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Chopping Mall (1986)

Yes, I've been watching movies again. In fact, as it happens, I've been watching another teen, sci-fi, action movie from the eighties. Never let it be said that I learn from my mistakes.

Chopping Mall is a film in which a gang of high school students (and a married couple who hang out with them for some reason) get trapped in a mall overnight, with three security robots. The robots proceed to go on a rampage, and blast the living hell out of pretty much everything. That's about the sum total of the plot, really. Far less high-concept than Solarbabies, then, but at the same time rather better at appealing to baser instincts. It's a lot more exploitative, admittedly. If somebody can be topless, they are. Whole chase sequences pretty much consist entirely of close ups of female characters' backsides as they run for their lives. The characters, that is. I'm not sure that backsides have lives, as such. On the plus side, there's big guns, lasers, robots, and loads of stuff exploding. Also, there's an inspiring moral.

So. There's three robots, and when their control centre gets struck by lightning, they come to life. This is the same basic idea as Short Circuit, of course - except where Number Five developed a Travolta fetish, and fell in love with her out of The Breakfast Club, these three just want to kill stuff. Loudly. Elsewhere, three high school boys who work part time in a soft furnishings store decide to throw a party in the store after hours. Their girlfriends come too, as do the random married couple. The robots don't like late night parties in their store - or maybe they're just annoyed that they didn't get invited. Either way, carnage ensues.

The budget is pretty low. There's nothing especially wrong with the acting, but the dialogue is hilariously bad in places. There's also a slight issue in that the robots are obviously based on the same design as Number Five from Short Circuit, which is unintentionally funny at all the wrong moments. There are good points, though - and not just the guns and big bangs. There's a pleasing "The Geeks Will Inherit The Earth" vibe to the whole thing, and the lead characters are very likeable. Other characters aren't especially; but since they pretty much all die, that doesn't really matter. If you take a disliking to a character, chances are you won't have to wait long for them to be dispatched. They go every few minutes; sort of like buses used to, but with more screaming. Still, enough talking. Bring on the visual aids.

Our Hero. Our Hero is played by Tony O'Dell, which is the film's main draw. Yes, I know that nobody else has heard of him, but I thought he was awesome back in the eighties. He was in Otherworld and Head Of The Class, making a career out of pretending to be a teenager when he clearly wasn't; usually whilst dressed in sensible knitwear.

Our Heroine. As pleasingly geeky as Our Hero. Actually pretty much the only difference between them is that she's a better shot with a .45.

The Cool One. (Anaesthetised and then throat sliced).

The Perpetual Screamer. (Head explodes under laser fire).

The Slightly Less Cool One. (Thrown off balcony).

The Panicky One. (Burnt alive).

One Half Of A Married Couple. (Lasered to death).

The Other Half Of A Married Couple. (Suicide by self-destructing robot).

The building gets struck by lightning. Brought to life, the robots make short work of their command crew, mostly by spearing them with hidden appendages.

A janitor gets electrocuted.

Comedy skeleton electrocution effect!

A killer robot, that clearly has Number Five's lower half. As the robots begin to patrol the mall, the film begins to instruct us. For this is a film with a moral - it seeks to guide, as well as to thrill. Paired off, the cast start enthusiastically making out with each other; all except for our two main characters, who sit down to watch a nice film. Since they're the only ones who survive, the moral is clear. Have sex, and you will die. Even if you're married, although you will then get a slightly less messy death. You'll even die in order of how much sex you were having. They really do seem to be playing the moral high ground at times, actually. The first Robot Command guy to get killed is ogling a topless model in a magazine at the time of his murder; and he's spiked to death by a large weapon that shoots him through the picture. It's as though the film is happy to show us all the semi-nudity, but then wants to pretend that it's being responsible about it. In a manner of speaking.

Whilst their friends all have noisy sex on top of various displays of soft furnishings, Our Heroes watch a nice black and white film about giant crabs. Whether or not this is also part of the Important Lesson, I couldn't say.



