I have distinct memories of being eleven, crouched in the corner of ‘Read All About It’, a bookstore in the mall (back when there were bookstores), continually staring at a Fangoria spread on ‘Chopping Mall.’ It contained numerous pictures of robots menacing unfortunate teenagers. I loved those little murderous robots, drew them all the time on my homework assignments, even attempted to draw up plans on how to build one. Other kids had Freddy and Jason. I had the Killbots. I finally convinced my parents to let me rent it, the cover made it look like a slasher movie, “But look Mom, it’s got robots. Robots don’t slash people.” Thankfully, they did make heads explode.
The Plaza Park Mall apparently takes it security very seriously. Not only have they installed huge, swiftly closing steel doors; they’ve also introduced an automated security system via three squat little robots called ‘Protectors.’ After a weird cameo by Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov, reprising their characters from the film, ‘Eating Raoul,’ we are introduced to a gang of teenagers who have come up with the brilliant idea of partying in the mall after it has closed. After a mysterious lighting strike to the robot’s control center on the roof of the mall, (there isn’t a storm, just lightning, so I can only assume its God punishing some sinners with killer robots.) the Protectors kill their human supervisors, fry Dick Miller and start chasing teenagers around the mall.
The movie is sort of berserk retelling of ‘Short Circuit’ by way of a slasher film, although ‘Chopping Mall’ did predate that film by a month, so maybe I should be saying, ‘Short Circuit’ is a retelling of ‘Chopping Mall’ by way of a romantic comedy. There is plenty of humor throughout the movie and you can tell most of it was intentional when one of the film’s notorious kills is held in still frame during the closing credits.
The stars of the film are easily the Killbots (as they were called in Fango). In actuality they are simple radio controlled devices, but they give something real for the actors to work with; they are humanoid enough to give them some personality, and machine enough to have a little bit of menace to them. The human actors don’t fare so well, admittedly they aren’t given much to work with, but there is some attempt to give some depth to them, mostly Alison (Kelli Maroney) and Ferdy (Tony O’Dell) who end up being the only ones smart enough to do anything about the robot stalkers.
Chopping Mall is a delight. The running time is short enough that there rarely a slow moment. Just as I was getting tired of seeing horny teens in the bedding department, the robots were already out and about and ready to zap people. For nostalgia fans that peculiar ugly and bright mid 80’s mall aesthetic is working overtime throughout the film. It is in no way a smart film but it is a very enjoyable one.