80s horror movies have a cult following like no other genre. We will search out each and every film we possibly can, and if we like that film, we will learn everything about it and who worked on it so we can see what other works they have. This was the case with writer and director Jim Wynorski. I became aware of Wynorski after watching the absurd sequel, The Return of Swamp Thing. I assumed that I had found another writer/director to binge his entire catalog; that ultimately wasn’t the case. I quickly learned that many of Wynorski’s films were nothing more than skin flicks. Don’t get me wrong, if there is nudity in a horror film, I’m not a prude. Still, if the entire point of the movie is to just showcase nudity, I would instead be watching something else. Luckily for me, however, I did find a couple of films that scratched my campy film itch. I saw films such as Forbidden World, Deathstalker II, and most importantly, Chopping Mall.
Chopping Mall was released in 1986 and was written as well as directed by Wynorski. It was produced by the one and only Roger Corman. Corman has been making films since 1954 and has an impressive list of films his name is attached to. Such films as, Attack of the Crab Monsters, The Wasp Woman, Beast from Haunted Cave (one of my favorites on the list), The Little Shop of Horrors (1960), Dementia 13, Piranha, The Slumberparty Massacre, Deathstalker, House (another one of my favorites), and of course, Munchies. Although his name may not be attached to the film on IMDB, rest assured, Corman, helped produce Chopping Mall. The film was initially released under the title Killbots. However, it was received poorly in the box office, so they decided to “chop” out 19 minutes of footage and rename it Chopping Mall for home release. And spoiler alert, there are zero choppings in this film.
The film is about a company trying to crack down on theft and vandalism. The company creates a new state-of-the-art security system. The system includes large metal doors that seal a building and security robots that can disable any threat using tasers. A local mall decides to use this new security system. On the night that it is to be used for the first time, a bolt of lightning hits the computer, and the robots go lethal.
Fate has it that on that same night these robots get wild, a group of local teens (but in reality, they all seem much older, in fact, one couple is even married, so how old are they supposed to be anyway?) decides to stay after work and throw a party in the mall. They work in a furniture store, which is one of the best places to throw an after-work party.
The group consists of your typical 80s movie players. You have the oh-so-cool jocks who, for some reason, like hanging out with one nerd (and they don’t let him forget that he’s not exactly one of them), and of course, you have the new girl running with the hip-girls. You also (for some reason) have a young married couple who own a mechanic shop. They also come to party with their friends.
The party is now in full swing. While the really cool kids are all shedding their clothes and morality, the new girl and nerdy guy hang out on the couch watching old monster movies. It seems that these two know how to have a good time more than anyone else in the flick.
Unfortunately for this crew of now drunk teens, the robots have gone on a full-blown murder spree. However, in the robot’s defense, is it murder if they are just doing what they were programmed to do? Okay, sure, the storm forced their programming to malfunction and turn their non-lethal strategy into a more “shoot now ask questions later” approach, but who’s to say they’re not just doing their job?
Now that the robots have their “updated” mission, they go through the mall and kill anyone who is still inside. They don’t care if the computer guy is supposed to be monitoring them or the janitor who is cleaning up the food court. The janitor, by the way, is played by Dick Miller. THE Dick Miller. Mr. Miller was in so many great movies like The Burbs, Gremlins, The Terminator, and The Howling. Interestingly enough, Miller’s name in this movie is Walter Paisley. The same name is used in the film The Howling for his character.
The robots work their way to the partying teens, and once they make contact, we get to see one of the most incredible head explosions in cinema! Oh, because now the robots have pink lasers that shoot out instead of just the teasers. The “killbots” start picking the kids off one by one until the teens fight back and attempt to survive the night until the security doors open up the next day.
This is one of those B-horror movies that people will either absolutely love or hate; there is no middle ground here. When the first note of the theme music kicks in, composed by Chuck Cirino, I knew I would love this movie. It really has one of the best 80s soundtracks ever made. If nothing else, the music should give it a pass in any 80s horror lovers’ book. Luckily for me, however, the film keeps getting better as it goes on. As I said, the head exploding scene is historic and really one of the best ones seen with practical effects, aside from Scanners. One of the best parts to the film is every time a robot kills someone, they say “thank you, have a nice day.” The setting for the film has 80s nostalgia all over it. It was shot in the Sherman Oaks Galleria Mall. It is the exact location for the movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High and The Terminator II. This really is one of the best never talked about horror movies for anyone who love that campy vibe.
Written exclusively for TheLastPicture.Show by Jacob Ruble
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