Chopping Mall (1986) — Yes, it’s killer robots in a shopping mall.

“Thank you. Have a nice day.”

Justin’s rating: The best movie about killer robots that Dick Miller ever appeared in. Mark my words.

Justin’s review: Several times I have seen the name Chopping Mall recommended as a “must-see” B-movie, but I’ve always dismissed it out of hand as some sort of generic ’80s slasher. I’m more than done with slashers and very picky about any horror I pick up these days, so I started to walk out of the room when this film got brought up. But as I left, someone called out, “It’s actually a movie about killer robots protecting a mall!”

And instantly I was back in the room. “Excuse me!” I said. “I would like to know more about this marvelous concept.”

I mean, who could pass up an opportunity to see what it would be like if Johnny Five from Short Circuit took up a night job working mall security and then went all evil?

Because no expense should ever be spared safeguarding our nation’s most valuable properties, a trio of Protector model robots are brought in to patrol Park Plaza Mall at night. Armed with a wide variety of lethal instruments — including lasers… lasers, people! — the Protectors will only go haywire if a stray lightning bolt hits their control computer on the roof. But honestly, what are the odds of that happening?

In a movie called Chopping Mall, it’s pretty much a 100% guarantee.

On the evening that R2D2, Tom Servo, and WALL-E go on a kill spree, there just so happens to be a group of mall employees who stayed late to throw a party. Oh, and the mall is sealed shut so that there’s no way for anyone to leave. This eminently likable group of goofy teens are way too much into making out and being genuinely funny to notice that they’re trapped. I really had no expectations at all for a movie like this to give us witty dialogue, but this film kept surprising laughs out of me.

And out of all of the teens, it’s the seemingly shy girl-next-door Allison Parks (Kelli Maroney, Night of the Comet) who becomes our Final Girl of the evening. Allison’s high-waisted jeans and deadly shot with a revolver far outmatches any rampaging machine — or giant spiders, for that matter.

Honestly, I’d watch a non-killer robot movie just with this gang, they’re so amusing. But happily, killer robots we do have, and they are SPECTACULAR. Instead of coming straight at the teens like Terminators, they prefer to play mind games with humans and knock them off in some silly ways, like electrocuting the janitor by tazing a water puddle at his feet.

When the teens finally catch on that there’s something afoot — perhaps when one of the robots blew the head off of their friend right in the hallway — at least they’re quick to swing into action. They arm up, they attempt to find a way out through the air ducts, and they wish that cellphones had been invented a decade sooner. Along the way, we get a nostalgic tour of what malls looked like in the ’80s, which, apart from the store names, look pretty much the same as what we have today.

It’s really hard to take any of this seriously as a horror movie because of the outright ridiculous nature of adorable laser-toting robots blasting up a mall. In fact, I would swear this was some sort of modern satire of weird ’80s horror premises, but no, this actually came out and was a thing. Chopping Mall’s tight editing and fast pacing makes this a riot from start to finish. Sometimes when you do a dumb thing quite well, it becomes admirable. Or something. That sounded far more profound in my head.

There’s a lot of mileage to be had by watching the robots try to coordinate their assault and smash right through plate glass windows, and the little chatter they have is always endearing. Also elevating this low-budget effort is an energetic score from Chuck Cirino that is, at times, creepy, exciting, and peppy.

Chopping Mall’s main mandate is to keep the viewer entertained, and to this it fully succeeds. With fun characters, a bizarre situation, snarky quotes, and a foe that only the 1980s would have created, I was charmed all the way to the end credits.

Didja notice?

  • That’s the flimsiest glass that ever guarded jewelry
  • Dang, the RoboCop OCP robot had a baby!
  • Don’t taze me, brah!
    Reel-to-reel projectors is how you know you’re in the future
  • Can you be racist about robots? I guess you can.
  • Is the community this incredibly concerned about shopping mall secruity?
  • Oh that is one high-tech main theme
  • The customer montage is absolutely amazing, what with shoplifters, kids with ice cream, beauty pageant contestants, video games, and a woman dumping sixteen cokes on a guy
  • It’s good times to the max!
  • There’s a whole lot of very gross kissing in this movie.
  • Yeah, that is one truly popped collar
  • The kids going “hi!” “hi!” “hi!” cracked me up
  • Are you really scared by a Z-movie from the 1950s?
  • Air ducts don’t look that fun to crawl around in after all.
  • “I’ve got the key” And cue throwing a crowbar through a window.
  • Shopping malls in the ’80s had a gun store with assault rifles and shotguns.
  • A Rambogram sounds delightful.
  • Do those robots have tank armor or something? They get shot by assault rifles and magnums multiple times without any damage other than Movie Sparking(tm).
  • Nothing like having spiders and snakes climb you while you’re hiding from killer robots, am I right? She’s going to go into therapy after this.
  • This mall is the same one that was used as a filming location for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Commando, and Terminator 2 (among others)
  • There are tons of references to Roger Corman and other B-movie figures

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