Thursday, June 24, 2010

CHOPPING MALL (1986) - if you think it's cool to hang out at the mall, you deserve whatever is coming to you

Nintendo's R.O.B. plays a mall cop that doesn't take guff from anyone, especially a ragtag group of kids

The Nintendo Entertainment System is surely one of mankind’s greatest inventions, courtesy of our friends from Japan. Unfortunately, there are a couple of skeletons in the proverbial closet, in the form of two peripheral add-ons: the Power Glove, and R.O.B. the robot. While the Power Glove was a (somewhat noble) failed attempt at virtual reality, R.O.B. was almost impossibly useless. You could use him for Gyromite (and another game, though I forget the title), and you would press a button, and the robot would stick a pedestal on another button (after about thirty seconds). Of course, you could just cut out the middle robot and just press the fucking button yourself. In theory, it's pretty cool to have a helper robot, but it’s hardly worth it to push a button just to get something to push a button for you. It’s sort of like having a remote control for your remote control.

Well, at least R.O.B. grew away from his humble, useless beginnings to work security at a shopping mall. It goes to show you that if we stick to it, even when we come from lowly beginnings (or synthetic ones) that we can make something out of ourselves. Anyway, some guy is robbing a jewelry store in the mall, and the robot intervenes by zapping this unsuspecting asshole and...wait a second, it's all an instructional video! Yes, our head of security is giving a mall seminar regarding their new security system, which amount to three of these R.O.B. things outfitted with lasers. This sounds boring as hell, but luckily Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov are in the audience, cracking wise like nobody’s business. She remarks that "they look like the three stooges" and he retorts "I don't like the middle one...he has a vaguely ethnic quality" (I’m friggin' dying over here!). We then get "they remind me of your's the laser eyes". Say what you want about our bald friend Paul…he’s a fucking genius. Oh yeah, and he directed Death Race 2000, Private Parts, Eating Raoul, etc. Fucking genius.

Looking at the box cover for Chopping Mall, I’m a little confused as to where this is headed. It shows a shopping bag filled with body parts, with the tag line "where shopping can cost you an arm and a leg". At quick glance, this gives off the impression that a psycho is going to be running around a mall, hacking limbs off. However, upon closer inspection, the hand holding the bag is robotic. This doesn’t explain how lasers can sever limbs clean, but at least I think I know where the plot is headed. I could also just read the plot synopsis on the back of the box…or just watch the fucking movie. Maybe I’ll do that.

So, we head to possibly the greatest pizza joint in movie history (and certainly in the history of movie shopping malls). Not only are Barbara Crampton and Kelli Mulroney the resident waitresses (hotness alert!), but director (and borderline genius) Jim Wynorski saw fit to cover the walls with posters for every movie he had made up to that point. Whether shameless promotion or post-modern winking…either way, it’s pretty awesome. Hell, even the super pisan chef is covered in flour and marinara sauce, so you know you’re gonna get an authentic wopper of a pie.

Well, these "killbots" (you think the name would be a giveaway) start killing the workers of the mall. One guy gets stabbed through a Playboy centerfold, Dick Miller gets electrocuted (in his requisite cameo), and the comically brilliant Gerrit Graham even gets dispatched by “security”. Meanwhile, a group of 32-year-old teenagers (including Kelli and Babs) decide to throw an overnight party at the mall department store where John Terlesky (Wynorski regular and Bruce Campbell surrogate) works. He even utters the "klaatu berata niktu" line from Army of Darkness before Army of Darkness (and originally heard in The Day the Earth Stood Still) Included in the group is a typical nerd, who, incredibly, gets to hook up with Kelli and watch what looks to be Attack of the Crab Monsters (that’s a fucking night out).

The robots stalk the teenagers through the mall, interrupting their innocent breaking and entering party (the doors are automatically locked by the security system, limiting their escape). The resident bimbo gets zapped in the head with a laser, and this causes her head to explode. The robot responds with "thank you, have a nice day", which strikes me as being reminiscent of Robocop. Maybe Wynorski’s influence stretches further than I first imagined. Anyway, the mall becomes a death zone with lasers flying everywhere, reminding me of the shoot outs in the Death Star, and our heroes are forced to resort to Dawn of the Dead mall survival techniques.

Luckily, the mall has a Peckinpah's Gun Store, as this was in the 80’s, when you could buy a machine gun over the counter already fully loaded, without having to answer dumbass questions about your criminal background or whatever. The wild bunch grabs some firepower and goes to work, but find that robots are immune to bullets (figures). They are forced to resort to plan B, which involves rolling a propane tank at a robot and then igniting it with rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle. Kids today are pretty resourceful (circa 1986).


The girls also help out, using their homemaking skills to make molotov cocktails. This literally backfires on poor Babs when a laser hits her molotov can and sets her ablaze. Kelli tries to use the mannequins as decoys, but that also fails, and the rest of her friends eventually end up dead. If things weren’t already heading south, she hides out in the pet store and gets covered in snakes and spiders (do people even buy tarantulas at the mall?). She eventually blows the last robot up with a road flare and escapes alone.

But wait! The dumbass nerd is alive after all! Well, it looks like Kelli and the geek with the fatal head wound will ride off together towards the sunset. Lucky bastard. I think she’ll begin to doubt her choice of mate when she becomes pregnant and gets an ultrasound, noticing that her little fetus is wearing a pocket protector and thick rimmed glasses. Christ I’m jealous.

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