Del and Mladen review ‘Chopping Mall’

Image courtesy of Concorede Pictures.

“Chopping Mall” stars Kelli Maroney as Alison Parks, Tony O’Dell as Ferdy Meisel, Russell Todd as Rick Stanton, Karrie Emerson as Linda Stanton, Barbara Crampton as Suzie Linn, and Nick Segal as Greg Williams. Directed by Jim Wynorski. Rated R with a 1-hour, 17-minute run time. See it on Amazon Prime and Tubi.

Del’s take

“Chopping Mall” is a product of the incomparable Roger Corman, king of the independent, low-budget exploitation film.

Corman began his career in the mid-1950s making science fiction/horror movies (“The Beast with a Million Eyes”) and Westerns (“Five Guns West”), and became known as the “King of the Drive-In.” He continued in the 1960s with a series of opulent gothic horror movies based on the works of Edgar Allen Poe (“The Pit and the Pendulum”) and worked with stars such as Vincent Price, Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, Ray Miland and Peter Lorre.

Eventually Corman established his own studio, New World Pictures. He is credited with starting the careers of numerous A-list actors and directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorcese, Peter Bogdanovich, James Cameron and Jonathan Demme, to name a few.

Corman produced “Chopping Mall,” along with his wife, Julie. It was shot mostly at the Sherman Oaks Galleria mall in Los Angeles in 20 days, with two days of studio filming. The film is described as a parable of Reaganesque consumption and has become a bit of a cult hit over the years.

The plot is fairly straightforward: A group of teenagers holds an after-hours drinking and sex party at a furniture store in a shopping mall on the same night a trio of security robots goes online for the first time. Unfortunately for the teenagers, a lightning strike damages the robots’ programming and they embark on a killing spree. Armed with tranquilizing darts, tasers and directed-energy weapons, the robots are more than a match for a group of oversexed teens … or are they?

Originally marketed as “Killbots,” (a superior title in my opinion) “Chopping Mall” was filmed at the same location as “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” But trust me, it bears little resemblance to that classic coming-of-age movie. “Chopping Mall” is mostly a bloody excess of exploding heads, lots of jiggling breasts, tacky ’80s-esque music, some seriously terrible dialogue (which was mostly ad-libbed from what I understand) and crappy special effects – heck, they even poached the ray gun sound effects from the George Pal version of “War of the Worlds.”

But as an artifact of the ’80s, “Chopping Mall” is a fascinating time capsule. As I watched the movie I made a list of some of the uniquely ’80s features: big hair, designer jeans, pay phones, landlines, popped collars, circular glasses frames, pastels, Better Cheddar, CRTs, gun stores in a mall, cigarette machines (a pack of smokes cost $1.25), suspenders, button-down shirts, wooden skateboards, handheld calculators the size of mobile phones, khakis with pleats and shoulder boards.

Wow, those were the days. Not.

Look, “Chopping Mall” isn’t high art. It’s a low-budget exploitation film, squarely within the Roger Corman mode of a moviemaking. As silly entertainment it’s just fine. I can think of worse ways to waste an hour and 17 minutes of my life. Go into it with low expectations and you won’t be disappointed. Just be prepared for some serious gore.

I give “Chopping Mall” a grade of B. Anything higher would dishonor its low-budget aspirations. But I’m guessing Mladen will gush – it’s right up his alley. So expect multiple A’s, maybe even with a bullet. Or an exploding head.

Mladen’s take

Yeah, I was hyped when Del used the phrase “jiggling breasts” in his review. All of a sudden, I was looking forward to watching “Chopping Mall.” But trouble soon arrived. The problem? The bared breasts were front-loaded. So, the remaining four-fifths of the movie was barely tolerable to me. No more nudity, just hokey – even for a Corman film – analog-ish visual effects and blood splatter. Let’s face it, despite years of writing movie reviews with Del as my antagonist, he still has no ability to distinguish between cartoonish depiction of slit throats or exploding heads and realistic, honest-to-goodness, stomach-churning graphic violence.     

Where to begin evaluating “Chopping Mall?” How about the old saying, “lightning never strikes twice in the same place?” Why? Because in “Chopping Mall” lightning struck THREE times in the same place to send the trio of Bobcat tractor-like killerbots on a hunting spree. Sheesh. From there, the movie gets better in the sense that it gets worse.

We start with four heterosexual couples and then there were three and then there were two and then one. I concede, the couples countdown was a tidy way to knock off the subadults portrayed in the film. The systematic, one-couple-slaughtered-at-a-time pace of the movie generated anticipation. “Ah,” I’d say to myself, “she bought it because she was unable to use a Molotov cocktail correctly. Burning to death sucks. How will her boyfriend meet the Grim Reaper?” Wait a few minutes and, pow, a killerbot grabs the boyfriend and drops him from the mall’s third floor. Thud, and we’re shown a pool of diluted ketchup pooling around the boyfriend’s cracked skull.    

For Christ’s sake, the movie didn’t even have a decent soundtrack and it was made in the decade, 1980s, that generated some of the best songs ever. Yes, Corman’s studio did things on the cheap but, come on, why not drop a bit of change for the right to use Blondie’s “Rapture?”

Why the f— Del thought I’d like this movie, I have no idea. Maybe he thought I’d like it because it has gained somewhat of a cult following over the years. Maybe he just wanted to insult my taste in movies. No matter, “Chopping Mall” deserves no better than a C-. But, I don’t want to discourage filmgoers from watching other “Gore”man flicks. There are a lot of them. Del, here are a few that I watched and enjoyed: “The Wasp Woman,” “Carnosaur,” “Death Race 2000” and its sequel, “Death Race 2050,” and let’s not ignore “Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda.”

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical writer. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and writer.


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