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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Day 278: Chopping Mall

Chopping Mall
Chop till you drop

Ah, the great American shopping mall. Where else, other than a carnival or flea market, could you ride a carousel, eat a buttered pretzel, and buy clothes? Malls are no stranger to the horror genre. They were most famously used in Dawn of The Dead, but were also used in The Initiation, Hide And Go Shriek, and Phantom Of The Mall. In the 80's the mall was the mecca of consumerism so it's no surprise that they received the horror treatment. This location allows for a lot of possibilities for scares and action, but also good social commentary. Or it's just a big, cheap open space to shoot.

Chopping Mall (also known as Killbots) is a 1986 horror movie starring Kelli Maroney (Night Of The Comet, Not Of This Earth) as Alison Parks and Tony O'Dell (Head Of The Class, The Karate Kid) as Ferdy Meisel. The Park Plaza Mall has just installed a new state-of-the-art security system manned by three robots. Armed with tasers and tranquilizer guns, the robots are programmed to patrol the premises at night, asking any human for identification. One night, lightning strikes the mall, damaging the computer that controls the robots. They come to life, killing the scientist in charge of watching them and begin roaming the mall. At the same time, four teenage couples are partying in one of the stores after hours. While the other couples get down to “business,” shy Alison and nerdy Ferdy (see what they did there?) talk and watch and old horror movie. When one couple leaves the store to go buy cigarettes from a vending machine (hey, it's the 80's), they are killed by the robots. The men and women seperate with the women eventually going to a hardware store and the men going to a sporting good store. The men arm themselves with guns and the women create molotovs using gas cans and rags. When they think they have one of the robots defeated, another one appears, killing one of the girls with laser beams (yes, laser beams). As the night wears on, more of the group are killed eventually leaving only Allison and Ferdy. How will they be able to beat this futuristic killbots and survive?

Apparently, her giant hair is thinking of getting something to eat

When I heard the title “Chopping Mall” I actually expected the movie to be about a serial killer loose in a mall. Sure, it's been done before, but not with such a clever title. Instead, we get a movie about killer robots. Obviously, the name change has something to do with my confusion, but doesn't lessen my disappointment. In fact, I don't think there any significant chopping in “Chopping Mall”. What a bummer! The movie is very much entrenched in mid-80's culture with it's goofy characters and general attitude. It's fun to see things like cigarette vending machines, big hair, multiple pay phones, and all sorts now-antiquated items in the mall. Chopping Mall does reference other horror movies, such as one of the characters saying the phrase “klaatu barada nikto” from “The Day The Earth Stood Still” and “Army of Darkness”. There are also horror movie posters in a pizza shop, including one for Slumber Party Massacre.

I wasn't expecting much when I decided to watch this movie, but it managed to be entertaining. There isn't much to the story and very little in the way of any character development. That's not why you're watching the movie, though. Chopping Mall has a surprisingly good amount of action and violence. Much like Dawn Of The Dead, the protagonists use guns found in a store to fight off their enemies. Of course, these are some heavy-duty guns. I know the 80's were bad, but I didn't think assault weapons were necessary. The movie does try to utilize a few different stores in the mall, but I could have used more variety. When you have lots of options, you might as well use most of them, The robots look decent, though their lasers look like a poor-man's Star Wars effect. The acting is passable since not a lot is required other than running, screaming, and shooting. Kelli Maroney's character is a sweeter, less Valley Girl version of her character in Night Of The Comet and makes for a good heroine.

"Stop! I just wanted a hug!"

Chopping Mall is the epitome of B-horror movies: The idea is over-the-top, the budget is small, and there isn't much of a story, but it's still fun to watch. The robots look decent and there is enough violence and action to keep the audience from thinking about the story. The acting is passable and the direction is fine. I would have liked a little more variety in locations used and more creativity in fighting the robots. Best watched with a group of friends, Chopping Mall manages to be entertaining and ridiculous at the same time.


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