Robots terrify a shopping centre in CHOPPING MALL, what could best be described now as a sort of historical horror. This 1986 movie is directed by Jim Wynorski, who began his career flunking out of film school and working for Roger Corman. CHOPPING MALL is his second picture, with Corman’s wife Julie serving as producer.
There’s not a lot to this, which is nice because it doesn’t overstay its welcome. This is a get in and get out sort of job, a sharp callback to how teenagers used to assemble in these, I guess, buildings with stores to look at shit, hang out in the food court, buy copious amounts of nonsense, and run from security guards. Like I said, it’s a sort of historical horror.
Our plot centres around a trio of robots who serve as security guards at Park Plaza Mall. Because teenagers are rabble-rousers, these mechanical menaces are designed to protect the retailers. There are stopgaps to prevent the robots from going batshit and using their lethal artillery on just anyone, but that doesn’t work out too well.
When a group of young people wants to party after work in a furniture store, it sets the stage for a night from hell. Lightning strikes and messes up the computer that controls the robots, which means they’re all out of whack. And that means they start stalking their prey.
CHOPPING MALL is evidently reminiscent of the 1973 made-for-TV movie TRAPPED, which was released in the United Kingdom as DOBERMAN PATROL. In that movie, a dude is at the mercy of six dogs after he gets stuck in the mall. In this movie, three robots are at the mercy of a group of teenagers.
Wynorski isn’t the sort to get a lot of points for originality because, well, you know. But there’s sure confidence and entertainment value to CHOPPING MALL, even if it doesn’t push the concept to extreme lengths. The hypothesis is basic and the gore is amusing in its practical way, with an obvious highlight the time someone’s head explodes after a laser blast.
CHOPPING MALL is solid pop diversion, but you wish there were a touch more to it. The cast is standard and the people that survive are who you figure will survive, but it’s less fun when the victims start fighting back. The robotic menace leaves something to be desired, like maybe a “glitch” a la ROBOCOP’s ED-209 or something more convincingly gruesome to add a more cheer to the proceedings.