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John’s Horror Corner: Chopping Mall (1986), a crazy melee of killer robots that shoot frickin’ laser beams from their eyes

March 10, 2014

MY CALL:  There’s nothing iconic about this bad 80s sci-fi/horror and I’m not saying it should be on your “must see list.”  But this has everything I miss about the 80s; it’s so awful and cheesy and cheap and campy, and that’s what makes it so sweet to the refined horror connoisseur.  MORE MOVIES LIKE Chopping MallThe Outing (1987), The Initiation (1984) and Dawn of the Dead (1978) deliver more “mall horror” in the classic style we know and love.  SIDEBAR:  This was originally titled Killbots.  That title would have made more sense since the present title makes me think of a slasher movie.

“Eight teenagers are trapped after hours in a high tech shopping mall and pursued by three murderous security robots out of control.”  –IMDB

The very first night that a mall breaks in its new security team of three robots, lightning strikes the control center and somehow short circuits them…into killer robots.  That same night eight 20-somethings decide to have an overnight sex party in the mall…because that’s what kids did in the 80s, they had overnight sex parties.  I struggle to envision that any teenagers or 20-somthings would have died in any 80s horror movies if there were no overnight sex parties.

Well after one of the security robots detonates one of their hotties’ heads with its laser vision, and thus ruins their overnight sex party, the men furiously hit the sporting goods store, load up on guns and propane tanks and fight back!  What ensues is a lot of fun, bad nonsense.  In fact, everything leading up to that was a lot of fun, bad nonsense, too.

Let’s talk about these robots for a second.  They look like mini-Johnny-5’s complete with videogame laser gun vision and what are called “sleep darts.”  I wonder how much these robots cost to make.  If AI-robotic security sounds a little excessive for your average mall in Ohio, please note the obviously moderately priced time-locked Star Wars doors which are sealed shut over night.  What’s with this mall?  It’s like a military tech experiment!

The overnight party crew of 20-somethings include a lot of familiar faces: Allison (Kelli Maroney; Night of the Comet, Not of this Earth), Suzie (Barbara Crampton; You’re Next, Lords of Salem, The Re-Animator), Rick (Russell Todd; Friday the 13th Part 2), Linda (Karrie Emerson; Evils of the Night), Ferdy (Tony O’Dell; Evils of the Night), Leslie and Mike (John Terlesky; Deathstalker II).  Also look for Mr. Bud the CHUD himself Gerrit Graham (Child’s Play 2, It’s Alive III, TerrorVision) and Gremlins‘ Dick Miller (Piranha, The Howling, The Twilight Zone: The Movie).

Dick Miller’s brief cameo getting electrocuted by a killbot.

To call the writing a bit stale would almost be a compliment.  The poor attempts at humor in this movie succeed at little more than securing the bad name earned by 80s horror writers.  Thankfully, we find our humor in some of the kills.

Following the most ancient horror axiom, if a woman in her panties runs, she WILL trip and fall.

Director Jim Wynorski used the success of this film to pole vault his career into the big leagues.  He later went on to helm such bare breast-rich film as Deathstalker II (1987), Not of this Earth (1988), Return of Swamp Thing (1989), The Haunting of Morella (1990), 976-EVIL II (1992), Ghoulies IV (1994) and many more.

If you enjoy the 80s, the cheap, the campy, the cheesy and the awful, then you should enjoy this.

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