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  • Rev Horror

Chopping Mall

Dir. Jim Wynorski (1986)

A group of teens holed up in a mall run afoul of overpowered robotic security guards.

Ahhh, the 80's. A time of rampant consumerism balanced out with the Challenger explosion, peak MTV and Reaganomics, Saturday morning cartoons and having to remember to rewind your VHS tapes so you weren't pissed off next time you went to watch E.T.. It's easy to look back on the decade with disdain in the context of modern history, but goddamn was it fun growing up in a decade of neon colors and some of the best horror movies of any era. The 80's were when horror filmmakers writ large really began to understand that they didn't have to reach back into history to critique their country or its politics, with numerous movies tearing into the consumerist culture of the era. Perhaps none do so with as much gusto and over-the-top ridiculousness as Jim Wynorski's 1986 classic Chopping Mall.

Four couples decide to have some after-hours fun by staying after their places of employment, all located within Park Plaza Mall, have closed. Rick (Russell Todd), Linda (Karrie Emerson), Greg (Nick Segal), Suzie (Barbara Crampton), Mike (John Terlesky), Leslie (Suzee Slater), Ferdy (Tony O'Dell), and Allison (Kelli Maroney) have planned a romantic night in the mall, none knowing that they are about to be engaged in a fight to the death with the latest in technological security systems: robots with laser beams! As the couples try their best to escape with their lives, their new robot overlords are only interested in eliminating the intruders with no regards to overhead costs or property destruction.

The tongue-in-cheek humor of the film works perfectly for the decade it represents, poking as much fun at itself as it does to the society that it critiques. Walls with posters from previous Wynorski and producer Roger Corman films are not able to be ignored, numerous corny jokes and hilarious one-liners dot the script like Cinnabons in the mall, and there's of course the gratuitous nudity that made 80's horror so unmistakably attached to the decade. The actors all do a fantastic job, with absolutely none of them taking themselves too seriously and all having just as much fun making the flick as its audience does watching it. It's cheesy as hell, and everything from the hairstyles to the score are delightfully overdone. It is a perfect encapsulation of what it seeks to examine: it's all just a little bit too much.

The film doesn't hold up to viewing in today's age, but that's the beauty of this entire generation of films: it doesn't have to. It's a time capsule, a look into the past that delivers an inundation of nostalgia for those who lived during the decade and a mystifying peek behind the curtain for those who didn't. It's dumb as hell, but that's part of the point as well. Chopping Mall contains some fantastic performances, most notably from the legendary Crampton and Maroney, who chew scenery as effectively as their pizza patrons do their pies. The entire film is, in a word, fantastic. If you haven't seen Chopping Mall, you owe it to yourself to watch it immediately. And if you don't like Chopping Mall, we can't be friends anymore.

Who this movie is for: 80's horror fans, Techno-horror devotees, Spencer's Gifts employees

Bottom line: Chopping Mall is wonderful. The score is oppressive, the fashion is excellently indicative of the era, and the violence is so over-the-top that it's just as funny as the script. It's one of the best horror movies of the 80's, and the facade of cultural critique is not nearly as important as the batshit insanity present in every frame. This is a must see for those who haven't, and it's a must revisit for those who have. Highly recommended, and it's streaming on both Peacock and Tubi for anyone who wants to check it out (again).


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