Originally saddled with the title, Killbots, Chopping Mall is a 1986 horror movie from one of the most iconic film makers who ever lived – Roger Corman. We’ll talk about him a bit more in a future installment of The Witching Hour. For now though, let’s look at this weird but fun little film.
Chopping Mall may be a misleading title as there is no actual chopping or dismemberment in the movie despite the artwork on the poster. The movie was filmed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria which you may remember from Back to the Future Part II, Terminator 2: Judgment Day and Fast Times at Ridgmont High, among other films. Chopping Mall had to be filmed after the mall’s business hours meaning the cast and crew had very limited time to perform their scenes and clean up their messes before the mall opened in the morning. The original Dawn of the Dead was filmed under similar circumstances.
The plot of Chopping Mall is simple. A series of robots known as Protectors have been commissioned to guard the mall at night. These robots are equipped with tasers and laser beams to incapacitate intruders (It was the 80’s, just go with it). Mall employees are given ID badges that they show to the robots to identify themselves. It’s a foolproof idea that naturally goes to Hell.
A group of mall employees decide to get together at the furniture store after hours for drinking and sex – two common pre-death activities in 80’s horror movies.
Unfortunately, lightning strikes the computer system that controls the Protectors which really screws up their programming. (Isn’t it amazing what lightning can accomplish in movies?) Even employees who identify themselves such as the hapless janitor find themselves on the receiving end of the robots’ weapons. The partygoers arm themselves with weapons from the sporting goods store and attempt to survive the night.
You might recognize the star of the film, Kelli Maroney, from Night of the Comet and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. She turned in a solid performance as a good girl turned heroine. She did her own stunts for Chopping Mall which leads to a particularly tense scene when she is dangling from an upper level fixture while a robot searches for her. Long time Roger Corman fans will also recognize characters from his other films.
As mentioned before, the robots are equipped with lasers which use sound effects from the 1953 film The War of the Worlds. While there is no chopping in this movie there is an amazing head splattering sequence that is almost on par with a similar moment from another robot horror movie, Deadly Friend.
Fans of schlock horror will have a great time with Chopping Mall. The movie certainly deserves a place in your next horror marathon.
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