Chopping Mall (1986)
Back of the box...
“Some people will kill for a bargain...and at the Park Plaza Mall they do! Here, you can shop till you drop...dead!
High tech robots equipped with state-of-the-art security devices have been recruited as the new mechanical ‘night watchmen’ for the Park Plaza Mall. When a jolting bolt of lightning short circuits the main computer control, the robots turn into ‘killbots’...on the loose after unsuspecting shoppers! Four couples are trying to make it after-hours in a mattress store. They make it alright - in the morgue!
At Park Plaza, you can save on everything but your life!”
Director: Jim Wynorski
Starring: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russel Todd
Watch the Trailer
The year was 1986. Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Punky Brewster was devastated as she watched the Challenger Shuttle explode on live TV, Chernobyl spewed out radiation and turned the Ukrainians into superhuman creatures with four arms, and yet amidst all this tragedy, mall culture was in full swing. Who had time to worry about radiated Ukrainians? We had shit to buy, babes to scope out, Orange Julius drinks to drink, and that Rampage arcade game wasn’t gonna play itself! Chopping Mall is like a B-movie time capsule here to remind us just how awesome the mall in it’s heyday really was.
Chopping Mall’s director, Jim Wynorski, may not be a household name but with his 100+ directing credits, chances are you’ve watched more of his movies than you’d care to admit. We know we have. He directs under a variety of pseudonyms in different genres; he’s one of the geniuses behind those awesomely bad Syfy Channel original movies like Dinocroc Vs. Supergator while he’s also got a foot in the late-night softcore porn market with films like Busty Cops and, one of our favorite titles, The Devil Wears Nada. So, does Chopping Mall fit the mold, is it a cheesy sci-fi movie with unnecessary boob shots? Yeah, little bit.
The film starts as the Park Plaza shopping mall debuts their new security robots to a small group of shop owners, including a less than impressed Mary Woronov and Paul Bartell (reprising their characters from Eating Raoul). Enjoy this dynamic duo while they last, because this is their only appearance in the film. We next meet Kelli Maroney’s character who’s being talked into attending an after hours, boozy fuckfest in the mall’s furniture store. We think they refer to it as a party, but we call ‘em like we see ‘em. An unfortunate lightning strike from a sudden storm turns the security robots on before their intended activation and their programming gets a little...off. Apparently, said bots were not paying attention during their unveiling when it was specified that they were not lethal. It doesn’t take long for the killbots to find the horny teens and as horror rules dictate: you have sex, you die!
While you may not recognize Wynorski, Chopping Mall is full of familiar faces. The first you might notice is the mall itself. The movie was filmed at the Sherman Oaks Galleria which we first recognized as the mall in Commando and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, but after looking it up we discovered that its credits also include Innerspace, Back to the Future 2, Terminator 2, Phantom of the Mall: Eric’s Revenge, and, our favorite Kelli Maroney film, Night of the Comet. We already mentioned Mary Woronov and Paul Bartell (someone seriously needs to make a documentary about those two) but there is also Gerrit Graham (Mary Woronov’s husband in TerrorVision) as technician Nessler and Dick Miller (he’s in everything) as the janitor, Walter Paisley.
This brings us to our next bit of fun trivia: the film was produced by Julie Corman, and there are more than a few references to her husband, Roger. The first is Dick Miller’s character Walter Paisley, whose first appearance under that name was in the 1959 Roger Corman film, A Bucket of Blood. “Walter Paisley” has since reappeared in a number of films by Joe Dante, who got his start working with Corman, including 1976’s Hollywood Boulevard (which stars Mary Woronov and Paul Bartell) 1981’s The Howling, and Dante’s segment for 1983’s Twilight Zone: The Movie. Other references to Corman include the mall pet store “Roger’s Little House of Pets,” (named after his classic 1960 film, Little Shop of Horrors) and the mall diner that’s filled with posters from Corman films, crudely taped up without frames. The most notable of the posters, to us anyway, was The Slumber Party Massacre. A less direct reference that points to the incestiousness of this crowd of filmmakers is the book Gerrit Graham is reading as he neglects to keeps watch of the security cameras. It’s titled “They Came from Outer Space: 12 Classic Science Fiction Tales That Became Major Motion Pictures” and was edited by the films director, Wynorski. One of the stories in the book is The Racer, by Ib Melchior which became the source material for Roger Corman’s 1975 film Death Race 2000, featuring Mary Woronov and directed by Paul Bartel. Feels like we’re piecing together some weird conspiracy, right? Also, just throwin’ it out there, Mary Woronov used to hangout with Andy Warhol and was a dancer for the Velvet Underground. Can we PLEASE get a documentary about these people!?
Well, we could prattle on about the awesomeness of the supporting cast all day but the reality is, they’re barely in the movie! Yeah, all cameos. The film stars Kelli Maroney who, just like in Night of the Comet, is a teenage girl whose time spent firing guns with her military dad is finally paying off. Mary Woronov is also in Night of the Comet—AAAHHH it never ends! Easily our favorite character in Night of the Comet, it’s great to see Maroney as the lead. All the actors are pretty much perfect in the film with just the right amount of cheesiness. The gore effects are lacking right up until someone’s head blows up! Any guesses where the gore budget went? The story and pacing are perfect, Chopping Mall is a real “get in / get out” kind of movie. Short, straight to the point, simple story, likable characters, great synth score, fun setting, just an overall entertaining movie.
While watching Chopping Mall, which we highly recommend if you hadn’t already guessed, we were really caught up in the nostalgia of shopping malls. Someone really needs to start an 80’s day at the mall (not us, we have to watch YouTube movies). People will just show up with their teased hair, shoulder pads, and Wayfarer sunglasses. You can make flyers. It’ll be like a flash mob but nobody has to dance or anything. Maybe you’ll have time after you’re done making the documentary about Mary Woronov and Paul Bartell.