Chopping Mall (1986)

Chopping Mall (1986)

Chopping Mall – Where they slash their prices – and their customers!

Two teenagers who work for a furniture store at the local mall decide to sneak their friends in after hours for a massive party. They don’t plan ahead very well because it just happens to be the night a new security system is implemented in the mall with the introduction of three robot security guards. A couple of bolts of electricity short-circuit the computer system and the robots go crazy, killing their human technicians and anyone else who is in the mall after hours.

 

I’d be hard pressed to think of a better example of an 80s horror film than Chopping Mall. With it’s gory front cover, a classic tag line and featuring the requisite amount of dumb, appallingly acted teenagers who drink, have sex and then are hacked to pieces, it’s the ultimate in cheese. It’s got guilty pleasure slapped all over it with its none-too-serious tone and plenty of in-jokes and cameos. Think a weird cross between Short Circuit and Friday the 13th and you’ll be right at home with Chopping Mall. It’s a slasher in all but the presence of a knife-wielding maniac and the malfunctioning robots more than make up for that.

Director Jim Wynorksi has made countless low budget horror flicks over his career and this has to rank up with his best work which, sadly enough, is not exactly something to write home about. At a slender seventy-six minutes long, he makes the most of the time he has to keep the film moving quickly and there are no dull spells or drawn out scenes. He keeps things ticking away nicely from as soon as the robots go crazy right until the end credits. This was made in the 80s after all so, predictably, you’ll be able to spot which character is going to die and in what order. The characters are those from the book of slasher lore: slutty females designed to bare their breasts, nerds designed to explain everything, jocks are there to act all Alpha Male and virginal females are there to survive. I’d be hard pressed to name any of the actors involved in this and it’s safe to say that they’re simply filling the roles of stereotype to perfection. Like the majority of these 80s flicks, I’d be amazed to find out that any of them forged successful movie careers as they’re all abysmal, not being able to emote when one of their friends has been incinerated or fumbling around making out as if they’ve never done it before.

Thankfully there’s a group of eight teenagers in the mall plus various janitors and technicians so there’s a field of targets for the robots to kill and the body count ends up high. The front cover does promise gore but there’s little to be hard here. Apart from an awesome head explosion which must have engulfed the majority of the make-up effects budget, the deaths are not bloody. Sadly enough despite the film being called Chopping Mall, no one actually gets chopped up.

The robots look like rejects from Short Circuit with bits of the old school Cylons from Battlestar Galactica and Robocop thrown in for good measure. Come to think of it, you could imagine ‘Johnny 5′ going on a killing spree if there was ever an X-rated version. Being low budget and this being the 80s when futuristic objects looked ridiculously over-the-top, these robots aren’t able to do an awful lot. You won’t see them moving up and down the escalators. Their laser weapons look like they wouldn’t hurt a fly and they couldn’t hit a barn door with them. Their sound effects have been swiped from War of the Worlds and the visual effects for the laser beams look like a cheap 80s computer game gone wrong. Not only that but they’re called ‘killbots’ for crying out loud! What did their creators think was going to happen? The robots would make tea for everyone or doing the cleaning? Hell no – they’re going to turn into psychotic killing machines, patrolling the corridors of the mall looking for the next kill. The setting is used to great effect as well and takes a page out of the Dawn of the Dead book by getting some great footage of the different locations in the mall that they shot the film inside.

 

Chopping Mall ticks all the boxes as far as 80s horrors go. Hugely entertaining from start to finish and with a distinctive story to set it apart from other teen fodder flicks, it never outstays it’s welcome. Don’t take it seriously, sit back and enjoy one of the hidden gems of 80s low budget film making!

 

 ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆ 

 

 

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