Beavis’s Movie Memories
Ah, Chopping Mall. A great slice of 80’s B-Movie nostalgia from Jim Wynorski starring Kelli Maroney (Fast Times At Ridgemont High) and Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator).
In the opening scene you get the feeling like you started the movie in the middle. It turns out it’s all part of a demonstration given by Secure-Tronics to the mall shop owners. The crowd seems less than enthusiastic. Angus Scrimm makes a brief appearance as audience participant and question asker’er Dr. Carrington. One couple (played by Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov) is not particularly impressed and make snarky comments and roll their eyes throughout.
One fatal flaw in the robot security system design is the large metal communication antennae on the roof. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s a thunderstorm on the very first night the robots are to take charge.
The person monitoring the robots in the control room is distracted by a nudie book he keeps hidden in the drawer. While he’s distracted, lightning strikes the antennae and short circuits some of the equipment connected to the robots. One becomes ‘self aware’ and breaks out a stabby shiv-looking thing and proceeds to stab it through the centerfold of the magazine and into his throat.
On a side note, this movie was filmed in the Sherman Oaks Galleria, the same mall where Fast Times At Ridgemont High was filmed.
Before the mall closes for the night, we learn that there is a group of teenagers working at various stores in the mall that are planning on having an intimate ‘party’ after the mall closes. The party is going to take place in the furniture store, despite the objections of the nerdy Manager-In-Charge Ferdy (yes, his name is Ferdy) who instead is wildly concerned about finding Mrs. Flannigan’s fuschia! This elicits a great quote from the movie, and also great words to live by and that is, “Fuck the fushcia, it’s FRIDAY!” His friend’s talk him into it by telling him that one of their girlfriends is bringing a friend for him.
Outside the mall we meet another couple in a broken down truck trying to get to the mall for the party. Of course the guy can’t fix the truck so the girl has to do it. When she sticks her head out from under the hood and asks him to try it, it starts which prompts him to exclaim, “Always the first time.”
As the mall closes, the teens get off work and prepare for their little get-together. 80’s hair and fashion chew up most of the scenery.
Enter the next person on shift to monitor the robots in the control room. He looks around for Marty, who’s dead body is somehow removed and the blood all cleaned up by the robots. Not suspecting anything he sits in the chair reading his “science book” as the robots behind him plot his demise. After a phone call interrupts their first attempt, he sits back again and the lead robot shoots out a grappling hook with a wire attached. Again, why would a security monitoring robot have a weapon like that?
Oh boy, the party is starting. The music is bad and the dancing is even worse. High School nerds playing D&D in their parent’s basement instead of being at this ‘party’ would look at this and mock it. The nerdy boy, Ferdy, who was talked into having and going to the party in the furniture store preps in the bathroom to meet his blind date Allison Parks. The two connect when introduced, as they are both nerds, which means they will survive the night while the sex-having teens will all die.
Each of the three robots takes a level of the mall to monitor. Looking at the robots, they are pretty impressive as far as movie robots go. They move quick and are believable in their role as security monitors. The only thing lack-luster, as with most movie robots of this era, is the voice (done by Wynorsky himself). At least it’s leaps and bounds better than the voice of the robot in R.O.T.O.R.
As the rest of the couples get laid, the nerdy, newly introduced couple watch a black and white movie on TV. After some uncomfortable banter the two get down to what the rest are doing. Well, almost. Instead of a Home Run like the other guys in the store he barely manages a Broken-Bat Single.
Outside the stores we meet Walter (played by well known character actor Dick Miller), the only janitor there with work ethic as he stays late to clean up a mess left by some damn kids. He is mocked by two of his co-workers who somehow already have beers in their hands as they’re leaving work. One robot approaches Walter and knocks over his mop bucket. When he gets pissed at the robot, it asks for his ID. When Walter threatens the robot with his mop, it shoots out a TASER-like device that lands in the pool of water at Walter’s feet. It then proceeds to shock him to death.
