Courtesy of Dana Townsend

Garbage Day

Furniture Store Orgies and Killer Robots

I wasn’t exactly around for the peak of Mall Culture, but from what I can gather from popular media of the era, the decline of malls is exactly when America stopped being interesting.

If you can’t go to a huge, glitzy, air-conditioned building to chill with your pals or shop and eat food of questionable quality, what’s the point of living under the death throes of late-stage capitalism? We don’t even have a place to let our killbots run rampant anymore. Thankfully, we have classics like Chopping Mall to preserve these moments in time. 

This 1986 slasher contains two of the most atrocious decisions ever made in cinema. The first is made by the owner of the Park Plaza Mall when he orders a brand new security system, the centerpieces being three anti-theft robots. I don’t know how much three robots—all equipped with lasers and high-powered tasers—a team of men in lab coats to monitor said robots and massive steel bunker-esque doors costs, but I doubt it’s inside the budget of a mall that can’t even be bothered to have a decent pizza place.

The second choice is far less pricey, but it’s flat-out disgusting: Multiple teens, all working in the mall, decide to stay in the mall after closing time to have an orgy in the furniture store. This is upsetting to me for multiple reasons, particularly because I don’t want to discover my newly-bought couch has unseemly stains all over it. However, the body fluid being spilled the most that night is blood. A lightning strike drives the robots kill-crazy, and they begin slaughtering anyone they find in the closed mall. 

One delightfully cheap-looking exploding head aside, Chopping Mall isn’t very gore-heavy, but it makes up for that with a goofy, madcap pace and endearlingly dumb performances from the doomed teens. The film’s filled with cameos designed to make a certain section of horror movie fans happy, with Angus Scrimm (The Tall Man from Phantasm) and Dick Miller (from basically every Joe Dante production and a bunch of Roger Corman movies) showing up for brief cameos and Reanimator scream queen Barbara Crampton in one of the lead roles. The movie was produced by Corman’s wife, Julie, so its connection to the broader world of B-horror makes a lot of sense. 

Chopping Mall clocks in at a brisk 77 minutes, so if you’re looking for a fast, silly slasher to lighten up your day and remind you of an America long past, you pretty much can’t go wrong with it.