Chopping Mall (1986)

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These are three security robots you do not want to cross in this 1980s cult classic!

Park Plaza Mall has taken the job of creating two forms of security by installing a new state of the art security system in which the doors will shut the mall down from midnight to dawn. In addition, they have employed tech experts in the creation of three mall security robots who will use various methods of disarming and capturing robbers. The plan is set to go off without a hitch until a freak lightning storm causes the robots to malfunction.

A group of teens who work at various places in the mall decide to spend the night there after their shifts end. Alison is set up with the nerdy Ferdy by best friend Suzie and her boyfriend Greg. Couples Mike and Leslie and Rick and Linda join the group as well as they party in the furniture store where Mike, Greg, and Ferdy work. When Mike leaves the party to get cigarettes for Leslie, he is killed by one of the robots. When Leslie finds Mike, she is confronted by the same robot who kills Leslie in front of the others. The others soon find themselves trapped and fighting for survival when the doors shut the mall down for the night.

Originally titled Killbots, the film did better under its current title when it was re-titled. Director Jim Wynorski, who would become a premiere director for Roger Corman’s Concorde Films, co-wrote the film with Steve Mitchell after being asked for help by Corman’s wife Julie. Wynorski, influenced by the likes of some classic horror and sci-fi, came up with the idea of using robots as killers with the 80’s phenomenal fad of shopping malls.

The film’s cast would be comprised of some film veterans who at one point would be known for their work in either horror films or work with the Cormans, or even both. Kelli Maroney, who would appear previously to this film in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Night of the Comet, is great as Allison, the potential hero of the film as she goes from shy wallflower to a mode similar to a strong warrior. She is joined by The Karate Kid and Head of the Class alum Tony O’Dell, who plays the nerd-like Ferdy, who proves to be a viable asset in protection against the deadly robots.

The film is perhaps best known for one of its most insane deaths, and that is in the form of Leslie, played by Suzee Slater. Right in front of the others, she gets hit with a laser and in a moment that yells Scanners, her head explodes. This is a pretty crazy moment with scream queen legend Barbara Crampton attempting to help her boyfriend and ends up in a very dangerous situation that leads up to her status as scream queen. Look out for the late legend Dick Miller in a small role as mall janitor Walter Paisley (named after his character in both A Bucket of Blood in 1959, Hollywood Boulevard in 1976, The Howling in 1981, and a segment in Twilight Zone: The Movie in 1983).

Chopping Mall is an underrated cult classic that melds the sci-fi technology of the robots with the horror seen in perhaps slasher films. A great ensemble cast mixed in with some pretty inventive kills make this one to check out.

WFG RATING: B+

Vestron Pictures present a Concorde Pictures production in association with Trinity Pictures. Director: Jim Wynorski. Producer: Julie Corman. Writers: Jim Wynorski and Steve Mitchell. Cinematography: Tom Richmond. Editing: Leslie Rosenthal.

Cast: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky, Suzee Slater, Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Dick Miller, Gerrit Graham, Mel Wells, Angela Aames.

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