Have sex, and your head will explode. This is scientific proof.

Having fun now, the robots zero in on the rest of the gang. There then follows a roughly five minute sequence where they blast everything with lasers, and blow stuff up a lot. All without doing very much damage, as the budget didn't actually stretch to proper explosions.

Stuff blowing up.

Dramatic Pose Robot.

Whilst the robots pose in shadows, the boys send the girls off to hide, and then decide to mount a defence. To do this they head to the local sporting goods store. Now, were this film set in Britain, the most they could hope to find there would be a football or two, probably stored deflated. Since this is America, however, they're soon in possession of a machine gun, a pump-action rifle, and a pistol. None of which is the slightest bit of use against an armoured robot, but still. Who's going to turn down a machine gun?

Our Hero's readiness to defend the nation is not convincing me.

Guns. Always better than deflated footballs.

And off we go into battle. I love how the other guys ask the little one if he knows how to use the pistol. Everybody knows how to use a pistol! Nobody asks them if they know how to use the machine gun and the pump-action rifle, though. We're just supposed to assume that they do, because they're tall and vaguely heroic looking, I think.

Wait! Let us stand here and pose dramatically!

It's the eighties. This means that there must, by law, be a scene involving smoke, that looks like it might conceivably belong in a pop video.

Lasers! Notice how, whilst fully capable of exploding a woman's head ten minutes ago, they're now apparently not even able to make people flinch.

Something blows up. Just because it can.

Guns! Smoke! Fabulous eighties hair!

Meanwhile, the girls have found hiding rather boring, and decide to make Molotov cocktails instead. This leads to the robots flambé-ing one of them, but it was fun in the meantime.

One of the robots blows up. In shades of pink, again because it's the eighties.

Having tricked a robot into shooting a mirror, which causes a very long and noisy self-destruct sequence, the gang celebrate very briefly; before one half of the married couple decides to stand right next to it, and wait for its out of control laser to blast her out of the film. Her husband, horrified (possibly by her stupidity), then rams the robot rather pointlessly, in an hilariously undramatic scene involving a little buggy.

They go up together, in a scene reminiscent of Highlander gone mad.

And then there were two (well, and a robot). Just stop looking at each other like that. It'll only lead to being murdered.

A robot blunders about in a pet shop. Because what the film really needs now is a rampage of snakes and spiders to go with the killer robots.

Our Heroine is muchly grateful.

In revenge she lures the one remaining robot into a paint store, and chucks paint around the place. She then produces a flare, that I think she picked up in the same place where they made the Molotov cocktails. American shopping malls are awesome.

The paint shop then explodes, endlessly, for about two weeks. This both annihilates the robot and gives me a whole new appreciation for paint.

A deaded robot.

The end.

I like the eighties. They were very noisy, and lots of fun. I'm sure things blew up a lot more back then, too. Explosions are good things. I don't know why people are always trying to make out like that isn't true.


( 5 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Oct. 21st, 2011 11:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Now I don't have to watch this! haha. :D The Husband is pretty gorgeous. Still is-

Our Heroine played one of the Vally girl sisters in Night of the Comet. lol. I laughed aloud at the comedy skeleton. Great post!
Oct. 22nd, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC)
You do have to watch it. It's a cinematic triumph. ;)

Hello, by the way. It's been a while!
Oct. 23rd, 2011 07:27 pm (UTC)
Hi! Yeah, I'm not LiveJournal too much these days, I kind of got caught up with Facebook groups. Yours is the only blog I read here actually. :)

Hmm, I'll see if I ever catch this triumph, these types of flicks are not my cup of tea. But I think you screencaptured the greatest moments. lol.

Oct. 22nd, 2011 08:34 am (UTC)

Think I'll give this one a miss.
Oct. 22nd, 2011 02:31 pm (UTC)
That's probably very sensible.

Although it's quite impressive how often they manage to make a gruesome death into a comedy event...
( 5 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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