The Friday Night Horror Movie: Chopping Mall (1986)

chopping mall poster

“Well, if you are going to watch a movie from the ’80s it ought to have a mall in it.” My wife, when she learned what movie I was watching tonight.

Although malls were popular from the 1970s through the 1990s there is something so very 1980s about them. They were a staple of my life growing up. I almost never go to the mall these days (the nearest Apple store is located in one and I sometimes have to take my phone in for repairs there, but that’s about it). It seems most people don’t go to malls these days either. As they all seem to be closing down. But there was a time when malls were the place to be.

Mention to me KB Toys or Spencer’s Gifts or Orangejulius or a dozen other stores and my memories are flooded with nostalgic glee. I’m sure it does for many others as well. There is a reason why large chunks of Season Three of Stranger Things was set in a mall. Malls are the 1980s.

It makes perfect sense that they’d set a horror movie from the 1980s in a mall. I’m surprised they didn’t set more of them there.

The plot of Chopping Mall is pretty simple. The Park Plaza Mall has just installed a state of the art security system. Impenetrable steel shutters block all the entry doors after the mall closes and three high-tech robots roam the floors at night subduing any trespassers.

On the very first night this new security system is implemented a group of young, attractive mall workers decide to throw a party at the mall’s furniture store. After a bit of partially nude sexy times all hell breaks loose. A lightning strike short-circuits the robots and they go on a killing spree, killing everybody but a Final Girl and the dweeb.

That’s it. That’s the plot.

The movie is all kinds of dumb, but it is also kind of fun. You could call it dumb fun. In fact I just did.

In an early scene some smarmy executive types introduce us to the robots. They ensure everyone that they are perfectly safe and all they are armed with are some darts that will knock out any would-be robber. In reality the robots are equipped with much more – electrodes, plastic explosives, welding guns, and freakin’ laser beams.

Oddly enough they are not equipped with any sort of chopping equipment which would have been appropriate considering the name of the film. Victims are electrocuted, thrown over a ledge, strangled and one poor girl has her head exploded, but not a single person is in any way chopped to death.

The budget is decidedly low, the direction from Jim Wynorski is sloppy and the acting pretty shabby. The violence consists mostly of explosions (lots and lots of explosions, actually) but there is very little gore (save for one scene).

The robot lasers are capable of exploding a head, and blowing up doors. But sometimes they merely cause a slight wound to a leg, or crack a vase. At one point a robot shoots a mirror and apparently that repels the blast back and electrocutes the robot. I say apparently because it really isn’t clear that’s what happened, but there was a mirror in the scene and the robot was electrocuted so I pieces these things together and decided that’s what happened. It is that sort of film. You sometimes have to guess as to what is actually happening.

There are some nice cameos for fans of low budget movies from the ’80s. Dick Miller appears for a nice death scene, and Mary Waranov and Paul Bartel show up as a couple of wiseacres in the opening scene. Kelli Maroney is the Final Girl (sorry for the spoiler but it is pretty obvious from the very beginning she’ll be the one who survives.) I just watched her in Night of the Comet and now I’m declaring myself a fan.

So yea, Chopping Mall is a dumb movie. But it is a good dumb movie. Sometimes that’s all I need.

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