Back to the furniture store, Leslie and Mike have finished their lovemaking session and she wants a cigarette. Mike looks at her quizzically and she asks, “Don’t you smoke after sex?” To which he replies, “I don’t know, I’ve never looked!” Just kidding, that’s not in the movie I’ve just been looking for an excuse to use that joke. But wouldn’t you know it, she ran out of cigarettes. Mike has to go out into the mall and get cigarettes from one of the machines. Hey, remember when you could buy cigarettes out of a machine? Anyway, he takes his badge and proceeds to a side hallway where the cigarette machines are located. Again, one of the robots approaches and asks for his ID badge. He shows the badge to the robot and tells it, “Klatu Verata Niktu.” Nice reference!
The robot does not accept his ID and proceeds to shoot him with a tranquilizer dart. Again, who designed the armament for these mall security robots. They seem to be a little better equipped to fight ISIS than monitor a mall after hours.
Leslie gets tired of waiting for her cigarettes and decides to go looking for Mike. She follows the path to the cigarette machine where she stumbles upon his lifeless body and proceeds to yell at him for not getting her post-coitus oral fixation sticks. After shaking his body it falls forward and she sees his slit throat and screams. Oh-No’s! Guess what? Here comes the robot to ask for HER ID. She runs away screaming with the robot chasing after.
Get ready for this next part. It’s one of the best, and I mean BEST head explosions in a movie. And when I say ‘movie’ I mean ANY movie, not just B. This is the 5th or 6th time you have to ask why someone would design a security monitoring robot to have a head-exploding laser attached to it. Seems like a harsh penalty for minor shoplifting or loitering.
The robots see the other teens in the furniture store through the glass windows. They proceed to smash through and shoot up the place. The group retreats to a back store-room where they try and plan for their escape. The robots bring out yet another “WTF” gadget, plastic explosives. They squirt the substance onto the locked door, step back, and shoot an electrode into it. Meanwhile, Allison has the bright idea of letting the girls go through the air ducts to find a way out while the guys distract the robots inside the mall. The girls start crawling and the guys make their way to the sporting goods store in the mall to stock up on guns. Remember when you could buy a gun INSIDE the mall? Now you’re shot on site for even casually using the word ‘gun’ around a mall.
The B-Team load up and head out to take on the robots. One has a shotgun, one has an AR-15, and Ferdy has a 6-shooter and a propane tank. In their first skirmish with a robot, they fire about a thousand rounds and hit nothing but air.
Cut to the girls in the air vent. Suzie is freaking out because she thinks Greg needs her. Linda tries to calm her down, but it’s Allison who emerges as alpha female and calms them BOTH down.
Back to the guys. After throwing the propane tank at the tracks of the robot, they then shoot it (oh yeah, THAT they can hit) which results in a large explosion thus killing the robot.
The girls exit the ducts and end up in a hardware store. Man, they used to have cool stores in malls now they’re all Banana Republic’d up. Linda shows them how to create Molotov cocktails (kinda) by placing a rag inside the top of a gas can. Allison spots some flares and decides to take some with. I’ll bet these will come in handy later.
Back to the guys in the mall. What’s this? Oh-No’s! The robot that was blowed up by the propane tank suddenly self-rights and comes back on line. Cut to the girls running through the mall when they are accosted by a robot. They throw a gas can at it causing it to catch fire briefly. The guys hear their screams and run towards them. Suzie is knocked down. At this point with all her screaming you’re really not all that interested in helping her escape the oncoming robot.
One of the robots shoots the gas can Suzie was carrying which lights her on fire. She STILL screams for another 5 or so minutes. Upon seeing this, Rick gets really pissed and shoots the hell out of the air around the robot. Now the robots enter full speed mode and chase them around the mall with renewed vigor.
As they run to the upper floor of the mall, Rick breaks off and climbs to the top of the elevator. When the robot enters, Allison shoots a propane tank Rick left on top of it thus breaking the cable and sending the robot to the ground floor in a grand explosion.
