Chopping Mall (1986)
Chopping Mall - Where they slash their prices - and their customers!
It's the four hundredth instance of my weekly movie night since I started having a movie night (roughly about one hundred and fifty times before I decided to put out thoughts on them afterwards here). I had put some thought for a day or two into what I could possibly watch to mark the occasion - full on realizing I've already reviewed a good portion of the better movies or ones I'm more personally attached too. Well, after all that debate I decided to go with something more in line with my particular style of movie necessarily than something that held any sway over me - and for that, we have to introduce to you Chopping Mall. This little B-type will put the B right back in boobs, bots, blood and booms, but can it worm it's B into the beat of your heart?
Let's get real for a moment here - although a lot of those lower budget campy fun (and generally enjoyable to the right mindset) movies are enjoyable and might even have something to say in lines of social commentary or the likes, sometime it's just better to not think to deep into a schlocky movie. Chopping is much more akin to a slasher movie than it is anything else, but it never feels like it's trying to be anything more than that. You want to dig into it and find things like "sex is bad" or "materialism is wrong" or whatever, you probably could dig till you found a little nugget of gold - but me personally, I'm here for the ride of enjoyment. The movie is about a handful of Johnny Five looking mall-cop robots going nuts and murdering a bunch of people who stayed after hours and says so in it's box blurb -if you come in here looking for Shakespeare then you've already taken a misstep on your journey of movie choices.
To elaborate, mother nature's freak lightning powers end up being to blame for the psychotic laser-toting robot hit squad, as they were originally meant to subdue potential criminals who broke into the mall until police arrived. Of course, why anyone would find it smart to mount a laser that can cut through everything on top of a robot seems to be left up in the clouds, but hey - it makes for enjoyment later. As a slasher-style killer, the three metal stooges don't particularly look that menacing (in fact, they look like they have little robot beer guts whenever you see them from a side profile) but they do have an interesting little arsenal of toys with which to play around. Of course there's the aforementioned laser, but also included are sleep darts, a taser, and some powerful little grabber arms that can tear your throat out with ease.
One can argue the robots have more weapons than personality, but there is also some nice little "fun and games" moments where the robots are toying with people when they initially come online. They don't have many lines (although it's more than some slasher villains), mostly resulting in the equivalent of show me your I.D. and "have a nice day." Most personality will have to come from the human cast - of which you are setup with what one would expect from a mall-based slasher stereotype. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's pretty quick to call out whose not making it through the movie. There's also a few character traits on some of the characters that seem like they would end up coming into play against the robots, but never really get utilized as such. I wouldn't be expecting a whole lot of character development here - it's not really the movie for it.
Par for the course of generations this movie fits in, our hero's actions aren't always that intelligent either. We do have moments where it seems like they have a smart plan, such as arming up to deal with the robots - but then after we've been shown how utterly ineffective it is against the robots, one would expect a smart person to not bother wasting time shooting at them. They also nearly all have a tendency of just standing out in the open, which makes their deaths at times seem even more stupid. There's also one scene in particular where an emotional member drives into a robot with a motorize mall sweeper or something at what I suppose was meant to be a dramatic "high speed" but instead looked like he could have just used his legs to run at it faster (oh, and it somehow manages to kill both of them - don't ask me, I don't know either).
This is a good point to bring up the effects work I'd say. It's actually not all that bad. There is a caveat or two to that statement however - and it should probably be expected to anyone who likes these sorts of things. Although the effects aren't bad, they also look pretty dated in numerous moments - such as lasers or electricity arcs. Explosions and fires all look good, if not a bit Power Rangers like at times, and the amount of blood is passable if not a bit less than one would normally expect out of a slasher-esque movie. That being said, there is an exploding head, so that's something (even if it's not the greatest quality effect, it's at least entertaining).
Acting is exactly what you'd expect from a movie with a title like this. Sometimes it's good, sometimes it's not, and sometimes it's without a doubt the script calling out for stupid lines to be said. Sometimes it's bad enough to be funny, sometimes it's enough for you to be like "yeah, that's about right," and sometimes you wonder what the other takes must have looked like. That said, they all fill their "roles" quite nicely regardless - whether that's to just be sexy or horny, smart or handy, or dead - well, except that one moment when the dead guy totally moves to make sure the robot doesn't roll over his leg. Audio balance is good, and the music (although one could argue pretty generic) is actually quite enjoyable in that synth-80's kind of way even if the song playing at one chase scene feels way happier than the moment calls for.
It's certainly not a flawless movie - and considering the boobs and head explosions probably not great for the kiddos. For a person like me though - who regularly will watch B movies and check out the old cult classics and find those movies that everyone curses as terrible and still get a kick out of watching them - it's quite enjoyable. It doesn't tax your mind at all, it provides all the basic B-movie needs, and is far from overstaying it's welcome. Malls make for a great horror setting to begin with, what with all the varied shops and merchandise, and the fact that the mall has super-thick security airlock doors to keep everyone out or in after late-night lockdown or the robots shooting lasers out of their heads at people are just two things that just never really stick out as being impossible because the movie never presents anything otherwise. If you like this kind of movie, you'll love it. If you've never liked B-movies or slasher type movies, you probably won't. My only regret is that for a movie named chopping mall, there isn't a whole lot of chopping going on.