There is an element of old-school charm in watching a B-movie with the caliber of 1986's Chopping Mall. The low-budget horror films of the '80s, with their penchant for camp, nudity, and gratuitous violence, may have given way to inheritors like the Scream franchise, but try as they might, newer takes usually fail to recreate the fun atmosphere which came naturally to their predecessors (especially in the films of executive producer Roger Corman). Chopping Mall is the tale of a group of friends (it's unclear what demographic they are supposed to fall into), getting ready to use their position as Park Plaza shopping mall employees to throw an after-hours bash. Unfortunately for them, mall security is about to unleash a new menace on criminals and the like the Protector 101 series robot. When an electrical storm wakes up the sleeping machines early, the horde of psychotic Johnny Fives become "Killbots" and stalk the mall while the unsuspecting partygoers drink and screw, ignorant of their impending doom. When one of the gang leaves the safety of the furniture store to get cigarettes, the 'bots become aware of the intruders, and the hunt begins. While fleeing for their lives, Ferdy (Tony O'Dell) remembers that a computer on the top floor controls the machines. Armed with machine guns, pistols, and dynamite (from "Peckinpah's Sporting Good's" store, no less!), the gang must fight their way through to the roof of the mall, and the race to shut the 'bots down is on. Fortunately for them, the Killbots' inability to hit anything with their "eye lasers" is the equivalent of a zombie's slow-shuffling gait. That, and the robots' predilection for thanking their victims and wishing them a nice day are about the only distinctions from Romero's critters. With its Casio-powered, Carpenter-inspired score, bad dialogue, exposition bordering on the nonsensical, and some fantastic kills (including, for 1986, a wonderful exploding head), Chopping Mall, with its brief 77 minute running-time, is worth catching if only for the genre's staples. If nothing else, it certainly takes its place on the long list of movies about being trapped in a mall, as well as bringing back memories of a time when paint was highly flammable. Lion's Gate presents Chopping Mall in a full-screen version (1.33:1) with Dolby 2.0 audio. Director Jim Wynorski teams with co-writer Steve Mitchell on a commentary track, and a "Building the Killbots" featurette documents the creation of the robotic menaces. Keep-case.
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