CHOPPING MALL (1986) – AKA Kilbots / R.O.B.O.T
Dir: Jim Wynorski
Stars: Kelli Maroney, Tony O’Dell, Russell Todd, Barbara Crampton
Jim Wynorski (AKA Sam Pepperman, AKA Rip Masters, AKA Jay Andrews, AKA Harold Blueberry, etc, etc) has been writing, directing and producing (mainly B) movies since the early 80s. His varied career has seen him involved with projects like family films (A Doggone Christmas), mainstream comedies (Screwballs), bizarre creature features (Cobragator, Piranhaconda, The Return of Swamp Thing), softcore titilation (Busty Cops, The Hills Have Thighs, The Bare Wench Project), out-and-out porn (The Breastford Wives) and some more conventional horror (976 Evil 2, Ghoulies 4, Cheerleader Massacre, Sorrority House Massacre 2).
His second movie as a director is an example of Wynorski’s forays into straight horror; 1986’s Chopping Mall. The premise is straightforward – a group of teenage shopping mall workers decide to stay in the mall after closing one night, in order to have a party. The only problem is the mall’s new security system – an armour-plated lockdown, making escape impossible, and three heavily armed security droids which have turned rogue killers……
Although perhaps not Wynorski’s best known (or well budgeted) film, Chopping Mall is arguably his most successful in terms of what it sets out to do. The basic set-up and the clever use of venue create a thrilling environment which immediately involves the viewer and captures their imagination. In terms of efficient simplicity, it is not unreasonable to compare Chopping Mall with Halloween or Dawn of the Dead, although it is perhaps not quite in that league in terms of overall quality.
There are some familiar faces in the cast, Barbara Crampton and Friday 13th Part 2’s Russell Todd are amongst the “teenage” party goers and there are amusing cameos from Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov and Dick Miller. The script and the performances aren’t brilliant, but they don’t need to be and the cast enter into the swing of things with silly gusto as they are chased about the three levels of the mall by the killer robots.
There is an overriding sense of fun to the whole movie; every time the caterpillar-tracked driods despatch a victim, they say, in clipped, robotic tones , “thank you, have a nice day!” During the final credits, each cast member’s face is shown next to their name, except Suzee Slater, whose portrait is that of an exploding head – watch the movie to find out why.
Even in 1986, Chopping Mall didn’t exactly break any new ground; there were already enough “teens in peril” slasher movies that every character in the movie was already a stereotype and we get the usual jump scares and gratuitous topless scenes. However, the setting and execution make Chopping Mall an effective and fun horror movie and the killer robots are a welcome change from the ubiquitous masked psycho. If you ever had the run of a large empty building as a kid, then you will understand the feeling of adventure and excitement that Chopping Mall conveys. A minor footnote in 80s horror and definitely worthy of your attention.