Chopping Mall (1986)

*. There’s a famous line in George Romero’s zombie classic Dawn of the Dead where one of the characters doesn’t recognize a shopping mall. “It looks like a shopping center,” someone else chimes in, “one of those big, indoor malls.”
*. That was 1978, and in the 1980s we laughed at such ignorance. As a young person at the time I can testify that my generation spent a lot of time in malls. But by 1995 and Kevin Smith’s Mallrats the bloom was already coming off the rose. Today malls are abandoned witnesses to what’s been dubbed the retail apocalypse, often only hosting pop-up stores during the lead-in to Christmas or Halloween. I can’t even remember the last time I was in one.
*. Which brings us to Chopping Mall (originally released as Killbots), a horror-comedy set in a shopping mall about a bunch of teenagers being hunted by a trio of security robots (known as Protectors) who go on a homicidal rampage.
*. There’s no point going into a close analysis of this one. It’s one of those movies that’s so bad it’s good. Or at least kind of good. The special effects are a joke, the acting worse, the dialogue both intentionally and unintentionally hilarious, and pretty much everything about the production screams cheese. The robots, whick look a bit like Daleks, fire lasers in a rainbow of colours that most of the time do nothing at all but at other times blow up whatever they hit. Aside from one exploding head there’s very little gore, despite that being what was advertised. You can take your pick from a long list of most irritating things, but it would be hard to beat John Terlesky’s gum chewing.
*. So yes, it’s terrible but fun. Dick Miller, Mary Wornov and Paul Bartel drop in for cameos (reprising their characters from A Bucket of Blood and Eating Raoul respectively). And the quick running time means it moves along at a decent pace without getting too repetitive (though it is repetitive, especially with all the running around).
*. Most of all, however, it stands as a kind of compendium of ’80s horror badness. A time capsule, if you will. There’s the big hair and the high pants. The gratuitious boobs and bikini underwear. The score that sounds like it might have played as the background music in some video game from the era. And of course the mall.
*. This made me ponder the following question: What will the twenty-first-century equivalent of this shit be? What movies being made today will we look back upon in thirty or forty years and laugh at as much as we laugh with? Will social media, for example, still be a thing, or will it be like the malls of yesteryear?

4 thoughts on “Chopping Mall (1986)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      Absolutely. There was almost a rule where how misleading the art on the box was would give you some indication of the real badness of the movie. Usually the art was meant to try and sell us on a cheap movie looking great. That’s mostly changed now, though I thought the DVD art for Red Spring was a pretty egregious recent example of false advertising. Now we get misleading trailers. Fake box art was just another part of the wonderful 1980s!

      1. Alex Good Post author

        Ha! Yeah, those chunky double-VHS packs were great. I remember Bondarchuk’s War and Peace came on six tapes. I had to get a shopping bag to take them home with me.

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