“It’s not you, Ferdy. I’m just not used to being chased around a mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.”
In 1987, a motion picture was released that would change the lives of young people all over the world. It was a satirical look at what might happen if robotic machines were to get involved with law enforcement. The film was called RoboCop and it made $53 million dollars. This article is not about that movie. It is, however, about a 1986 film that was a satirical look at what it might look like if robotic machines were to get involved with mall security and which made considerably less, despite being released twice in theaters with different titles. This one is called Chopping Mall (originally released as Killbots) and here is its story.
The movie opens with a smash of glass. A hooligan is stealing jewelry from a glass case in the mall! Just when he thinks he’s gotten away with it, however, he is tased to the ground by a security robot. It’s all part of a promotional video for a new robotic security system that’s being pitched to a mall. The mall, of course, goes for it because you don’t have to pay robots and if there’s one thing mall owners hate, it’s paying for more staff. Shortly after the robots are installed, a group of young mall workers decides to stay late to party and get laid. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, it’s the same night the new security system decides to malfunction. They’ve recalibrated themselves to kill rather than simply incapacitate, and once they’ve finished off the men hired to make sure they run smoothly, it’s only a matter of time before they find our young partiers. What will happen to them and who will survive?
Upon initial release, the movie was known as Killbots, and it didn’t do very well with audiences or critics. Not wanting to give up on it, (and rightfully so! This movie is a lot of fun!) the producers put their heads together to figure out how to salvage it. They decided that the name Killbots might have been part of the problem, because perhaps it reminded audiences too much of Transformers, which was released the year before. Even worse, it could remind audiences of Go-Bots, and no one wants that. They found their new title in the same place many unsung great ideas are often hiding: the mind of a janitor. The janitor pitched the title Chopping Mall, the film was re-released with the new name and 16 minutes removed, and it did considerably better. The janitor probably got a week of lunches paid for by the boss, too, so everything worked out great for everyone!
I have a special rule when it comes to horror movies, specifically ones from the 80’s, and it’s this: If Barbara Crampton is in it, it’s probably at least pretty fun. This movie is no exception, as she is one of the partying young people (it’s unclear if they’re teens or shiftless young adults). Most of the rest of the cast I’m pretty unfamiliar with, but Roger Corman regulars Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov (Death Race 2000! Rock and Roll High School!) show up for the scene in which the robots are pitched to the mall staff, and they’re playing the same characters from their underseen and excellent dark comedy Eating Raoul (please watch Eating Raoul, it is the best). Also, character actor legend Dick Miller (The Terminator! Almost every single Joe Dante movie!) shows up for a couple minutes as an ill-fated janitor! (Last Christmas watching Gremlins I was shocked to discover Dick Miller was still alive at 90. He died this past January. It may have been my fault -Ed.)
Should I Show This To My Five-Year-Old?
You already know the answer to this, and it’s an emphatic yes! Where the hell else are your kids going to learn about the perils of mechanized security? Where else will they learn that nothing good happens in the mall after closing time? What better way to teach them that reckless partying on someone else’s property is always a bad idea? How else are they going to learn about the mall? There are so many lessons in this movie that I find it wildly and grossly irresponsible not to show it to your child! In the interest of keeping your child informed, I will gladly DM you my Shudder information to educate them in this way, because just like Whitney Houston, I believe that children are our future.
Yeah, this one is a lot of fun. The atmosphere is perfect for what it needs to be, it’s good and bloody without distracting from the humor, and it’s as silly as “a bunch of Johnny 5 type machines lose their minds and go on a mall killing spree” should be. By all means, do yourselves a favor and check it out. This is one of the most fun movies Roger Corman produced in the 80s and its cult reputation is well deserved. It’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime, Shudder, and Shout! TV, so you have no excuse. Put it on with your child tonight and thank me tomorrow. Now, to quote the Killbots themselves, “Thank you. Have a nice day.”
Greg Orme is a comedian/writer based out of Salt Lake City, where he lives with his five plants. You should follow him on Twitter if you aren’t already.
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I have my own take on the movie posted over at https://upallnightmovies.com/chopping-mall/. It’s the love of so bad it’s good movies that managed to lead me to your site in the first place.