in ,

Chopping Mall


‘…Terminator 2 this is assuredly not, but Chopping Mall’s light serving of sci-fi action has plenty of retro charm today…’

Consumer satire is always good for the youth; I was 16 when I originally saw this deadpan action comedy from the Roger Corman stable, adapting their low-investment, high-yield strategy to the 80’s world of sci-fi and gore. Chopping Mall was originally called Killbots before being revised and re-released as Chopping Mall, and while the result isn’t quite as breathless as the posters promised, it actually plays better now (2023) than it did at the time. If nothing else, Jim Wynoski’s film finds an iconic location in the Sherman Oaks Galleria, which was pretty state of the art for 1986.

‘Absolutely nothing can go wrong ‘ is the proud boast of the Secure-tronics company who are responsible for mall security, but the trash-cans they put in position have a tendency to have an ‘unpleasantly genocidal quality’ towards humans as a group of invited guests (including genre stalwarts Paul Bartel and Mary Wonorov) find out in the opening scenes. The crowds that presumably filled malls back in the day would be a bit expensive for a Corman film, so Chopping Mall’s drama takes place after hours, with another genre darling Barbara Crampton amongst the teens who somehow feel that hanging out in an empty mall is a fun way to pass their evening. Two killer robots knows as the Protectors have other ideas.

While not smart or subversive in the way that the later Robocop turned out to be, Chopping Mall is a reasonably brisk genre entry, complete with the requisite Dick Miller cameo and a general distrust about technology that still resonantes. The killbots themselves look about as agile as daleks, but there’s primal entertainment watching these goofy kids figure out how to take these talking bins down one by one.

Terminator 2 this is assuredly not, but Chopping Mall’s light serving of sci-fi action has plenty of retro charm today; the way technology is ruining lives turned out to be far more insidious than this physical scrap but Chopping Mall could use a high tech reboot today; AI security guards are a far more plausible proposition these days, and things are even less likely than ever to go worng…


Leave a Reply
  1. Do the youth even know what malls are?!

    I spent many a Friday night walking around “seeing and being seen” in the Monroeville Mall. Now it’s a ghost.

    Most of these “technology might not be as great as we think” films are sure aging well!

    • I guess they provided 24 hour shopping, or close to it, before we could shop from home. Always fun exploring a new mall…

      But yes, AI might be the new big bad, but robots hit by lightning has much the same effect…

  2. Absolutely nothing can go wrong!

    I just love it when a character says something like that because you know the director is going to make the whole movie proving them incorrect.
    And killer trash cans sound cool.

Leave a Reply