There’s not much I feel like I can write about Chopping Mall (1986.) My instinct is to say it’s just good, dumb fun. But you know what? It’s not really dumb at all. For a movie about robot security guards at a mall that are called “Protectors,” and that a character says look like the Three Stooges, it’s not bad at all.
It starts quickly, setting up the plot before the opening credits even roll. When the head of Securetronics assures his audience, “Trust me. Absolutely nothing can go wrong,” then there’s a credit that reads “Killbots created by Robert Short,” you know something will absolutely go wrong. Post-credits, lightning strikes and the three Protectors go on a rampage.
Substitute a serial killer for the killbots and you have a film that may as well be a Slasher. Scantily clad teens run through the mall after it closes, hiding from the killer robots and concocting surprisingly clever ways to stop them. I don’t care why there are scantily clad teens in the mall after it closes, but…
…Chopping Mall actually does a decent job of introducing the characters and setting the stage for mayhem within its blessedly brisk hour and fifteen-minute running time. There’s not a dull moment as four couples celebrate Suzie’s (Barbara Crampton) birthday inside the furniture store where three of the boys work.
Mike Brennan (John Terlesky) is the gum-chewing jerk who, along with Greg Williams (Nick Segal) like to give straight-laced Ferdy Meisel (Tony O’Dell) a hard time. Allison Parks’s (Kelly Maroney) two friends, Suzie and Leslie Todd (Suzee Slater) are nicer to her and have set her up on a blind date with Ferdy. See, there was some thought put into it: they all have last names!
Newlyweds Rick Stanton (Russell) and Linda Stanton (Karrie Emerson) crash the party from outside the mall. I’m unclear what their relationship is to the other three couples. They are no more mature than the others and, some of my best friends being younger than me, I appreciated their inclusion.
My favorite scene is a single pan shot through the furniture store. First, we see Linda in underwear only, approaching shirtless Rick in a bed. A couple of displays down the way, Suzie mounts Greg on a couch. A little further down, Mike and Leslie are finishing up in another bed and she wants a cigarette.
Finally, the camera lands on Ferdy and Alison sitting side by side… watching a movie on television. It’s not just any movie, mind you; it’s Attack of the Crab Monsters (1957), one of many homages to Roger Corman, whose Concorde Pictures produced Chopping Mall. (Technically, it’s produced by Julie Corman, Roger’s wife.)
I feared the killbots would be clunky and silly, but I was pleasantly surprised by the effects. It’s kind of like thinking the Daleks are goofy until you see what they can do. Be sure to look at director Jim Wynorski’s page on IMDb. This was only his second film, but his 104 credits since then tell you everything you need to know about this Corman disciple.
Written by Jim Wynorski & Steve Mitchell
Directed by Jim Wynorski
Starring Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Karrie Emerson, Barbara Crampton, Nick Segal, John Terlesky, Suzee Slater
RT 77 min.
Released March 21, 1986
Recorded on May 30, 2020 on TCM
Rating 7 Hockey Mask Killers (out of 10)
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