Where shopping can cost you an arm and a leg.
Year of Release: 1986
Also Known As: Killbots
Running Time: 77 minutes (1:17)
Director: Jim Wynorski
Kelli Maroney ... Alison Parks
Tony O'Dell ... Ferdy Meisel
Russell Todd ... Rick Stanton
Karrie Emerson ... Linda Stanton
Barbara Crampton ... Suzie Lynn
Nick Segal ... Greg Williams
John Terlesky ... Mike Brennan
Suzee Slater ... Leslie Todd
Paul Bartel ... Paul Bland
Mary Woronov ... Mary Bland
Dick Miller ... Walter Paisley
Angus Scrimm ... Dr. Carrington
Jim Wynorski ... Killbots (voice)
Some people will kill for a bargain... and at the Park Plaza Mall they do! Here, you can shop until you drop... dead!
High tech robots equipped with state-of-the-art security devices have been recruited as the new mechanical "night watchmen" for the Park Plaza Mall. When a jolting bolt of lightning short circuits the main computer control, the robots turn into "killbots"... on the loose after unsuspecting shoppers. Four couples are trying to make it after-hours in a mattress store. They make it all right... in the morgue! At Park Plaza Mall, you can save on everything but your life!
Chopping Mall, the movie that reminds us that sex in the work place just never works out the way you want it to. Either somebody finds out an spreads it around til the whole place is callin' you a (man)whore, then the boss hears about it an gives you the "we have policies in place to prevent this kind of thing from happening for a reason" talk before makin' a public example of you to score points as his own sexual harassment case remains pending, or robotic rent-a-cops show up an give you the ole unsolicited laser eye surgery. It's an especially bad idea of you're a mortician too, cause then the cops show up an get all bent outta shape an start throwin' around phrases like "morally bankrupt" an "sexual deviant" til the next thing you know the judge sentences you to a lifetime of playin' Crazy Eights with Norman Bates. I guess what I'm tryin' to say is, just try to make it to your car first like the rest of us, alright? There's no reason to act like an animal. Now I know you all realize who loves this one. Come on. Who d'ya spoze, after being subjected to countless cinematic disasters featuring humans annihilatin' robots that're generally just followin' orders, might enjoy seein' the worm turn? Ted Koppel an Tom Brokaw? Well probably, but I was thinkin' Tom Servo and Crow T. Robot. I mean, can you blame 'em? After Robot Holocaust, Robot Monster, The Robot vs. The Aztec Mummy, not to mention the Robot Rumpus short featuring a robot head mounted like a trophy, or The Undersea Kingdom serial where robo-guards get ambushed outta nowhere by trigger happy humans? All of this abuse completely unprovoked, I might add. You've gotta figure that after awhile they start to develop a persecution complex. Isn't it about time robot kind get some heroes they can look up to and revere? The blacks got Richard Roundtree, the Mexicans got Cheech Marin, an us geeky white guys got Rick Moranis. I think some equality is in order here, don't you? Now granted, Roger Corman has done wrong by 'em in the past, but his wife, Julie, took it upon herself to try to mend the fence. To make amends for the mistakes of the past. It takes a big person to reach out an do what's right like this. Kinda restores your faith in mankind a little. So anyway, as only the second movie ever to feature the cannibal couple Paul Bartel an Mary Woronov, and to serve as the direct inspiration for Robocop, I think this one warrants closer scrutiny. Of course it's the guys with the big budget that get the big return an I guess that's just how it goes, but I didn't see Robocop firin' a laser.
