Chopping Mall (1986) [31 Days of Gore]

Growing up, there was Critic’s Choice Video, Blockbuster, and, eventually, Hollywood Video in town. When I exhausted the horror sections in all three, I turned to the video store in the local supermarket, which had a surprising number of underrated gems. (Some of the weirdest shit could be found in the grocery store, which makes me regret not taking advantage of it sooner.) Chopping Mall was one of them.

Fast-forward to today and the film’s been remastered by Arrow Video, which treats splatter films with the same care as Scream Factory and Grindhouse Releasing. I love VHS for what it was, but anyone who maintains it’s better than these HD re-releases is hopelessly nostalgic. This is the closest you can get to seeing this movie in a theater for the first time.

What I admire most about Chopping Mall is its elegant simplicity. A group of horny teenagers party in a mall after hours. Unfortunately, the mall is patrolled by futuristic security bots, which go homicidal after an electrical storm affects their programming. Dick Miller, playing a janitor, is one of the first to go; he’s angrily mopping up a spill when one of the robots decides to electrocute him for no other reason than our entertainment.

When the three robots discover the teenagers, they chase them through ventilation shafts, clothing stores, and staff-only corridors, shooting lasers from their head-mounted visors. This is the kind of movie where fully automatic assault rifles can be found at a sporting goods shop called Peckinpah’s. Even better: the restaurant in the mall is decorated with B-movie posters. Why? Why not.

Chopping Mall is fast, funny, and absolutely bonkers. At 77 minutes, the movie doesn’t even come close to wearing out its welcome. It’s amazing that, with a sub-million dollar budget, the film is so watchable and fun. Watch it with a group of rowdy drunks and have a grand ol’ time.

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