Horror Movie News and Reviews

Fab Five: The Best of Chopping Mall

When Secure-Tronics introduced the Protector 101 series of security robots at the Park Plaza mall in 1986, they made one simple assertion — “Absolutely nothing can go wrong.”

They were incorrect.

Nonetheless, such sentiment unleashed a Radio Shack experiment gone bad. The bots were basically what would have happened had Johnny 5 and ED-209 made a love droid sprinkled with a stormtrooper’s blaster skills.

Oh, the fun that was had as a result.

Here are five of the finest aspects of Jim Wynorski’s Chopping Mall.

WALTER PAISLEY

It’s Dick Miller. Let’s be real, further elaboration isn’t necessary, but we’ll do it anyway. One of the great character actors of all-time, Miller has been referred to as “intensely funny” by Roger Corman, who of course is married to Chopping Mall producer Julie Corman.

As a mall janitor, Miller’s character went by a name we’ve grown quite familiar with over the years and was his typical, on-screen self. Cranky, tough, sarcastic and funny. When one of the Go-Bots knocked over his bucket of water he threatened to turn it into scrap metal before softening to show his ID. When that didn’t go as smoothly or quickly as he’d hoped, Miller attempted to drop the hammer with a mop handle before getting cooked.

Very quickly, though it had nothing to do with anything, but in a shot where Miller was chatting with some of his janitorial brethren, a shop can be seen in the background called Slavick’s Jewelers. Now, this was three years before Miller revealed his disdain for cul-de-sacs, but one can’t help but giggle that we got a kinda sorta reference to The ‘Burbsbecause we’re all aware that Miller is not only Corman’s boy, but Joe Dante’s, as well.

BASICALLY I SAID ‘EM, YEAH

Alright, so it was a reference from the original The Day the Earth Stood Still, but you can’t help but love the moment. I know it makes me smile from ear-to-ear every time I hear it. Mike Brennan (John Terlesky) was the prototypical ’80s beefcake — big hair, big muscles, big smile, constantly champing gum and a one-track mind. However, when Leslie Tood (Suzee Slater) asked him to wander off to get some post-coital smokes from the cigarette machine (ahhh, the ’80s), he was confronted with one of the rage-bots and it was just a classic moment. He offered up his ID for scan, but before pulling it away dropped “Klaatu, verada, nikto. Okay?” A nod to a sci-fi classic and perhaps inspiration for Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi’s Army of Darkness. Regardless, it never gets old.

RICK, OLD BOY. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH YOUR…LIFE?

I doubt any of you missed the Friday the 13th Part 2 reference there, but just to be safe, Russell Todd not only portrayed Rick Stanton in Chopping Mall, but also Scott in the first sequel of the Camp Crystal Lake saga. He’d matured from harassing and firing slingshots at Terry’s derriere to married life, but didn’t handle it very well when his better half was taken out by the bots. Funny, because Todd’s Friday co-star Tom McBride proved he’d never be the head of a major corporation, and Rick followed suit, jumping on a transport cart like Austin Powers for a five-foot trek only to be electrocuted almost immediately. I guess he just couldn’t stand the thought of life without his bride.

TOUGH TRIO

These were not your typical high school horror girls. Alright, so Barbara Crampton played fun-loving and sexed-up to perfection, but about the time Leslie lost her head, Crampton went off the deep end.

However, Linda Stanton (Karrie Emerson) was anything but the throw-away female character whose only requirement was to show her breasts and die a memorable death. No, Linda was resourceful and thought on her feet. She fixed her truck when her husband couldn’t and taught the other ladies how to create some bombastic Molotov cocktails in the hardware store. Linda would have made a fine final girl, indeed.

If it weren’t for Alison Parks (Kelli Maroney). While it’s true her character was hesitant to go to the furniture store party, she felt a connection with Ferdy (Tony O’Dell) and even allowed the bespectacled wonder to reach first base in a sweet, Stacy Hamilton / Mark Ratner, Fast Times moment. However, she never lost her edge. I mean, she was a Marine’s kid. Not only was she the Steph Curry of final girls, it was altogether fitting that she’d drop the Schwarzenegger-level, “Have a nice day” one-liner before blowing the final bot to bits at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, the very same mall where scenes for Commando were filmed.

Nice shot.

PECKINPAH’S!

Report from the front: Ferdy’s got a worry.

Everything about this scene is just amazing. The boys decide that they need to make a stand and head to the sporting goods store for some weaponry. From Rambo-grams to the camera tilt revealing a group of would-be badasses, it’s just pure magic.

BONUS

After Alison slipped the spiders and snakes and scooted out of the pet store, the camera panned to reveal the name of the establishment — Roger’s Little Shop of Pets.

Bloody. Brilliant.

Chopping Mall is well stocked with memorable moments, so please don’t be shy and shares yours in the comments section below.

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