Movie Review: “Chopping Mall”

   Recently, I did a review of Tom & Jerry. If you didn’t notice it, I am not surprised. Our website’s dedicated to horror and dark subject-matter, and, mostly I depend on social-media to advertise the “Off Brand Reviews”. I do this, for the most part, because I enjoy talking about films – all films – and because, fact is, in one swoop, Tom & Jerry became the highest-viewed review on Readers Digested (now, Nightmare Shift) in the month of February 2021. I received a comment about my review from one individual on Twitter that stuck with me. He praised the comprehensiveness and professional merit of my reviews, but asked me why I decided to waste my time on such low-hanging fruit.

   Of course, this is a small website and I don’t expect everyone I run into on the internet to know my backstory and history, and the fact I wrote about the German serial killer film The Golden Glove a day prior, have been delving into South Korean cinema once a week, and, in general, try to feature as broad a scope as I can for our readers’ healthy digestion. Regardless, I resent the notion I should narrow myself in simply because the film is “not artsy”, or “not provocative enough”, … or “made for six-year-olds”.

   All that in mind, I would imagine to him and others, Chopping Mall is another instance of low-hanging fruit. In their defense, they are likely right about that. A science-fiction comedy horror film co-written and directed by Jim Wynorski and produced by Julie Corman (a film producer in her own right, some of you, however, likely associate the Corman surname with her husband Roger). The feature stars Kelli Maroney Tony O’DellJohn TerleskyRussell Todd, and Barbara Crampton (a year fresh off her turn in the Stuart Gordon film Re-Animator).

   I had not intended to write about or re-watch Chopping Mall for Readers Digested. Although I already owned a copy on home-video from a horror-pack I had bought many moons ago, I chose to watch Chopping Mall on the Shudder streaming service, which is where I have watched a lot of my horrors lately. If I am honest, I watched Chopping Mall with my wife as we tore through the backlog of alcohol we’d accumulated trying to cope with how awful last year was. We are from drinkers, mind you. But we will buy a bottle, not like it, and stow it away in the fridge for a rainy day. And rain, it did.

   Although it is not a requisite for the film’s enjoyment, that is not a bad way to watch Chopping Mall. The concept is straightforward and oozes ’80s charm. Basically, a new shopping mall has been opened up, and one unique thing they’ll be implementing is the inclusion of security robots that’ll survey the area at night. The opening credits, identifying the security robots as “Killbots,” should offer a fair foreshadowing of what comes next.

   The film plays out a lot like a classic slasher film. Early on, you’re introduced to your protagonists, who, all, at least, lightly, appeal to familiar tropes of the genre. With Kelli Maroney’s character abiding by the standards of many a final girl. Employees of the mall, the small group of friends are partying afterhours and shooting the breeze – watching movies and having sex. It sounds like a great time, but, as you’d expect, it all takes a turn when the mechanical turn maniacal.

   The sequences are over-the-top, and yet, of a certain quality that might surprise you given the premise itself. The film is not meant to blow your mind nor will it, but what it will accomplish is a surprising chunk of entertainment. The film does not take itself seriously, but, in spite itself, accomplishing some tense moments and nicely accomplished suspense sequences. Although you will laugh at the ridiculous laser beams shot at our protagonists, wondering why a shopping mall would equipped their security guards with such weaponry, you might genuinely, unabashedly enjoy some of the special-effects and mayhem in the film.

   Neither the character development nor the acting performances will necessarily engage you. This is not that kind of film, after all. But you will discover a likable cast of characters worth rooting for. The music is thematic, and feels like a relic of a bygone era, bolstering loud, techno beats, and a hyper-stylized nature that might be abrasive in a modern film, feels retro and fun in Chopping Mall.

   It is not a film that requires a lot of analysis on my part, nor is it one that offers you all that much to work with when it is said and finished. That, in mind, I would recommend Chopping Mall. Maybe consider it as a pallet cleanser in-between Re-Animator and From Beyond for a Barbara Crampton marathon (that’s the order they were released, after all!). Whatever the reason, if the premise of the film at all appeals to you, specifically, in a goofy way, then, I would recommend you watch the film. It’s fun, and could just be your next guilty pleasure.

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