March 20, 2015 This Week in Horror Movie History – Chopping Mall (1986)
This week in Horror movie history, back on March 21, 1986, Chopping Mall was released in the US under the original title Killbots and distributed by Concorde Pictures and Trinity Pictures. The movie was directed by ’80s sequel king and soft core horror porn spoof master Jim Wynorski, who has recently worked with Roger Corman on several Sharknado-like films, including Dinocrac vs. Supergator (2010) and Piranhaconda (2012) and was produced by Corman’s wife, Julie (Brain Dead 1990, Sharktopus 2010). It was co-written by Wynorski and Steve Mitchell (Pacific TV series, Against the Law 1997) with music by Chuck Cirino (Not Of This Earth 1988, Return of the Swamp Thing 1989). Chopping Mall boasts special effects by Roger George (The Howling 1981, Terminator 1984), while the Killrobots themselves were created by Robert Short (Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial 1982). Starring Kelli Maroney (Fast Times at Ridgemont High 1982, Night of the Comet 1984), Tony O’Dell (Head of the Class TV series, Karate Kid, Part 2 1986), Roger Corman darling Dick Miller (Gremlins 1984, Small Soldiers 1998), Russell Todd (Friday the 13th Part 2 1981, The Young and the Restless TV series) Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator 1985, From Beyond 1986) and Nick Segal (Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo 1984, School Spirit 1985), Chopping Mall was mostly filmed on location at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Los Angeles.
The movie begins at the Park Plaza Mall with a security representative explaining his state-of-the-art security system to a group of mall store owners. This system includes Star Trek-like metal doors that seal the building at midnight and three automated robots that are equipped to neutralize nighttime mall threats with tranquilizer darts, Tasers and shooting lasers, all run from the security control panel in a back room. Included in the audience are Mary and Paul Bland (Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel) making a cameo appearance from their own film, Eating Raoul (1982). Across the mall, responsible employee Ferdy (O’Dell) is convinced by his not-so-responsible co-workers, Greg (Segal) and Mike (John Terlesky), to have a party that night in their furniture store. Greg’s girlfriend, the Valley Girl Suzie (Crampton), is bringing along Mike’s girl, Leslie (Suzee Slater) and her shy friend, Alison (Maroney). Married couple Linda (Karrie Emerson) and Rick (Todd) round out the list. As the mall closes up for the night, a bolt of lightening strikes the building, short-circuiting the security control panel and scrambling the robots’ programs, turning them into Killbots. They take out both human security guards and make their way out into the mall, with each one taking a floor. Since everyone was horny in the ’80s, three of the four couples immediately jump into furniture store beds, while Ferdy and Alison watch Corman’s Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957) on display televisions. On leave from Bucket of Blood (1959), Walter Paisley (Miller) is electrocuted by one of the robots as he mops the floor as the electricity goes out. Channeling a gum chewing, horny Uncle Joey, Mike is killed on a mission to find Leslie cigarettes, despite his announcement of “Klaatu Barada Nikto.” Leslie has her head blown off by one of the renegade kilbots in front of the three remaining couples. The steel doors close up at midnight and seal the building, but apparently the mall has decent WiFi because the robots keep coming, despite the lack of electrical remote control signal.
Despite arming themselves with shotguns, a .375 Magnum, several propane tanks and Molotov cocktails made out of automotive store gas cans, the robots seem indestructible. Greg is thrown from the top of the escalator and Suzie is shot in the leg and subsequently lit on fire by her own gas can. They do manage to take out two of the three robots – one by trapping it in an elevator and shooting out nearby propane tanks and the other by deflecting its laser bullets with mirrors, causing the machine to shoot itself. A stray laser hits and kills Linda, causing Rick to hilariously jump into a slow moving golf cart and run into the spinning kilbot, getting himself and the robot electrocuted. As the only survivors, its up to Alison and Ferdy to stop the menace, and they split up to look for the security control panel. The remaining robot corners Alison, but Ferdy hears her screaming and comes to the rescue, shooting it and setting himself up as the target, which gets him hit as Alison escapes. It chases her into a paint store, where she covers the floor in paint and paint thinner. This slips up the robots treads, and, pulling a flare from her bra, Alison lights it and throws it at the combustible chemicals covering the kilbot. The machine explodes, igniting everything around it in fiery defeat. She lurches out of the store to the sound of Ferdy calling her from a floor above, revealing that he is still alive and holding a roll of toilet paper to his injured head. The film ends as Ferdy and Alison stumble out of the mall and into the dawn light, the only survivors of the deadly massacre.
Lionsgate released Chopping Mall twice on DVD: once in 2004 and another time in 2012 as a DVD set along with seven other horror movies. The commentary reveals an ironically unfriendly relationship between the filmmakers and the security chief of the Sherman Oaks Galleria Mall during filming. Inspired by the 1954 film Gog, Wynorski wrote the script after a suggestion from Julie Corman to write a movie about a killer in a mall. Although it may seem uninspired, having a movie take place in a mall certainly gives a filmmaker a lot of options in terms of survivor offense. Rotten Tomatoes gives it an even 50% fresh rating. Full of glorious ’80s cheese, bad acting, big, perfect hair and spotless outfits, Chopping Mall is a perfect movie to unwind to after a tough day dealing with life’s realities. Thank you. Have a nice day.