Anyway, first of all, robots enjoy suspense just like anybody else. If they didn't, they'd just laser blast the intruders from twenty feet away an call it a night so they could go sit on their rechargin' port an get a cheap thrill. Second, you can never have too many irrelevant, spontaneous phone calls in a movie. Although if this one's any indication once you reach a certain number of calls the phones in the buildin' stop workin' like construction workers when Letha Weapons walks past the job site. An third, when you've got a high end movie like Attack of the Crab Monsters playin' on TV, you'd be amazed how easy it is to ignore beastly grunting animal sex goin' on directly behind you. Crab Monsters just has one of those truly inspired plot lines that speaks to a generation an kinda transcends time. Now that's all well an good, but I've got a problem with the message this movie's sendin' out to the masses. Cause you know damn well that after the credits roll on this one the whole robot security force gets laid off, unemployment claims denied, their futures completely put on hold, and for what? Protectin' the mall, that's what. Can we think, I mean REALLY think about this for a second here? These obnoxious teenagers are trespassin', first of all. They're criminals. Not only are they criminals, but as far as I'm concerned, the drivelous dialog they're spittin' out the entire movie constitutes verbal assault. Lets even put the fact that they're criminals aside for the moment. Now, I admit, the bots got a little overzealous. It was their first day on the job an maybe they went a little too far, but for the most part, all the people they killed were obnoxious mouth breathers. I think we're letting some of the more unfortunate events of the movie get in the way of the positives these guys can bring to the table. All you've gotta do is program 'em to relegate their laser enemas to repugnant people an the world'd shape up quicker'n Perez Hilton at the R. Lee Ermy's boot camp for high maintenance weenies. Think of all the good these guys could do in a Wal Mart, a fast food joint, the floor of congress, the list goes on an on. We could completely wipe out asshattery in our lifetime, if only we'd just be a little more open minded about this kinda thing. There's a few bugs in the system an I admit that, but did we give up on the SR-71 because it had a few bugs? Hell no we didn't, we kept crashin' 'em an killin' test pilots til we got it RIGHT, an we can get this right too as long as we stick with it an commit ourselves to wipin' out imbecillism. Give peace of mind a chance.
The movie begins with some punk that finally got tired of his parents tellin' 'im to get off the couch an get a job robbin' a jewelry store. The punk's pretty proud of 'imself, you can tell cause he's got this look on his face like he finally figured out that if he's gonna run from the cops at night he needs to cover up the backs of his L.A. Gear Lights with electrical tape. But right about the time he starts to strut like John Travola in Saturday Night Fever, a nasty lookin' robot with the feet of Johnny 5 an the head of Alpha 5 shows up an tells 'im to stop, drop the goods, or his ass is gettin' rolled. The cries of "don't taze me bro!" fall upon deaf ears, an the punk ends up rollin' around on the floor like a rabid dog tryin' to scratch an itch on its back. Then the lights come up an we realize we've been watchin' an advertisement for Mom's Friendly Robot Company an Dr. Usedcarsalesman comes up on stage an fields some comments, such as; "How can I be sure they're not gonna tear out my employees' intestines an skip rope with 'em?", "I'd better not have to pay 'em more than minimum wage!", an "I thought this was supposed to be about timeshares?!" So Dr. Usedcarsalesman demonstrates the robots' ability to read security badges an assures everyone that their lethal arsenal is purely cosmetic cause he's a Star Wars fanboy an there's nothin' at all to worry about. Elsewhere, we've got three groups of teenagers gettin' ready for the big illegal mall party they're gonna throw once the extras from Dawn of the Dead clear outta there. The guys're all real excited cause it's the first time they've gotten to have sex in the same room with their friends. It kinda brings the following day's braggin' session to a whole new level of efficiency. Of course, the women'll be doin' the same thing but they'll all be tryin' to prove whose guy blew it the quickest an ruined their evening. Anyway, just before closin' time, the perv that generally sits in a tiny surveillance station watchin' all the women try on bras is hard at work, when all the sudden lightnin' hits the power pole outside an shorts out all his boob tubes an the security bots parked behind 'im. Then the bots start swivelin' their heads around like Linda Blair an pretty quick one of 'em impales the guy with one of its ninja grapplin' hooks. Then we watch Alison an Suzie (trust me, their names aren't important) giggle about Alison's blind date. She needs a blind date cause her IQ's pushin' 95 an all the characters she's already familiar with're hoverin' around 85 so they seem real stupid to her. Back over at central command, the next perv comes in to relieve the first perv, only he can't find 'im an pretty quick the heads start spinnin' around on the R2D2s an then the store has to hire somebody to come in an work blood loss prevention. So, so far they're doin' a pretty good job at removin' the riff raff from the movie.