They make it to the food court where Allison and her friend worked and lament their situation and further plan their escape. Greg is really pissed that Suzie got killed and blames Allison. After deciding to go to the control room to try and turn off the robots, Greg gets all Rambo-ed up and runs out to complete the mission. The rest of the group runs behind him yelling at him to wait up. As Greg reaches the top of the escalator he tells them to hurry because the coast is clear! Wait, no it’s not. Sure enough there’s a robot behind him that grabs his arm with it’s claw and hurls him over the edge thus producing the first RAILING KILL of the movie!
The remaining clan run away and force open a large metal gate in front of a department store. The robots analyze the situation and break out their metal cutting laser beams. This brings us to Robot Armament “WTF” Moment number 17 or so.
It takes a while for the robots to cut through the gate. Meanwhile, inside the department store fragrance counter, the group snuggle up to await their fate instead of continuing to find a way out. Man, Rick sure moved on after Suzie. He and Linda are getting pretty snugly.
Uh-oh’s, the ‘bots break through and the shooting continues. Linda decides to stand still and get shot, eliciting strong emotion from Rick since they’ve been going together now for about 10 minutes. Luckily there’s a golf cart nearby so he jumps in and rams it into the robot at a whopping 4MPH. I wonder if this is where Big McLargehuge got the idea in the movie Space Mutiny? After ramming the robot it short-circuits and explodes, along with Rick. This leaves one robot left and two humans left, and in grand 80’s horror movie fashion, the two survivors happen to be the teenagers that did NOT have sex.
Allison and Ferdy decide to split up. Allison heads for the security room by entering a hallway behind a door. Ferdy runs down another hallway but soon runs back after hearing Allison scream. He lures the robot away from her and out into the mall. He runs out of ammo so he throws the gun at it to no effect. He then grabs a handy fire extinguisher and throws THAT at the robot. The robot in turn picks it up and hurls it at his chest, knocking him down and unconscious.
Allison is heartbroken but not enough to where she checks on him to see if he’s remotely OK. She runs into a pet store but all the glass enclosures are broken so snakes and tarantulas crawl all over her as she cowers under a shelf trying to keep quiet and out of sight. The robot falls for it and leaves, but as Allison runs out, the robot sees her and follows quickly.
In another great moment in Railing related cinematics, Allison hides by hanging from the outer edge of a railing to hide from her pursuer. She can’t hold on forever and loses her grip. Oh Boy! Railing Kill number TWO? Not so fast. She lands on a tent canopy that breaks her fall. Damn, so close. The robot hears the crash and heads down the escalator to finish her off. Allison limps her way to a paint store and breaks the door glass with her 80’s hair! Seriously, she head-butts the glass and breaks it. Once inside, she opens a shitload of paint and spills it on the ground along with some turpentine. She taunts the robot inside and once it’s standing over the mess she jumps out, lights her flare, and tells the ‘bot to, “Have a nice day!”
The explosion knocks her down but she quickly gets up and walks away. In the distance she hears Ferdy, who runs towards her and hugs her. I would be pissed because she just left him there to die without checking on him, but since he’s all in love and stuff he’s quick to forgive. They walk off into the sunset… or sunrise since it’s morning.
Thus ends the 80’s B-Movie masterpiece Chopping Mall. I gotta give it 4.5 Snarks because it is simply one of the more entertaining films to riff and the number of Railing Kills (1.5) makes it a winner for us.
If you’re playing along with our “Six Degrees Of Separation… From MST3K” game, this movie requires only 2 degrees…
- Barbara Crampton Went to a little known Vermont college called “Castleton”
- “Castleton” was the college name on the shirt worn by Nick Miller in the episode 821 movie “Time Chasers”
UPDATE: Seems that Chopping Mall was the inspiration for a real life robot security company 30 years after its release!