Chopping Mall (1986) – Review

Chopping Mall is a cliché 80’s film, which means it’s full of horny teenagers, robots who shoot lasers and sleep darts, and abysmal dialogue. What more could you ask for? The Park Plaza Mall, our location in the film, has just installed a new state-of-the-art security system, complete with steel doors on the exits and three AI-controlled robots with the capability to detain and incapacitate thieves at large. Three sex-crazed couples, and one “doomed to survive” duo, decide to throw a party in one of the furniture stores in the mall where a few of them work. Multiple tit-shots ensue, and an obligatory “yes, yes, you’re the king!” porno-esque dialogue is shared. Things are all going cordially until lightening strikes the mall, and the computer-controlled robots lose their ability to differentiate friend from foe. The movie then plays out quite how you’d expect. The latter 40-ish minutes of the film consists of run, get trapped, fight robots, someone dies, rinse, and repeat. This may sound as a distasteful cash-grab on the Robocop and Short Circuit formula, but god, is it fun to watch.

(Chopping Mall, 1986)

At the very least, the movie seems to acknowledge the absurdity of its own plot, and in somewhat of a nod to the audience, embraces the fact that you know exactly what you’re getting into when watching the film. Its contextual references to exploitation films of the past, notably the scene where Ferdy and ‘Curly-hair’ watch “Attack of the Crab Monsters”, show what the movie is getting at while still preserving the charm that the sleazy horror films asked of directors and actors in the 80’s. This most likely due to the director being Jim Wynorksi, who’s made a career of directing exploitation films and has 75 feature-lengths under his belt. This movie, obviously will strike you as one that is truly garbage. With that in mind, who doesn’t love to watch a garbage fire? The acting can be laughable, the special effects are not great by any standards, and the gore is definitely lacking. The movie itself makes up for all of its downfalls with it’s charm, though. The movie is an invitation to laugh and cringe all at the same time, and never puts itself in a place where you think the creators are taking themselves too seriously. As a horror fan myself, something I could’ve done with more of is the gore. The scene where someone’s head explodes is there, but even that is a quick shot and not as satisfying as going all out in a film like this. On a similar note, a few people also die from electrocution, and where’s the fun in that when these robots are obviously able to explode heads and chuck propane cylinders? The movie does seem to tighten the rope the farther we get into the plot, probably in conjunction the more characters that die, and even at a runtime of 77 minutes, it can seem to be a bit boring at times. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that the surviving characters are your average celibate do-gooders of the 80’s, and don’t have much to offer us besides “thank you, have a nice day”. Still though, what is to be expected in a movie of this caliber, it is harder to ask for deep complex characters in a film that lacks a lot of subtext and plot points to begin with. At its best, Chopping Mall is a bad movie with good watchability, and for that I can’t be mad at it. It’s not an abysmal chef-d’oeuvre, or anything quite good for that matter, but the ride it took me on was enjoyable and the references and laughs I shared with it are ones that I appreciate. With the right friends (or drinks) I’d recommend this film on a night with nothing better to do.



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