Chopping Mall – 3 out of 5
I’ve been watching low budget horror movies for a long time. My dad and I would watch the Chicago horror host Svengoolie every Saturday and laugh like crazy at the B-movies he played. We’d watch every VHS feature we could get our hands on in hoping to see epics of cheese. Sure, we’d watch great horror films too but the ones that made the best memories are the ones that made me laugh. Those were the ones I wanted to watch the most. As I get older, I find it harder and harder to find legitimately scary movies out there but there’s never a shortage of bad ones. Thanks to How Did This Get Made? recently featuring this one, I finally decided to check the cult classic of B-movie goodness that is Chopping Mall.
|Since this was from the 80s, the film was kind enough to include a small|
role for iconic character actor Dick Miller.
Apparently, the Park Plaza Mall has problems with theft and their answer for better security is to use three advanced robots. The head honchos state the robots are designed to subdue, not kill, their targets but after a severe lightning storm strikes the central computer controlling the robots, their programming changes and they become a tad more lethal. Unbeknownst of this fact, eight friends gather in the mall’s furniture store to have a party and, of course, naughty time! The good times don’t last when they suddenly find themselves the targets of these new homicidal machinations.
|The Daleks ain't got shit on these guys!|
|80s character actor Gerrit Graham is in the film.|
In this scene, you can watch him literally chew on
a donut for 5 freakin' minutes.
Advance technology rebelling against the creators—whether it be because it grew self-aware or just a freak accident makes it go haywire—is nothing new in the word of thrillers, horror, and sci-fi. However, the 80s has a special place in my heart for this trope because it always came in the most ridiculous fashion on certain occasions. Chopping Mall does this by having the destructive technology take place in a mall—a very 80s locale. Just the idea alone that a mall requires having robot security because their risk of a break-in is so high is hilarious enough and it translate to a stupidly ridiculous movie with all kinds of cult appeal and a very amusing viewing experience.
|The thing just wants a hug.|
|"We're here to shop and kill robots...and the mall is now|
closed so we are reverting to our second item on
our 'To Do' list."
This movie kinda reminded me of another How Did This Get Made? film I watched in 2015 and that is Death Spa—a movie that was about a state-of-the-art spa that ran on a computer system that decided to go lethal after a lightning strike. For some reason, screenwriters like to think that electrical surges will result in a complete reprogramming of software and not utter destruction when it concerns electrical equipment and computers but that’s what makes this nonsense fun. There’s no depth to this film, it’s just a “wizard did it” mentality and then the film just focuses on getting all the tropes crammed in. There’s the sex equals death equation, gratuitous nudity, gore, and a soundtrack that feels like they are actively trying to rip-off John Carpenter. This movie combines all that with some really cheesy dialogue and this usually is a formula for a hard movie to sit through but Chopping Mall has all of this in the right amounts in order to make it entertaining.
|This character is fun. Why? Because he obnoxiously chews gum the entire time|
he's in the film. Wait, did I say "fun?" Because I meant his chewing is disgusting
to listen to.
|It was the 80s guys. This was how we all dressed.|
Part of the charm that this movie has is the fact it never takes itself too serious but never lets itself come off as a mindless goof. The hard balance to strike with low budget, silly horror movies is finding the sweet spot and part of that involves the mirror it holds up to itself. Sometimes the reflection is too strong and these movies become too tongue-in-cheek and feel like the creators are literally leaning into frame and winking at the audience—this is why I find every Sharknado sequel to be harder and harder to sit through—and other times these films take themselves too serious and have their heads so far up their own backsides that they don’t acknowledge the absurdity of what they are making (and there’s the ones that are so apathetic and just don’t care and those ones might be my favorite of them all).
|I'm fairly certain that the guy in the middle is shoplifting something from that|
store in his pants.
|Road flares: The perfect impulse buy, right next|
to the Snickers bars.
Chopping Mall never feels pretentious (it feels creepy and gross at points because the filmmakers were pervy creepers) and it delivers its action just silly enough where it doesn’t cross the line into satire or slapstick. The film isn’t really intended to be a complete send up of thriller tropes but there’s an accidental presentation where it comes off looking that way and there it creates the charm. Sure, there are the nod-and-wink moments and gags that poke fun at the thriller/horror genre but even when this film is trying to be as serious as it is possibly capable of getting, it still comes off like a friendly teasing of what these films are meant to be.
|This mall has women in bikinis advertising stuff. That's normal, right?|
Chopping Mall does suffer from a silly premise, bland characters, and some weak gore effects but—wait, I’m not so sure if “suffer” is the right word here because, although these elements are bad, they’re part of the reason the film works. The premise is dumb but primed for accidental thriller humor, the characters are bland but bland enough where they’re amusing, and, if the gore effects were good, it wouldn’t have been a product of the Corman gang. That being said, Chopping Mall works for what it is: A low budget sci-fi thriller with elements of horror and comedy tossed in. While the robots look dumb and the story makes no logical sense, the acting is surprisingly decent and the overall experience is pretty dang entertaining. There’s a reason why this film reached cult status.
|Dammit, Short. This was all your fault. You had to go and make Killbots, didn't you?|