Like most Americans, movies have pretty much abandoned the mall as a setting. In the late ‘70s and ‘80s, the mall was the place to be, and it provided the setting for some of the most iconic horror movies. The most iconic, of course, is George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which was remade in 2004 by Zack Snyder and retained the mall setting. But the other piece of classic horror set in a mall has never been remade, and is now available as a deluxe special edition Blu-ray from the recently revived Vestron Video – Jim Wynorski’s 1986 oddity Chopping Mall. This cult classic has been lovingly restored in high definition in a Blu-ray edition that is overflowing with special features.
Of course, the title Chopping Mall makes the film sound like a slasher movie set in a mall. The film isn’t a slasher movie, instead it’s a horror film where a number of teens are trapped in the Park Plaza Mall as the mall’s brand new security force of robots, the Protector 101, goes on a murderous rampage, leaving bodies strewn about the mecca to capitalism in a malevolent malfunction. Say what you will about the title, there’s no denying that Chopping Mall has one of the great taglines ever – “Where Shopping Costs You an Arm and a Leg!”
The opening scene of Chopping Mall is one of the great misdirection in cinema. Opening with a criminal breaking into a store before he is violently subdued by a Protector 101, it is quickly revealed that this was part of a sales presentation. Legendary character actors Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov (as seen in cult classics like Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and Death Race 2000) provide comic relief as a yuppie salesman explains all of the details of the robots that will be patrolling the mall in the evenings. Within a few short minutes, Wynorski has established exactly how the film’s central villain will operate. Now the script by Wynorski and co-writer Steve Mitchell need to provide the Protector 101s with some fodder.
The fodder for the Protectors when they’re malfunctioning comes in the form of a group of teenagers who are staying late in the mall for a party of drinking and premarital sex. With the moralistic streak of ‘80s horror, there’s no way these teens can partake in sex and alcoholic consumption without deadly consequences. This octet of partiers consist of Alison (Kelli Maroney), Ferdy (Tony O’Dell), Rick (Russell Todd), Linda (Karrie Emerson), Greg (Nick Segal), Mike (John Terlesky), Leslie (Suzee Slater), and Suzie (Barbara Crampton). But before the Protector 101s take aim at the partying teens, they make their first forays into murder by killing venerable character actors Dick Miller and Gerrit Graham.
Once the Protectors go on their rampage and slay a few of the teens, the survivors don’t try to think of ways to hide from their robot assailants. Instead these teens take up arms, raiding the gun shop in the mall, Peckinpaugh’s, named for the legendary violent filmmaker Sam Pekinpaugh, in order to fight for their right not only to party but also survive. Just because they take up arms to defend themselves doesn’t mean that everyone is safe from the scourge of robotic serial killers patrolling the expansive mall. With each successive victim, the Protectors are polite in their violent aftermath saying, “Thank you, and have a nice day.”
The kills of Chopping Mall are thoroughly entertaining, but none better than when poor Leslie gets her head annihilated by a laser blast. It’s one of the great head explosions in horror movie history, though maybe not quite as effective as the one in Scanners. In a movie full of absurd and inventive kills, the death of Suzee Slater’s character is undoubtedly the stand out, and very much the topic of conversation throughout the Blu-ray’s ample special features.
When it comes to special features, this edition of Chopping Mall is more loaded than a horny teenager looking to hook up in a locked down mall. There are three different audio commentary tracks – one with director Wynorski, co-writer and 2nd unit director Steve Mitchell, and star Kelli Maroney; another with horror movie experts Nathaniel Thompson and Ryan Turek, the latter currently a creative executive for Blumhouse; and finally another commentary track with just Wynorski and Mitchell. On most special editions, that would be the extent of the special features. But this isn’t just an everyday, run of the mill Blu-ray. Chopping Mall also features a number of documentaries and featurettes that examine the development and history of the movie, each with numerous interviews with the cast and crew of this beloved cult classic. Did you ever want to know how the robots were made? There’s a feature for that. Did you ever want to know how Chopping Mall changed its title from Killbots? There’s a feature for that. Anything you ever wanted to know about Chopping Mall – there’s a feature for that. Special Edition is a term that’s loosely used for Blu-ray editions, but it is entirely apt with this particular edition.
Between Chopping Mall and Blood Diner, it’s apparent that the revitalized Vestron Video is determined to release cult oddities with expansive special features that share the love and admiration of the movies’ fans. These aren’t barebones editions with a scummy little HD rip; these are lovingly restored HD versions of beloved movies with in-depth special features that make the movies even better. Chopping Mall has its legion of devoted fans, one enthusiastic fan is even subject of his own little featurette, and I can say with confidence that this is a Blu-ray set that’s worth paying an arm and leg.
- Overall Score
An expansive Blu-ray special edition of a cult classic with commentaries, documentaries, and a stunning restoration, Chopping Mall is given the deluxe treatment in this amazing release from Vestron Video.