Working in the mall sucks. I should know. I spent the better part of ten years working inside the mall, first at a toy store and then at a record store. To this day, I cannot walk into the mall without a little bit of post traumatic stress setting in. I firmly believe mall employment is the reason I dislike large groups of people. Having to clean up after scores of disrespectful pigs doesn't do much for your appreciation of mankind either. I remember smirking whenever I interviewed a prospective employee as they told me about how much they like "helping people". Retail work doesn't really satisfy that desire. Go work for UNICEF if you really want to help people. Only work retail if you like cleaning up after people or dealing with their moods or babysitting their unruly bastard children. Needless to say, all those people who wanted to work retail because they liked "helping people" all ended up hated people after four months of dealing with them.
Worst of all were the shoplifters, most of whom think they are so suave that no one will notice them wandering off into corners carrying handfuls of product while wearing heavy jackets in the summertime or carrying conspicuously large shopping bags. And mall security? Well, mall security are generally useless people with the authority to do nothing more than tell you to move your car when you're parked in a fire lane or not to stand on the benches in the center court. Find someone shoplifting in your store? Don't expect mall security to do a damn thing. They're not cops. They're hall monitors with fancy uniforms and walkie talkies. No, if you want shoplifters to face some kind of punishment what you'd really need would be a kind of super security force... like robots, for example... robots with tank treads so nothing could slow them down... and reinforced metal bodies... oh, and tranquilizer darts... and lasers...
And that brings me to CHOPPING MALL, also known as KILLBOTS, which pits a bunch of obnoxious teenagers against a trio of over-zealous mall security robots.
In an attempt to prevent after hours theft, Park Plaza Mall has installed auto-locking, sliding metal doors and three security robots to patrol the floors after midnight. Each mall employee is given a special badge that the robots can scan to verify their identity. Failure to comply results in all manner of robot abuse, from being throttled by metal pinchers to being shot full of tranquilizer darts. The robots are also equipped with laser beams that will allow them to melt locks or saw through doors. Eight teenage dipshits decide to throw a party after hours in a department store not knowing that a freak electric storm has caused the security bots, called The Protectors, to go nuts. It doesn't take long before they're being chased down and bumped off one by one. Their only options are to hold off until the steel doors open in the morning or fight back against what can only be described as the most resilient cheap-looking robots in the history of cheap-looking robots. 80s hilarity ensues.
Look, this is not a good movie. Not at all. But it is incredibly fun in a nonsensical way. For starters, The Protectors, are incredibly far from threatening (in typical fashion, the robots can rip out throats, plant explosive charges, sustain a huge amount of abuse but, for some reason or another, cannot aim for shit while firing their lasers) and more often than not they elicit laughter instead of anything close to terror (or even mild heebie jeebies). The characters are all stereotypical knuckleheads that react in illogical ways and are prone to moments of stupefying stupidity. The practical effects are almost all off-screen (there is one gnarly head explosion) and the explosive carnage is all presented as little more than flashing lights off-camera with hilariously disproportioned sound effects rocking the soundtrack. This was obviously a low budget film and it shows, but the cheap-o effects add a kind of kitsch charm to the film. It really is impossible not to have fun while watching CHOPPING MALL if you have any affinity for low budget horror or sci-fi films.
And of course CHOPPING MALL is not meant to be a real horror film anyway. It rests firmly in the arena of comedy for most of the film with sly (and not so sly) in-jokes and sight gags aplenty. There are very welcome cameo performances from Mary Woronov and Paul Bartel in their EATING RAOUL roles as well as Dick Miller's cameo performance as mall janitor Walter Paisley, the same role Miller played in Roger Corman's A BUCKET OF BLOOD. Eagle-eyed 80s fans will also be able to spot Rodney Eastman (Joey from A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET 3: DREAM MASTERS) as a shoplifter. The pizzeria where two of the characters work is adorned with posters for 80s sleazefests like THE SLUMBER PARTY MASSACRE, GALAXY OF TERROR and LOST EMPIRE, the characters steal guns from Peckinpah's Sporting Goods and several moments are used to parody popular 80s advertising methods. There are bits of dialogue and sound effects lifted from 1950s sci-fi classics to boost the nerd factor. The casting is a dream cast for any 80s movie (Kelli Maroney, Russell Todd, Tony O'Dell, Nick Segal, Karrie Emerson and (the oh-so-beautiful) Barbara Crampton were all recognizable faces at the time). For fans of 80s horror cinema, CHOPPING MALL is a treasure trove of cheese and nostalgia.
I've seen this film close to thirty times in my life. It was always being shown on TV at one time or another and I still have a copy on VHS. It is one of those films capable of returning me to my younger years in a matter of minutes. There is something to be said for a film made 20+ years ago that still manages to entertain you even though you know every single event in the film like the back of your own hand. No amount of nostalgia can erase the films obvious faults and flaws, but I honestly don't care about any of them because I have an absolute blast every single time I put the film on. It's fast moving, highly idiotic and completely, totally, radically cheesy in the way only 1980s low budget horror can be.