Filmhydra
Checking out a popped collar in the mirror.
Above: There is such a thing as being too popped.

Chopping Mall (1986)

An unvarnished look at 80s paranoia and architecture set in the birthplace of mallrat culture.

Reading time: 2 minutes.

I dont have the foggiest idea why, but Facebook shows me a lot of ads for robot security companies like Knightscope. I certainly dont have the property or resources to justify robotic security. My angry white house cat provides plenty of security from roving bands of delivery vans. But these ads reminded me of that old 1980s classic Chopping Mall.

This movie tells the story of a group of eight young adults who stay behind after the malls close to party in the furniture store. Unfortunately for them, this is also the first night the malls automated security robots come online. A recent lightning strike has scrambled their programing and when the doors lock, the robots kill everyone they see.

A shirtless Terelsky looks over his shoulder.

Crap, left the bills in my shirt pocket.

Chopping Mall is a light horror comedy movie starring now legendary genre stalwarts Barbara Crampton and Kelli Maroney. Crampton had by this time already completed a tour of duty on Days of Our Lives and starred in Stuart Gordons Re-Animator. Maroney had been in Ryans Hope and One Life to Live.

This movie was also, funnily enough, at least Kelli Maroneys third time shooting a movie at the Sherman Oaks Galleria; shed been there for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Night of the Comet as well. Most of the movie happens here, which turns Chopping Mall into time-capsule.

I am an 80s kid myself, and seeing so much of an honest-to-god 80s mall in high definition is a real treat. Post-millennial nostalgic film recreations always look like ground-zero for a Lisa Frank explosion.

A shirtless Terelsky looks over his shoulder.

I do remember there was a lot of pink, but it was this more grungy, worn pink.

Chopping Mall is filmmaker Jim Wynorskis second film. Sharp-eyed genre fans will recognize posters for many Roger Corman movies scattered throughout the mall, including several of Lost Empire, Wynorskis first movie. (MST3K has announced his 1992 movie, Munchie, will feature in the 2022 season.)

There are many great cameos. The first scene shows us that Paul and Mary Bland (from Eating Raoul) have opened their restaurant here. Angus Scrimm, the Tall Man from Phantasm, is also there but youll have to squint to see him. Professional That Guy Dick Miller, yet again using his favorite character name Walter Paisley, gets more screen time as a janitor murdered by security bots.

Chopping Mall is a solid, entertaining, by-the-books Corman-style production. Its on-location scenes make it more fun to watch now than it might have originally been because it captures more of the authentic 1980s. Its also good enough to be an entry into genre filmmaking without being overly bloody, gross, or even reprehensible. It is a good time, and you should check it out.

Surviving cast members look over a rail to a lower level of the mall.

Wait! Go back! You forgot the soft pretzels!

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