Back over at the party we've got some of the worst white people dance moves since all the chaperones got a little tipsy at your high school prom an started dancin' with the students. You remember, they were doin' the Cabbage Patch an the Safety Dance to Coolio's Gangster's Paradise? Yeah, you remember. So anyway, the guys (Greg, Rick & Mike) drag their nerdy wimp friend Ferdy into the party an introduce 'im to Alison. To give you an idea of where this guy ranks on the wimp meter, Ferdy's so pathetic he makes Screech from Saved by the Bell look like Chuck Norris. Anyway, they have to do this so their girlfriends (Suzie, Linda, & Leslie) can feel like they did a real good job playin' matchmaker for Alison, an so they'll have any chance at all of gettin' any. Then all the normal couples test drive the springs on the mattresses inside the Furniture King while Ferdy an Alison watch Attack of the Crab Monsters on the all Corman access channel. It's all Corman, all the time. Meanwhile, the Daleks punch in an start rollin' around lookin' for things to cauterize, eventually comin' across Dick Miller who's stuck moppin' up some rotten kid's vomit in the food court. On the one hand, you feel bad for the Daleks, they've fallen pretty far after that war with the Time Lords went south, but nothin' like what Dick Miller's been reduced to here. So one of 'em starts hasslin' Dick an knocks over his mop bucket an by now Dick's pretty P.O.'d about havin' to play Walter Paisley for the fifth time, so he gets in the Dalek's face after it fires its taser at 'im an despite havin' missed Dick's little Miller, the electrodes're sittin' right in the mop water an Dick gets some unsolicited electroshock therapy til his hair looks like the Bride of Frankenstein. While this's goin' on, Leslie tells Mike she needs some cigarettes, so after he pouts for awhile she drops her blanket an smooshes her tits together to get the blood outta his brain so he'll follow orders again, only when he gets to the cigarette machine B-9 rolls up an throws up his arms like he's about to hit 'im with the crane kick, but instead, puts a tranquilizer dart into 'im an carves a map of the Columbia river into his neck. Leslie's P.O.'d. This is a personal slight on the quality of her tits, so she goes out an finds Mike leaned up against the wall like he's takin' a siesta an plans to pummel 'im with her fun bags right then an there til she spots the seeping neck wound an runs for cover an lets face it, as long as she's covered this movie has no use for her whatsoever. Within seconds, the Daleks're on her like the whole football team after they won the state championship an they start blastin' her butt cheeks til she leads 'em back to the others, at which point they blow her head clean off an leave a 6" thick layer of Mary Kay cosmetic products plastered to every window in the mall. Now, with her distractions outta the way, the Daleks turn around an start C-3POwning everything inside the Furniture King til the remaining borderline humans have to hide in the back room an try to figure out how to explain to Leslie's Dad that she got her head blowed up before she was able to pay 'im back for the breast enlargement surgery.
Unfortunately, the Daleks have planted plastic explosives on the door an the guys're just able to get the girls up into the air ducts before the door blows an they've gotta run like Anthony Weiner's PR manager. Only problem is, Suzie's claustrophobic an real stupid so she starts freakin' out like a sci-fi nerd who came home one day an found his little sister takin' all his action figures outta the plastic an eventually convinces 'em to drop outta the vent an go find the guys so she'll have somebody to rub her snotty nose on. So they drop down outta the air ducts an start makin' Molotov cocktails while the guys head over to Peckinpah's Sporting Goods so they can get armed to the teeth an go all Wild Bunch on the Daleks. Once they're Rambo'd up, they lure the rent-a-bots in an introduce 'em to their lil frienz. Err, no they introduced the women to their lil frienz earlier... k, so they started shootin' 'em, only the bullets're about as effective as rehab on Lindsay Lohan an they have to roll a propane tank right into one of their robo-crotches an blow its mecha-dong clear over to the Hot Topic. About that time, another bot's caught sight of the girls an starts headin' their way, only they realize too late that their gasoline bombs don't work real good on metal an Suzie breaks a heel an can't seem to remember how to stand up before Rob the Robot fires a laser blast right at her gas can an ignites her Vidal-Sassoon-laden brainpan til she fries like the succulent pork chop she is. About that time the guys finally show up an suggest that everyone run like their parents found out what they were doin' before all this robo-mayhem broke out, but it'll be okay cause they've got a plan. Hopefully better than the one they came up with that lead to the use of pump shotguns against iron clad adversaries. So, while one guy lures Wall-E into the elevator an climbs outta the top to plant some propane tanks near the elevator control panel, the others get into firin' range an once the smart one's clear, they blow the tanks an send the elevator screamin' down from the top floor an crush Wall-E like a beer can at a Raiders game.
