Don’t you just love it when you come across an old horror movie that you never knew existed?
That’s what happened to me last week, scrolling through one of my favourite streaming services. Between the well known releases that I had already seen, and the really bad, amateurish stuff that somehow makes it’s way into our homes there it was – Chopping Mall. With it’s garish, exaggerated cover and classic eighties styling.
The story is set in a large mall that has it’s share of problems, caused by disruptive teens and disrespectful customers. This ‘unacceptable behaviour’ (all of which is very tame) justifies the introduction of some military grade security robots, alarmingly armed with tasers, stun darts and even high powered lasers. All this expensive/potentially lethal tech promises to restore order in this otherwise mediocre looking mall..
As their debut approaches, the younger contingent of the store workers are more concerned about planning an unauthorised party in one of the shops after hours.
But when an electrical storm activates the robots prematurely, it becomes clear that having their circuits fried with a power surge has turned them into ruthless killing machines.
As the mall doors seal for the night, the group of teens have to work together to battle the bots and survive until dawn.
The film has everything that you would expect from the era; trashy synth music, sloppy scripting, generic characters, shaky acting and a predictable plot. All elements that by today’s standards would deem it a big failure.
But there is something about Chopping Mall that makes it watchable, even enjoyable. And it’s not just the shamelessly excessive amounts of bare flesh and pleasing levels of exaggerated gore and violence that makes me say this.
Watching this film transports you to that innocent time where it was hard to put together the budget and crew to make a good film. So, back then, if you were passionate enough to make something half decent, it was a big achievement – unlike today when pretty much anyone can get together the kid to produce a high quality movie using just their credit card balance.
There’s a good reason why so many shows (Stranger Things et al) try to emulate this period – because it was quintessentially cool. And Chopping Mall has bags of that.
Although Chopping Mall lacks good special effects and stars (although it does feature Barbara Crampton as Suzie) it has a lot of heart.
The attitude of the two cynical store workers at the opening of the movie demonstrate the mindset that the viewer needs to adopt as they watch the film. As they laugh off the stupidity of having robot guards patrolling the mall, it reminds us that we shouldn’t take these zany eighties idea too seriously and should instead invest in the characters, enjoying their plight for survival.
Staple eighties horror moments not to be missed include:
- Exploding head
- Gratuitous sex
- Dumb jock
- Geek gets girl
- Guys with guns
- Lasers – literally everywhere
Best of all, a cover that, after watching the film, you realise has basically no relevance to what actually happens in it at all.
If you’re a retro horror lover or Barbara Crampton fan, add this one to your watch list and enjoy.