holds as much contempt for the jock and bimbo couple because both are killed off in hilariously violent fashion early on. As soon as the shit hits the fan, our cast jumps into action with surprising competence and logic than expected. The movie becomes a fantastic cat-and-mouse game as the group arms themselves with assault rifles, shotguns, and propane tanks (god bless America) and sets numerous traps for their metallic foes.
I mentioned the iconic head explosion scene earlier because HOLY SHIT, it never gets old!! Seeing Suzee Slater’s beautiful mug reduced to gibs on my 50 inch TV felt iconic; iconic enough for my dumb ass to jump out of my seat in excitement and knock over my beer onto my fiancé’s favourite rug. For a low-budget film, the practical effects are surprisingly effective. There’s plenty of great gore and unique kills littered throughout; even the shoddy looking lasers and electrical effects have an endearing quality to them.
Chopping Mall works so well because it never feels like it’s trying to emulate more successful films of the era, a trope typical with low-budget 80s horror, instead it feels comfortable embracing its cheesy concept with panache and confidence. Consistently funny, well written, and littered with great characters and a fun setting. Beers, babes, boobs and bots, Chopping Mall has all the key elements of an 80s cult classic that is worth checking out, sober or not. I’m just saddened that a crossover between Chopping Mall and Runaway was never green-lit!
Cans of Carlsberg
I caught this one on the big screen with an appreciative crowd a couple of years back. One hell of a fun experience! And Dick Miller is gold, as always.
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