Let me preface this review by stating no movie on earth could ever actually live up to a title as deliriously wonderful and perfect as CHOPPING MALL. In two words, we get the plot of the film, the setting, as well as a promise of gore and humor all mixed in together. Kudos to the creators for such a fantabulous title. The question left to answer is: does the film itself live up to the title? Sadly, not even close.
When you hear the word “chopping,” the least you could expect is some actually chopping to occur, no? So you’re thinking this movie is about a maniac killer terrorizing a shopping mall. A man navigating the shadows of the stores and innovatively using their products to kill all in his way. Hey, not bad! I might draft up a script based on that plot.
But no, this mall in this 1986 movie is terrorized by three…wait for it…robots. Yes, robots. Robots put in as security to protect the mall after hours. The film opens with a presentation by Mr. Corporate Man to a group of people, who I can only assume represent the stores in the mall. Mr. Corporate Man insists that the robots are full-proof, which ranks up there with “I wonder what this button does” as famous last words. This opening scene, to its credit, did make me laugh. Particularly, when one of the audience members, referring to the robots, says to his wife, “They remind me of your mother.”
Now, I will proceed to sum up the plot in one sentence: teenagers working in the mall stay after-hours to have a party and the robots go haywire, taking them out one-by-one. There must be more, you’re thinking? Oh no, my friends, that’s it. This one clocks in at an epic 70 minutes. Yes, it is one hour and ten minutes.
The brevity of CHOPPING MALL might be its greatest strength, because the robots themselves sure aren’t. Remember that scene in ROCKY IV when Rocky gives Paulie a robot for his birthday? That robot was more high-tech than the tin boxes in this movie. High school science projects have led to more advanced creations. To say the least, these puppies aren’t exactly terrifying. The soundtrack doesn’t help. There was a rule of thumb in the 80s that if a film features technology of any kind, the soundtrack must be entirely electronic – a Casio keyboard creation meant to invoke COM-PU-TERS. So imagine a cheap knock-off of the WAR GAMES score and you get an idea what’s in store for you.
To the film’s credit, the scenes involving the teenagers and their after-hours party feature a delicious 80s cheesiness. Characters continuously repeat the words “bitchin!” and “bodacious!” The party itself is basically three couples having beers and dancing to generic 80s rock on a boom box. Wild days back in the 80s. Happily, some of the couples break off to have sex, leading to utterly gratuitous nudity.
When one guy goes out to the mall to pick up cigarettes from a machine, we have our first robot encounter. Of course, the robot itself clearly isn’t capable of doing that much, so the filmmakers do a lot of quick cutting to make it seem like it’s an efficient killing machine. They forget one essential element: blood. The movie is called CHOPPING MALL for God’s sakes, where is the chopping? Gradually the robots take the teenagers out one by one, side-tracking to take out a janitor along the way. The killings involve some special effects that are anything but special – the janitor’s electrocution involved a film editor drawing in little white lines on his body to represent electricity.
But some of this cheesiness does, in fact, help the film. When the robots start firing the fakest laser beams you’ve ever seen, one can’t help but laugh. And in the film’s highlight, a laser beam blows up one girl’s head like a watermelon. But after awhile, 80s cheesiness can only hold your interest for so long. Even the filmmakers seemed to lose interest. When one kid is killed by a robot simply pushing him off a ledge, you know the director either ran out of money or was eager to get home for dinner.
All in all, CHOPPING MALL is clearly a sub-par effort. Its points come from the pure cheesiness of the film, its 80s atmosphere, and the utterly unnecessary nudity. But ultimately, I can’t just get past the film that this is a horror movie about robots. If your killers are machines that make R2-D2 look both fast and murderous, creating a scary movie is just impossible. Throw a nut-bag slasher who escaped from prison in a mall with teenagers, and you’d have some real chopping going on.
Rating: * 1/2 (out of four)