DIRECTED BY: Jim Wynorski
WRITTEN BY: Jim Wynorski & Steve Mitchell
PEW PEW: Some really cool and very satisfying death scenes. The robots seem limited in function, but they’re neat to watch.
CAT FOOD: Nobody home. The movie is a straight-forward popcorn flick absent of social commentary.
I come from the Roger Corman school of low-budget film thought: the golden rule is to consider their internal consistency and their ability to suspend disbelief — and of course, did you have fun? This is very much how I’ve maintained a steadfast love of the man’s sometimes questionable work. While it’s true, for every good low-budget creature feature there’s a pile of assy clones that think they can do the same, there are some really great and enjoyable ones out there if you take the film for what it is.
So where does low-budget Cormanite Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall fit in? The answer lies somewhere in between.
As with most horror films, good and bad, Chopping Mall’s plot is simple and markedly dubious. Park Plaza Mall has decided to employ three robotic security officers and computerised heavy locking outer doors to deter no-goods (and to relieve more minimum-wagers of their jobs). Oh yeah, and the computer that controls these robots (deemed ‘killbots’ by the film’s original title)? It’s located on the roof of the building. What could possibly go wrong? Okay, let’s throw eight horny teenagers who have decided to have an after hours ‘slumber’ party in the mall’s furniture store into the mix.
So basically, what happens over the course of the movie? Our happy teens in their various stereotypical happy white teen forms jive it up in a totally rad furniture store party, while the security robots keep them safe from the threat of on-lookers, thieves, and vandals. What’s more? The teens all live happily ever after and the robots receive commendations and replace security personal across the continental United States, setting the stage for a rousing sequel where they replace restaurant workers, cashiers, and other jobs previously available to the ninety-nine-per-center working class population.
Just kidding. Bascially, a bit of lightning hits the computer atop the building (who saw that coming?), in a move ‘shockingly’ similar to Short Circuit (see what I did there?) the killbots are brought to independent life, we get to see Barbara Crampton’s ever appreciated natural resources, and the killbots fucking kill everybody except two of the teens who will probably live happily ever after since the economy was a lot better back then.
So let’s ask again. Is the film internally consistent? Yes. Everything in the film’s world seems set up to make this linear vehicle for robotic mayhem a reality. Is it easy to maintain a suspension of disbelief? Absolutely. Granted, if this were your first eighties horror film you’d be all like “why would you do that?” or “how could you forget that?” or even “naked? here?,” but if you’re like me, you’ve been there done that, and the genre tropes are old friends who are more than welcome.
And bottom line, did I have fun? You’d better believe it. While I would have loved to have seen them do more with the concept with some cooler weaponry and unique deaths, the film did its job and held most of my attention. It does stray from interesting on a few occasions and it is far from the best thing ever, but for what it is, Chopping Mall is an enjoyable experience.
Oh, and the movie also happens to feature one of the greatest head explosion deaths ever captured on film — and the great Dick Miller being in a film, for however little time, automatically guarantees it extra cred.