Chopping Mall

10/23/2019 17:55

Film: Chopping Mall

Year: 1986

Director: Jim Wynorski

Writer: Jim Wynorski and Steve Mitchell

Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell and Russell Todd



This was a film that I don’t remember growing up, but when I started getting into horror podcasts, it came up a lot. It was one that I put on my list of films to check out and decided to give it a viewing for a horror movie challenge that I’m doing. The synopsis here is a group of young shopping mall employees stay behind for a late night party in one of the stores. When the mall goes on lock-down before they can get out, the robot security system malfunctions, and goes on a killing spree.

We start seeing a guy break a window of a jewelry store and take a bunch of items. He’s confronted by a robot and it detains him. It then shows us that we are watching a video about a new robot security system that this mall is now using. In the crowd is Paul (Paul Bartel) and Mary Bland (Mary Woronov). They make jokes about it and the man who is giving the presentation tells them that nothing could go wrong.

It then shifts to the mall while it is open. We get to meet a bunch of different people who work there. There’s Alison Parks (Kelli Maroney) who works with Suzie Lynn (Barbara Crampton) at a pizza place. Suzie wants Alison to come to a party that night, but she is reluctant. Suzie is seeing Greg Williams (Nick Segal) who works with Mike Brennan (John Terlesky) and Ferdy Meisel (Tony O’Dell). Greg and Mike are trying to set up Ferdy with Alison so they can party in their store and for him not to tell his uncle. Mike is seeing Leslie Todd (Suzee Slater). Also coming to this party is Rick (Russell Todd) and Linda Stanton (Karrie Emerson).

There’s a storm that is happening and the mall is struck by lightening. We see what is happening in the control room to the security system where one of the robots turns on and kills the technician that is there. Another one shows up later, Nessler (Gerrit Graham) and he’s also murdered.

The mall closes and the party kicks off in the store. The couples pair off and Alison hits it off with Ferdy. The problem is that the robots also come online and despite what the presenter said, something has gone wrong. The next victim is Walter Paisley (Dick Miller). The teens are then picked off one by one, but they do fight back. The doors to the mall lockdown and they won’t open until 6 am the following morning. Can they survive the night?

As I’ve already said, this was another first time watch for me and I can say, I had a blast with this one. This is an interesting time where they were adding more comedy to horror films and I mean the premise of this one is wild. It also isn’t that far out of the realm of possibility. This does also kind of remind me of another film, The Night of the Comet, which is interesting as that one also stars Maroney and Woronov. Much like this one, I can see the flaws, but I had a lot of fun.

To delve into this, we have a slasher film, which I think purist would argue since our killers are robots. I classify this as more of a supernatural slasher for this reason. It is fitting that we think technology will work and be foolproof, but of course we know that’s never the case. It is believable that lightning striking the building could mess with the system and possible remove the safeguards. What makes this even better for me though is the meta feel that there are sci-fi posters in the restaurant and Alison and Ferdy watch an old 50’s sci-fi film as well. It just adds a level of it for me with knowing what they’re going for.

The story isn’t perfect though. Being that it is a slasher, we have some things that don’t make a lot of sense. We have the characters making questionable decisions. There’s a random gun store in this mall with a ton of firepower that is easy to access. I know that part of this is to allow them to fight back and give them a chance. It does seem more a plot point of convenience. I also don’t know if I buy this group would be able to throw a party like this in the mall, especially when the doors lock when they do. It just doesn’t make sense. On top of that, there are some inconstancies with how strong the lasers the robots are using. It could be them changing the intensity, but it makes you wonder why it could go that high in the first place.

That takes me to the pacing of the film, which is on point. This runs at 77 minutes and doesn’t waste any time getting into it. We never go into a lull. The deaths are spread out to keep things interesting and I think we get a decent variety of different ways these robots do people in which I can appreciate. The ending I thought was good, even though we get a variety of plans that all fail throughout. It definitely is a fun film.

Moving to the acting here, we have two of my favorite 80’s horror actresses here. Maroney is so cute and I like her character. Despite how good looking she is there’s a timid nature that I really like. What they do with her character and the growth we get also works for me. The same thing goes to O’Dell, as her male counterpart. The other actress is Crampton. She is beautiful here and we get to see her topless, which I will never complain about. This isn’t her best performance though and she’s a bit annoying. I think that Todd, Emereson, Segal, Terlesky and Slater are all solid in support of them, with seeing Slater topless as well. I also liked the cameos by Woronov, Miller and Graham who help round out this film for what is needed.

The effects of the film are pretty hit or miss for me. The practical effects like the blood and the wounds on people I think look good. Something that I did have an issue with is the computer effects. The laser blasts aren’t great as well as the lightening bolts. I do like the robots look and how they move. They definitely feel like the 80’s. It is shot well overall as well.

Now with that said, I can see that this isn’t a great film, but I did have a lot of fun with it. I like the premise here of these robots malfunctioning and killing these teens that are stuck in the mall. There are some plot holes as to why they’re there and some of the stores that they go into it. If you can overlook that though, just enjoy it. It builds tension in a solid way, spacing out the deaths and mayhem. The acting is decent with some of my favorite horror movie actresses. The effects are hit or miss as well. The soundtrack though fits for what was needed, but it didn’t necessarily stand out. There’s also a bit of a meta feel, which I enjoy. Overall I would say this is above average and you really need to just turn your brain off and enjoy this.


My Rating: 7 out of 10