Monday, November 28, 2016


My library here in Medina is affiliated with a hundred libraries in Northeast Ohio through ClevNet. If I request a book or a movie and any of those libraries have it, the item is sent to my library for me. My library sends me a recorded message to let me know items I have requested are in...and I go pick them up. This is one of the best systems and best things ever.

I have a long list of requested items. Sometimes it takes a while for an item to become available, sometimes they seem to be ready as soon as I request them. When Chopping Mall, the 1986 horror movie about killer robots on an after-hours rampage in a shopping mall, became available mere days before Thanksgiving, I knew destiny had delivered the perfect Black Friday film unto me.

Right from the get-go, before we get to the spoilers, let me tell you that, my criticisms aside, I enjoyed this movie. It was roughly 77 minutes of fun entertainment and that’s all I ever ask of a “B” horror/monster/science fiction movie. Indeed, now that I have learned its original release ran 92 minutes, I want to find and watch that version as well. More on that in a bit.

Chopping Mall (also known as Killbots) was directed and co-written by Jim Wynorski, co-written by Steve Mitchell and produced by Julie Corman, wife of Roger Corman. The movie’s budget was $800,000, but Corman always keep his budgets lean and mean. It was filmed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria and the Beverly Center, both in Los Angeles.

The movie stars Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet) as mall pizza parlor waitress Alison, Tony O’Dell as furniture store assistant manager Ferdy, Russell Todd and Karrie Emerson as a young married couple, assorted actors and actresses as horny young people who are just asking for it and the always fun Dick Miller as a mall worker in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Here’s the IMDb summary:

Eight teenagers are trapped after hours in a high tech shopping mall and pursued by three murderous security robots out of control.


This is a “by the numbers” movie. It starts with some sort of press conference introducing the mall’s new security robots. I assume the audience are mall business owners, but that’s never made clear. In the audience are the always annoying Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov, who roll their eyes while making “clever” comments. I wondered if their presence in the movie is because they owed Corman a day from some other movie.

The mall audience watches a film in which a robot incapacitates a robber. The criminal isn’t really harmed, says the mall spokesperson, just held long enough for actual police to come and arrest him. Mall workers will have badges that will identify them to the robots. Oh, yes, and, at a certain time each night, big metal doors will seal all the entrances and exits until morning. What could possibly go wrong?

Meanwhile, eight 20-somethings have a party in the furniture store because the store has beds and couches and they have beer. If you want to bet that the most slutty members of this gathering will die first, you would win that bet.

Wondering what could possibly go wrong? I mean, what would be the odds of lightning striking the mall and messing up the programming of the robots?

I’ll end the suspense. Lightning strikes. The robots’ technicians are the first to die. Then Dick Miller gets electrocuted by one of the robots while mopping a floor. Then the robots go for the horny young people.

Despite the title Chopping Mall, there isn’t any actual chopping of anything going on. Amusingly, the trailer shows a severed arm still holding a shopping bag and the shadow of a robot carrying a head. Neither scene is in this movie. Which isn’t near as disappointing as Bartel and Woronov not sticking around the mall to get killed. Those two...they had it coming.

The furniture party crowd doesn’t realize they are trapped in the mall until the jerkiest of the males disappeares and his girlfriend gets her head exploded by laser fire from a robot. That’s the most graphic death in the movie. By the way, I correctly guessed the order in which the party people would die. It wasn’t even a challenge.

On the plus side, the final four party people are very resourceful in trying to escape from and then bring the fight to the robots. Maroney’s character is especially clever. The explanation is that her father was a Marine. Which works for me.

Also on the plus side, there’s a nice feint wherein you think that a character has died but he hasn’t. That’s the only plot element I didn’t guess ahead of time.


Being able to figure out what would happen in Chopping Mall didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the movie. I’ve been a professional writer for over four decades. It’s not surprising that I might figure out such things. That’s part of the fun for me. I drive Sainted Wife Barb crazy when I beat the heroes of such shows as Bones and Castle to the identity of whatever killer they’re hunting that week.

Though the robots show the low budget, they were fairly effective. In some ways, their clunky appearance made their deadliness all the more shocking.

The background music is definitely of the 1980s, albeit a bit too lively for a horror movie. Still, I got a kick out of it. Dance to your dooms, party people!

There are lots of references to other Corman and Wynorski movies. During the party, while everyone else is fornicating, Alison and Ferdy watch Attack of the Crab Monsters on a small black-and-white TV set. Some people know how to have fun.

To repeat what I said above, I enjoyed Chopping Mall. I would like to see the longer version and would watch this version again if I could find a DVD made from a better print. Apparently, some sort of legal matter kept the film’s negative in limbo with this DVD coming from a Lightning Video DVS master.

Chopping Mall was my 2016 Black Friday movie. Any suggestions for next year?

I’ll be back on Thursday with more stuff.

© 2016 Tony Isabella

No comments:

Post a Comment