#10. Chopping Mall (1986)
Nature of Shame:
I’m at a loss. We’ll just go with Barbara Campton Shame!
Hooptober Challenge Checklist:
Inanimate Object Comes to Life
I recognize that a robot isn’t letter-of-the-law inanimate, but gaining sentience is on the same wavelength. I wasn’t thrilled with my other options for the “inanimate object come to life” category and this satisfied the Babs Crampton requirement as well. Bonus Babs!
Chopping Mall Elevator Pitch
Mall security robots go haywire and terrorize the janitorial staff and a group of frisky teenagers who’ve locked themselves in the mall to, you know, fornicate after hours.
In the Mall of Bloody Desires
I don’t know if anyone’s following along with my 2018 31 Days of Horror odyssey, but if you are, you may or may not have noticed that I’m editing the sub-headings organically. Okay. I don’t even know what that means. Practically, it means that I’m using the subheadings from my prior bl-g post to reflect the new movie. My last writeup subheadings for In the Castle of Bloody Desires have shifted to accommodate the horny teenagers in Park Plaza Mall. For example “In the Castle of Bloody Simple Pleasures” became simply “In the Mall of Bloody Desires.” Just something to look forward to. It pays to subscribe.
Also, this is called word padding. Here’s my ID. Don’t revoke my license to bl-g.
Chopping Mall reflects a beautiful filmmaking simplicity. Introduce obviously bad robots. Lock teenagers in a mall. Unleash robots. You need something else out of your horror movie? While the film starts slow, like a cheap sex comedy, it quickly becomes a low-budget Dawn of the Dead with Johnny Fives instead of zombies once lightning strikes the mall and scrambles the robots’ digital brains.
So. Uh. You Mentioned Gog?
Well, no. I didn’t, but thank you for the segue-way. The kitschy robot design in Chopping Mall doesn’t reflect 1980’s technology. It seems that the filmmakers and legendary special effects man Robert Short wanted to pay homage to the robot design aesthetic of the 1950s. These particular Chopping Mall models, however, have the kind of firepower Reagan wanted to develop for his Star Wars space defense program.
(Reagan-era reference. CHECK.)
So that brings us to Gog (1954), a science fiction gem that I first saw in 3D at midnight at the 2016 Turner Classic Movie Film Festival. Documentation below:
Gog concerns the haywire central control system of a state-of-the-art space station. The central brain sends the station’s robots out to do its murderous bidding. It seems entirely likely that Chopping Mall director Jim Wynorski had absorbed and appreciated the robotic malice of Gog. Unfortunately flame-throwing Herbert Marshall seems to have slipped through the cracks.
So what does Chopping Mall have, if not Herbert Marshall?
I’m so glad you asked. Chopping Mall has electrocuted Dick Miller. It also has one of the best exploding heads this side of Scanners (poor Suzie Lynn aka Babs Crampton) and a terrifically banal robot voice punchline, “Have a nice day.”
The “Virgins” Don’t Die #SpoilerAlert
Chopping Mall doesn’t stray especially far from Slasher 101. The robots pick off oversexed teenagers one by one until the final virginal girl… or in this case, couple… manage to fend off their mechanical menace. This excess of robot-killing guile apparently stored up alongside their raging, unsatisfied libido.
Being untethered and unsexed also prevents the final girl and final guy from doing idiot things like driving a motorized cart into a robot pulsing with deadly electrical current in a Shakespearean suicide in the name of love. Hey, it happens.
Chopping Mall’s Simple Pleasures
As I’ve suggested, this is not a complicated film. It does, however, roll along at a breakneck clip and delivers a number of inventive kills along the way. The production quality of a film like this also seems undeserved. I say that, but the first time someone gets electrocuted you’ll question my sanity.
The mall setting provides plenty of opportunity for Wynorski to play with space and framing. While Chopping Mall refrains from becoming a broad horror comedy, it’s certainly not without a sense of humor. The dire sincerity of the robots as they execute their victims should be good for at least a few laughs.
Final Chopping Mall Thoughts
If you don’t care to take a robot slasher 80’s slice of life mall comedy too seriously, I bet you’ll have a good time with Chopping Mall. Wynorski sets the right tone and just let the good times roll. Get it? Because the robots are on rolling treads. It’s a joke. Whatever, you guys. Have a nice day.
Chopping Mall Rating:
I say this a lot, but it bears repeating. This movie looks better than it ever should and the care taken to produce a Criterion level package for Chopping Mall cannot be overlooked. It might be unwarranted, perhaps, but it can’t be overlooked.
#1. Deep Rising (1998)
#2. The Mist (2007)
#3. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948)
#4. Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man (1951)
#5. Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (1955)
#6. Maniac Cop (1988)
#7. Nightbreed (1990)
#8. The Hound of the Baskervilles (1959)
#9. In the Castle of Bloody Desires (1968)
#10. Chopping Mall (1986)
James David Patrick is a writer. He’s written just about everything at some point or another. Add this nonsense to the list. Follow his blog at www.thirtyhertzrumble.com and find him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.