So while everybody's hidin' out lickin' their wounds, Greg gets pissy at everybody for lettin' his airheaded girlfriend get deflated an Ferdy suggests that if they can find the master computer they can release some of that beer they chugged earlier an short it out so the Daleks'll sit around all night displayin' the "acquiring signal" message like a satellite dish in Zimbabwe. Greg loves this plan, this is the best plan anybody's ever had, an to prove it he gets way too far ahead of everybody else an runs into Gort at the top of the escalator an gets pitched over the railing right onto some poor guy's Dippin' Dots stand. Greg was startin' to get a little rowdy anyway, like the fat guy in The Dirty Dozen right before he went ape shit, so it's just as well. Once Greg splatters onto the food court, much like most mall food before it gets scooped back up an put onto somebody's tray, everybody hauls butt to the nearest shop an they're just able to get inside before the perturbed toasters can roast 'em like Pop Tarts. Once inside, they try to hunker down til the Daleks finally go on their lunch break so they can try an make a break for it, but it's not long before one's able to torch a cartoonish outline of itself outta the door an make its way inside. Then Alison has a genius moment, I mean, by blonde standards anyway. So they set up mannequins to confuse the Rock 'Em Stalk 'Em Robots an the guys go Jack Ruby on it while it's confused an pretty quick one hits the sweet spot an it starts spittin' electricity an laser beams all over the place til it puts a big crispy hole through Linda's left tit via sheer luck an Rick gets so mad he forgets that electricity's dangerous an gets turned into a bucket of the Colonel's extra crispy tryin' to narfle the Dalek. So with just Ferdy an Alison remaining, they decide to split up so it'll be easier to find the master computer, an get gunned down. Fortunately, when ED-209 finds Alison it's lost all confidence in its ability to hit anything, so it has to get reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal close before it takes its shot, an by that time Ferdy's heard 'er screamin' like somebody spoiled the ending to Attack of the Crab Monsters an fires a point blank shot right into Bender's robo-face an busts his laser cannon. To be fair, up to this point the bots've landed about as many successful laser blasts as Boeing's been able to land Dreamliners that were still intact, so it makes sense to take your time with your shots. But he's a persistent little guy, an when he catches up to Ferdy he fires a big metal cocktail shaker an puts 'im outta contention for last surviving cast member an starts lookin' for Alison so it can avenge his fallen comrades an hopefully get a pay raise.
Alrighty, does it come in under 1:18? Yup, must be a Corman. This one's a whole lotta fun, an that's almost entirely concept driven, cause lets face it, you couldn't give a shit less about these characters. Except the bots of course, they're great. And actually I take that back about the characters. The characters we're supposed to care about don't matter, but the cameos from Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov, reprising their roles as Paul and Mary Bland from Eating Raoul are pretty funny. You've also got Dick Miller in a little cameo as Walter Paisley from A Bucket of Blood, an Dick's awesome at everything he does so as silly as his scene is, it brings the score up. Otherwise, it's surprisingly enjoyable for a movie in which you couldn't give a damn less about any of the characters. Even Friday the 13th movies have ONE character you wanna see live, and yet, it doesn't seem to damage the movie all that much. I think a critical element in all this, is that even though you don't care about the characters, you wouldn't say that they're boring. The male characters are at least distinct and easy to tell apart, while the women pretty much run together if you're not familiar with the actresses playing them. Interestingly, the original cut was a whopping 18 minutes longer, so maybe if we had that footage we'd care about some of the characters, it's hard to say. I can't see how you'd tack 18 minutes on to this without grinding the pacing to a halt, though. It could definitely use another 5 or 6 just to squeeze in some character development, but 18? If the only options are this 77 minute version or a 95 minute version, I'm inclined to think that they were probably better off taking it down as short as they did. It seems that, during the original release in theaters (probably drive-ins more so than hard tops) it did very poorly under its original title of Killbots. I guess if you're inclined to ask what's in a name, the answer is profit, cause once they changed the name to Chopping Mall and re-released it, it did a lot better. The producers seemed to think that the original title gave parents the idea it was a kids movie, akin to Transformers, so they didn't bother checking it out. I suppose the somewhat corny (if awesome) cover art could point someone who doesn't know any better in that direction. What's really strange is that this movie's got a 5.3 rating on the IMDB, which doesn't sound like much, but about half the stuff I review ends up bein' in the 3 range. Probably because those other movies are more accessible to people that think they have any clue what a genuinely bad movie is, but when you look at this one, its actually got almost 4,000 ratings. Some of the movies I've reviewed only have 300, so that's no trivial amount. I'm inclined to attribute this impressive score to the concept, and the people's love for dated special effects that while not perfect, are more fun than anything a computer's made to date.
