Chopping Mall (aka: "Killbots") had one of the most iconic VHS covers in the history of horror films, easily ranking right up there with The Video Dead in my book. This is one of those horror movies you rented solely based on the awesome box art without needing to know anything else about it. Just look at it...
You have some kind of shiny cyborg fist clutching a shopping bag filled with body parts along with taglines like "Buy or die..." and "Half off is just the beginning!" How could you NOT rent a movie with poster artwork like that!? Of course, nothing shown on that poster is even close to what actually happens in the film. Sorry, but there is no cyborg walking around a mall, tearing people limb from limb, and stuffing their body parts into a shopping bag. Don't worry though, it's still just as awesome.
Poster artwork misrepresentations aside, Chopping Mall still remains one of my all-time favorite horror movies. The plot is simple: three brand new security robots malfunction and start killing a bunch of kids who are locked inside a shopping mall one night. Now that you know where this delicious blend of golden cinematic cheese is headed, I say it's time we turn on those robots and see what they can do.
It all begins with a greasy-haired thief, who breaks through the window of a jewelry store and then strolls off casually through a mall, believing he's not gonna get caught. Enter one dedicated Protector 101 series mall security robot. The robot looks like a mutant hybrid of a miniature tank and a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica, so it's not surprising that the criminal would start smiling upon seeing it. After all, he's armed with a gun, so he clearly has the upper hand, right? Wrong.
He takes multiple shots at the Protector 101 after it tells him, "Stop right there and surrender your weapon," and the bullets just ricochet off its shiny metal components. The robot then begins to chase him down, and despite having a top speed of your average mobility scooter, it keeps up with him no problemo. Makes you wonder if this guy could even outrun a Roomba.
Well, the robot eventually brings down the bad guy with a taser shot to the back, and the camera zooms in as some text that reads "THE END. A Secure-Tronics Production" pops up on the screen. Ohhhhh! It was a security robot demonstration video all along! And here we thought they were getting to the real action right off the bat.
Yep, a bunch of mall shop owners were watching the demonstration, and now the head of Secure-Tronics development, Dr. Stan Simon, is there to answer any questions they might have about the Protector 101 series robots. During the presentation, we learn that the robots are armed with tasers, sleep darts, and cutting lasers, but they won't attack regular people because all employees will be given security cards that the robots can scan. Also, they installed steel security doors in the mall that will be time-locked from midnight until dawn from here on out. No getting in or out of the mall? They must've paid off the fire marshal heavily to get him to overlook that infraction.
During the presentation, there are two restaurant owner snobs in the crowd who are constantly talking to each other, making snide remarks. The bald guy (Paul) looks at the three robots on display and says: "the one in the middle looks unpleasantly ethnic." Well, he did play an asshole in the original Piranha horror film as the camp counselor, so it would appear he latched on to that typecast.
Stan eventually wraps up his presentation by talking about how the Protectors will make Park Plaza the safest mall in the state, and then utters the words that so obviously set up the horror: "Trust me. Absolutely nothing can go wrong."
DUN! DUN! DUN!
Now if the movie ended right after the opening credits, I'd still say I had a pretty amazing time watching it, because the credits are absolutely ridiculous. We see a kid standing alone in an elevator with an ice cream cone, and then a ton of people pile into the elevator. When they disembark, we see the kid again, but now the ice cream is smeared all over his face and shirt. COMEDY! We're then treated to all kinds of wacky shots including: a shoplifter who stuffed a load of vinyl albums into his shirt and nobody noticing it makes his chest look like a huge box, arcade game enthusiasts, a kid skateboarding his way past all kinds of mall shoppers, teenagers making out with complete disregard for everyone else around them, some beauty queens wandering aimlessly in bikinis, a "Circus Tent O' Values" selling everything from sunglasses to G.I. Joe toys, and a woman spilling a tray full of sodas when she tries placing it on a table top that isn't there for no apparent reason. All this footage combined with an awesome electro-synth tune makes for one hell of an opening credits sequence.
And you wonder why people used to spend all the time at the mall back in the day? THIS IS WHY! Malls were absolutely amazing in the eighties!
Fun fact: The shoplifter in the intro was Rodney Eastman - the same guy who played Joey in A Nightmare on Elm Street parts 3 & 4.
After the opening credits madness, we cut to the inside of one of the mall restaurants where there are posters for movies like Slumber Party Massacre, Barbarian Queen, and Galaxy of Terror hanging on the walls. I don't care if the food in this joint is godawful and does have a disgusting chef who looks like he belongs at Barth's Burgery... with such an impressively proud display of fine b-movie cinema on their walls like that, I would gladly support them based on principle alone.
The first characters we're introduced to are Alison and Suzie, who work as waitresses in the restaurant, while some slob woofs down a pile of food in the background. Alison (played by Kelli Maroney who you may recognize from Night of the Comet) drops a dish and is obviously stressed out, but her friend Suzie is trying to help by telling Alison she has to come party with her after work at the furniture store for "good times to the max!" Well, since she put it that way, how could anybody turn down such an offer?
