In an attempt to shore up their overnight security, a mall unveils their new plan: metal security doors that will close at night. Also, three patrolling robots. They swear the robots are non-lethal, but that doesn’t explain their onboard head-exploding lasers. Some teens decide to have an after-hours party in a furniture store. Lightning strikes the mall, the non-lethal robots are turned into murder machines and the teens try to survive.
The original title of this movie was Killbots. Granted, that’s a pretty cool title, but I think Chopping Mall was the correct choice. Really, they couldn’t have gone wrong with either of those two options.
This was a movie I had heard of, but never got around to watching it. I didn’t know anything about it other than, “robots kill people in a mall.” With that description, I should have rushed to watch it the minute I heard it, but, alas, I do not always make the smartest decisions.
The runtime is 77 minutes, which is ridiculous and perfect. The set-up of “hey, we have robots patrolling a mall for some reason,” and “we’re kids, let’s party in a mall with roaming robots,” takes about 30 minutes. Shortly after that, the group realizes that these robots will kill (this is where the aforementioned “head-exploding lasers,” come into play), and we’re off to the races. There isn’t a lot of dead time in this movie. They set it up, introduce the characters, then start killing them off. Sure, they could have added another 10 minutes, but for what purpose? I guess they could have added another couple to kill, but you know what they say: 8 people is a sex party, 10 people is an unlicensed orgy.
Can we talk about the characters for a second? Because I love them all.
Alison & Ferdy – Our main couple. They were set-up on a blind date. While everyone else is banging on beds directly behind them, Alison and Ferdy are hanging out on a couch watching old sci-fi movies. I love them dearly.
Alison is played by Kelli Maroney, who starred in the terrific Night of the Comet.
Ferdy is played by Tony O’Dell, best known for his turn as Alan Pinkard in Head of the Class. He also played a member of the Cobra Kai in Karate Kid I & II.
Greg & Suzie – “All they do is have sex and fight.” Suzie is the one who convinced Alison to come to the party. She dances like a less-insane version of Crispin Glover in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. They’re beautiful people.
Suzie is played by horror icon Barbara Crampton, still cranking out solid horror movies in her late 50s.
Greg is played by Nick Segal, who had a short-lived acting career. However, his first movie credit was in Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. So that’s something.
Rick & Linda – Married. They’re mechanics, and this comes up more often than I thought it would. They have a really sweet relationship. For a 77 minute 80s slasher about killer robots, I thought their characters were fleshed out really well. Of all the couples in this movie, they were my favorite.
Rick is played by Russell Todd, who played Scott in Friday the 13th Part II.
Mike & Leslie – Terrible people. TERRIBLE people. Mike is a stereotypical 80s villain, with big hair and a style of gum-chewing that can conservatively be described as “aggressive.” Leslie is a shallow mean girl with an ample chest. She will take her top off for no other reason than it will convince people to buy her cheap cigarettes. They’re perfect for each other, and it’s clear they will be the first to die. I have no idea why everyone else hangs out with them.
Mike is played by John Terlesky. A year before Chopping Mall, he played an uncredited corpse in an episode of V.
I don’t know how many other things I can say about this. It’s short. It’s insane. It’s beautiful. It’s so gloriously over-the-top that I kind of assume the filmmakers were showing just how ridiculous the slasher genre can be.
Make no mistake: this is a slasher movie. Sure, the killers are robots, but they employ some pretty solid slasher techniques. Making noises in a dark hallway to make you shout out, “Who’s there?” and “That’s not funny.” Stalking their victims and striking at the exact right moment. Sure, once the movie gets rolling the robots are out there in the open, firing their lasers with reckless abandon. But in the early going, they’re operating in stealth mode. Like a short, metallic Michael Myers who just happens to say, “Have a nice day,” after killing people.
This is a glorious time capsule of mid-80s mall culture and the state of the horror genre. It’s amazing. My only complaint is that I didn’t watch it sooner, but that’s on me.