Okay, lets blow this thing's head off an see what sticks to the wall. The plot's fantastic, and hilarious. Robot mall cops employed for the tedious night shift, equipped with laser cannons, tasers, tranquilizer darts, pointy projectiles an classic neck separators? Anybody that can't enjoy that aughta flip back over to Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman an leave this stuff to the experts. By 1986 you didn't have too many new ideas left, an I won't swear to it cause I don't claim to have seen everything, but it seems pretty original to me. So a good score there, probably the biggest positive contributor, overall. The acting is probably the low point. It's not terrible, and I think some (if not most) of this can be attributed to the god awful dialog. I dunno if it was Jim Wynorski that wrote this stuff or not, but he aughta just stay in the director's chair an leave it to somebody else. Actually, Jim does a lot of Syfy movies these days, so maybe he aughta take a minute to think about what he's doin' an get his head screwed on straight so he can make more movies like this one instead of that CGI garbage Syfy claims constitutes a movie. I've got a feeling the actors have more talent (in several cases I KNOW they do) than this script allows them to demonstrate, but this writing really brings things down. Judgement call here on who's popular enough that you aughta know 'em without me running down their histories, but I'm gonna say that Paul Bartel, Mary Woronov, Dick Miller, Angus Scrimm and Barbara Crampton are horror regulars to the point that most people should be familiar with 'em. Otherwise you've got: Kelli Maroney (Gila!, Transylvania Twist, Not of this Earth, The Zero Boys, Night of the Comet), Tony O'Dell (Evils of the Night, Friday the 13th Part 2, He Knows You're Alone), Karrie Emerson (Evils of the Night, White Dog), John Terlesky (Cerberus, Vampirella), Suzee Slater (Las Vegas Serial Killer), Gerrit Graham (The Wasp Woman 1995, Child's Play 2, C.H.U.D. II, It's Alive III, Ratboy, Terrorvision, Demon Seed, Beware! The Blob), Mel Welles (Raising Dead, Wolfen, Dr. Heckyl and Mr. Hype, Lady Frankenstein, She Beast, The Little Shop of Horrors, The Undead, Attack of the Crab Monsters), Paul Coufos (976-Evil II, Food of the Gods II), Arthur Roberts (Midnight Movie, SharkMan, Gargoyle, The Mummy's Kiss 1 & 2, Countess Dracula's Orgy of Blood, The Curse of the Komodo, Not of this Earth, Transylvania Twist, Not of this Earth), Ace Mask (Ghoulies IV, 976-Evil II, Transylvania Twist, The Return of Swamp Thing, Not of this Earth), Lenny Juliano (Cheerleader Massacre, Raptor, Vampirella, The Wasp Woman 1995, Transylvania Twist, Not of this Earth), Toni Naples (Sorority House Massacre II, Transylvania Twist), David Del Valle (The Offspring, Frightmare), Rodney Eastman (I Spit on your Grave 2010, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 & 4).
The special effects are great. The robots are cool, the classic Star Wars style laser beams rock, fantastic exploding head scene with Suzee Slater, right up there with Scanners. Beyond that, I suppose all you've got is a slashed throat, a couple Corman standard electrocution effects, an a few laser beam wounds. Could probably have used a few more effects, but the ones it does have are great. I mean, if you're not into After Earth. The shooting locations give us something we don't get all that often, which is of course, the mall. Not since Dawn of the Dead has there been a movie this fun shot in a mall, for obvious reasons. You can only shoot in the mall when its not open for business, limiting your shooting schedule significantly. Though you do end up with the side effect of having no silly day for night shots at least. The mall setting is one that's a lot of fun, and for the aforementioned reason, one you don't get to see all that often, which boosts its score. Actual malls, of course. Anyone that wants to can try building sets, but it won't work. You won't get the authentic feel, which is just as well, maybe it'll discourage people from trying it. Additionally, because the mall setting is used so infrequently (at least in horror movies) it tends to stick in your mind as something different, at a point where you feel like you've seen it all dozens of times. So even though you've seen it before, it won't have been with great frequency. Good setting. The soundtrack, for the most part, is great. It's catchy and it doesn't take itself too seriously. Really entertaining and enjoyable for a B movie and fits the tone of the movie perfectly. Though I've gotta say, a lot of what plays during the opening credits with standard footage of what happens on a daily basis in a mall from the 1980s is too hokey even for a B movie. In generally though, really good, reminds me of Killer Klowns from Outer Space. Bottom line, Chopping Mall's a really fun Corman movie. Even if it's not a Roger Corman movie, you can imagine any woman that'd marry him is likely to have a few things in common with 'im. Check it out.