Before we exit the restaurant, we see one last glimpse of the overweight guy stuffing his face with a mountain of food. He simply raises his head and demands "Waitress! More butter!" Ha, ha! Fat jokes to the max!
Cut to the outside of Park Plaza mall where a severe lightning storm is taking place and lightning strikes one of the generators on the rooftop not once, not twice, but three times! So much for lightning never striking the same place more than once, eh? SCIENCE! Inside the building, a technician sits in the lab where the security robots are stored. Rather than keeping an eye on the robots or worrying about the smoke that was coming out from behind all of those high-tech blinking panel lights after the lightning struck, he's more concerned with looking at a centerfold. Well, I guess one of the Protector bots wanted to have a peek too, because its claw bursts right through the magazine and rips out the technician's throat. Throat rips to the max!
Fun fact: If you pause the movie, you can even see that the magazine has been taped together again for multiple takes of the same shot of the robot hand bursting through it. I guess they didn't have enough of a budget for extra copies of this particular nudie magazine.
After that impressive display of robot-gone-haywire-murder-power, we move on to the furniture store where three employee friends are hanging out and getting ready for the after hours party in the mall. First up, we have Ferdy, and he covers the worrisome nerdy guy archetype nicely, complete with a clip-on tie and glasses. Why... you could even call him Nerdy Ferdy! AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAA!!! THAT'S WHY I RUN A COMEDY WEB SITE FOLKS!
On a related note, I would like to state for the record that "robot-gone-haywire-murder-power" would be an excellent name for a band or an album. Feel free to use it.
Next, we have Greg (in the blue shirt), and while he's supposed to fill the average joe role, you quickly learn that he has one of the best lines in the movie. When Ferdy refuses to stop whining about some fuchsia-colored fabric pattern, Greg gets fed up and shouts, "Fuck the fuchsia, it's Friday!" You can't tell me that's not one of the best things you've ever heard in your entire life. You know what? I'm giving you an assignment. I don't care what you happen to be doing this Friday... at some point during the day, I want you to tell somebody "Fuck the fuchsia, it's Friday!" and report back to me how you brought it up and what their response was. Since it's highly unlikely you'll have something fuchsia-related going on, the quote will be completely out of context and confusing, which should make saying it all the more entertaining for you. Dooooo iiiit!!!
The last of these three chums is one Mike Brennan and he is fucking incredible.
Just look at him. Look at him! He has one of the absolutely greatest cocky asshole character smiles I have ever seen and he never stops chewing gum with his mouth wide open! Religions have been founded on far less awe-inspiring spectacles!
Outside the mall, Rick and Linda (owners of an automotive company) are trying to get their own car running so they can head to the party... oh the sweet irony! Rick wants to be all macho, but it's Linda who fixes the car much to his chagrin. To cheer the big lug up, she gives him some lingerie suggesting he's gonna get some if they hurry up and go to the party. He gets all excited, steps on the gas, and the car speeds off.
Back inside, we find the man of the hour, Mike, with his blonde trophy babe Leslie talking about their party plans. Her father overhears some of it and he makes Mike nervous, so Mike just chews his gum nervously while Leslie talks her way out of trouble. Her father must be a cold, cold son of a bitch... for not even Mike's winning smile can win him over.
As a few scantily clad ladies over in the girls locker room walk by, Alison and Suzie further discuss their plans for the party. Now either the writers wanted to clue us in on something or Alison can see the future, because she tells Suzie "Why do I have the feeling I'm going to regret this in the morning?" Nice foreshadowing!
Over in the mall robot hub, a new technician enters the room and we see no sign of the other guy who the robots killed before. So the robots disposed of the body and cleaned up the blood!? Even if they were malfunctioning, I doubt that was ever in their programming, unless Dr. Simon was an evil madman who planned on all of this happening. Hmm... yeah... I'm gonna go ahead and chalk this one up as being one of the many plot holes in Chopping Mall.
Anyway, the technician sits down and starts reading his book in a long, drawn out scene where he keeps thinking he hears the robots moving behind him. A robot will briefly turn on, he'll pause from reading his book to turn around in his chair and check it out, and then return to his reading. I get that they're trying to create some suspense here, but this is a movie about killer mall security robots. There is no suspense to be had here whatsoever, so this little sequence of events goes on for longer than it should, and you're ready to yell at the screen, "Just kill him already!", by the time it's done. Thankfully, the robot is more than happy to oblige.
The robot opens a little compartment on its chest and shoots out a hook that goes right through the back of the technician's neck. It then yanks back on it and lab guy #2 is officially kaput. Back in the furniture store, the after hours party has begun, as they all start popping open beers and dancing. Well... almost all of them.
There's still plenty more of Chopping Mall to see!
Click here to continue onward to page 2!
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