Monday, June 27, 2011

FLASHBACK review: Chopping Mall

Chopping Mall

FLASHBACK to the year 1986! Feathered hair styles were blow-dried out of proportion and low budget studios were tossing out direct to video horror flicks by the handful. It was a glutted market and that left lil’ Mad Mark with a lot of movies to hunt down and peruse at the local video store. I would hop on my bike with a plastic bag, start snatching up bottles and cans, roll on down to the local Grocery Chain and cash in with just enough money for a Video Tape and a few slices of pizza between me and my best friend. Every once in a blue moon I feel like revisiting the memories of those wonderful summer days, the landscape of that video stores’ “Horror” selection, and I feel transported back to younger days.

“Chopping Mall” was just one of a few dozen direct to video slashers at the time. It had a terrific box cover featuring a torn shopping bang full of random body parts. A robotic-looking Panzer-hand with miniature whirling blades embedded in the knuckles gripped the bags handles for lifting and a little bit of blood had soaked through to puddle on the ground. Jim Wynorsky directed the film with a strong nod toward tongue in cheek comedy. Kelli Maroney (I admit it, I had a pre-teen crush on her from “Night of the Comet”) headlines the pseudo-“slasher” flick as Allison, the typical survivor-styled “good girl” who spends much of the movie taking charge, shooting robots, or reciprocating Tony O’Dell’s awkward smiles in typical good girl meets good boy style. She’s flippant, charismatic, and I never really understood why she didn’t make a bigger impact in genre films over the long haul. The film is kind of remarkable for the number of other genre-star appearances as well, including Deathstalker 2’s Michael Terlesky and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton. We also had appearances from Dick Miller, Mary Woronov, and Paul Bartel! The characters are actually pretty funny and deliver alot of great lines throughout the film. Terlesky is actually very funny as a gum chewing arrogant jock, while Tony O'Dell is very likeable as the awkward boy-geek in his group of friends.

So here’s the story; a freak thunderstorm has an adverse affect on the Mall’s new electronic security measures, including its security robot personnel. Three Robots, each one named after their corresponding number, begin the festivities by killing their technicians. Eight teens plan on having a “party” in the furniture store where three of the boys work. They are stuck inside the mall as the “Kill-Bots” go on a rampage, hunting the characters down with lasers and other bizarrely installed devices for the sole purpose of killing everyone in its path. There’s a great sequence where one of the characters has their head blown apart by a laser! The film is fully conscious that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously as the teens belt out one-liners not a few moments after their friends and loved ones are quickly dispatched. Eventually the kids fight back, leading up to a rather predicable showdown between the films primary antagonists and their final victims. The whole film was a cheap little thrills ride and it never needed to be anything more, really. The robots were very similar to “Short Circuit”’s Johnny Five, with four clawed appendages and a tank-tread lower body for travel. Heads explode, bodies are tossed about, and laser blasts cause carnage and destruction throughout the course of the film. At a little over an hour and twenty minutes, this little B-Grade flick delivers the goods.

"Thank you. And Have a Nice Day."

3 out of 5