Released by: Lionsgate
Released on: September 27th, 2016.
Director: Jim Wynorski
Cast: Kelli Maroney, Tony O'Dell, John Terlesky, Russell Todd, Barbara Crampton, Mary Woronov
Year: 1986 Purchase From Amazon
“Where shopping costs you an arm and a leg!”’
The Park Plaza Mall has just brought on three new security robots programmed to keep the place safe at night. They’ve got barcode scanners built-in so those mall employees who do work past closing time only need to show them their ID cards to go about their business – really, these robots are meant to keep ne’er-do-wells out of the place. The fact that they’ve got tank treads and lasers and stuff? Nah, don’t worry about it. Oh, and those newly installed steel gates that seal off every entrance to the place? It’s all good. What could go wrong here?
A few horny teenagers – Alison (Kelli Maroney), Ferdy (Tony O’Dell), Rick (Russell Todd), Linda (Karrie Emerson), Suzie (Barbara Crampton), Greg (Nick Segal), Mike (John Terlesky) and Leslie (Suzee Slater) – decide to hang out in the aforementioned mall long past closing time. Why? Because the furniture store is the perfect spot to have sex and dance the night away! The merrymaking goes full tilt for all involved, save for nerdy Ferdy and shy-girl Alison, they just sort of hang around and get to know each other on a less intimate level than the others. On freak electrical screw up later and our kids are having to ransack the sporting goods store for AK-47s, Dick Miller is getting electrocuted, heads are exploding, the killbots are on a laser guided rampage and it’s time to “send these fuckers a Rambo-gram!”
Chopping Mall is seventy-five minutes of B-movie bliss. Wynorski, having only directed 1984’s The Lost Empire before this feature (that earlier film’s one-sheet makes an appearance in the background more than once), controls things from behind the camera like a seasoned pro. The pace is brisk and quick and the premise milked for pretty much all its worth. This is not a complicated movie – the teens get locked in the mall, get naked, then fight killer robots – but it damn sure is an entertaining one. The proper ratio of bare breasts to exploding heads is adhered to while large dollops of dopey dialogue and instantly quotable quips are tossed around at a mile a minute.
The characters aren’t deep but are definite stereotypes, but there’s enough difference between them that we can easily tell them apart. More importantly than that, they’re pretty likeable too. Kelli Maroney of The Night Of The Comet and The Zero Boys is kind of adorable as Alison. She and Tony O’Dell, who pops up in Evils Of The Night, have good chemistry here. Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton is in fine form, literally and figuratively, delivering the film’s best nude scene and crafting a fun character too, while John Terlesky seems content to act tough and take his shirt off at every given opportunity. If that weren’t enough, not only do we get the great Dick Miller (Bucket Of Blood fans will appreciate his character!) in a cameo as the janitor but we also get small parts played by Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Garrett Graham, Angus Scrimm and Angela Aames! You couldn’t ask for a better cast for a movie like this.
The effects hold up well for a film made on a modest budget. The robots themselves are super cool, what with their tank treads and their lasers and their creepy robot voices (done by Wynorski himself). We get a decent amount of gore and some nice practical effects work in that department. On top of that, the movie is actually really well shot and shows off some nice lighting and camera work. The synth heavy score is the perfect complement to the mid-eighties fashions on display throughout the film. There are also a lot of fun references to other horror and B-movies scattered throughout the film, especially those that were produced by Roger Corman.
Chopping Mall arrives on Blu-ray framed at 1.78.1 widescreen in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer and it looks excellent. The movie was previously released by Lionsgate on DVD after they bought the Artisan library and it basically recycled the old transfer used for the Lightning VHS release. It was then reissued by Lionsgate as part of a low cost multipack with a few other films. That transfer was also fullframe and tape sourced – thankfully, this new presentation is taken from a proper film source and the difference is like night and day. Detail is, not surprisingly, vastly improved over those old releases, you really notice this in the background details scattered throughout the mall – the signs, the clothes on display, the décor, etc. The colors look much more natural here, skin tones as well, and we get a nice uptick in depth and texture. Black levels are solid and contrast looks just fine. All in all, this is pretty impressive looking and a pretty huge upgrade over what we’ve had in the past.
The only audio option for the feature is an English language DTS-HD 2.0 Mono track. Again, this is a big upgrade over past editions, which sounded flat and fairly weak. Dialogue is much cleaner and clearer than before and the multiple explosions featured in the last half hour or so of the film have a lot more punch now, which makes those scenes a bit more effective. At the same time, the levels stay balanced so that the effects don’t bury the performers. The film’s awesome score has good bounce to it but never overpowers the dialogue and the track is free of any noticeable hiss or distortion. Optional subtitles are provided in English SDH only.
Extras start off with a brand new audio commentary featuring director/co-writer Jim Wynorski, actress Kelli Maroney and co-writer/2nd unit director Steve Mitchell. This track has a good sense of humor to it right from the start and you can tell that the three participants are having a good time here. Wynorksi talks about who pops up in the movie and why, noting this was his second picture and noting that Mitchell kept the production notes and therefore knows more than he does! The guys talk about who shot what, first unit and second unit, we certain lines are dubbed thanks to a broken camera, why different cast members pop up in the film, shooting in the mall itself, and more. Kelli talks about the co-workers she started alongside in the picture, noting how color coordinated some of the characters are in the film, how she took the part in this after Wynorski saw her and loved her in Night Of The Comet, acting alongside the robots and quite a few other topics. Wynorski definitely leads the charge on this track but everyone chimes in throughout and it’s a pretty interesting and really enjoyable talk.
A second new audio commentary pairs up Mondo Digital’s Nathanial Thompson and Shock ‘Til You Drop’s Ryan Turk and, as they state, here they share their ‘enthusiastic love for Chopping Mall.’ They talk about how they each got into the movie, how this film differs from the slasher films that were popular in the eighties and how the movie embodies so much of the time period in which the picture was shot. Along the way they also offer up some interesting trivia about the film, discuss its various home video releases and how great the VHS cover art was for this film, how nuts one of the actors goes with his chewing gum in pretty much every scene, the beauty of the movie’s soundtrack and lots more. This isn’t the type of track you go to for cold, hard facts, it’s really a love letter of sorts to the movie, but these guys have a very infectious enthusiasm for the film and they point out a lot of interesting, quirky aspects of the film as it plays out. It too is a fun track, well worth spending the time to listen to.
The original Lionsgate DVD included an audio Commentary with Wynorski and Mitchell that’s been ported over to this release as well. This track takes a little bit of time to get going but once it does, it’s pretty interesting. As you’d expect, there’s some crossover here as to what’s covered when compared to the first track but it’s a fun talk that covers everything from recycling props from previously made films to locking down the mall location to the catering!
Moving on to the featurettes we start with a twenty-six minute piece called Back To The Mall where Wynorski and Mitchell are interviewed alongside Maroney, Crampton (both ladies are still completely crush-worthy!), Terlesky, Todd and Segal about their experiences working on the picture. As Wynorski and Smith covered most of their story in the commentary, the focus here is understandably on the cast and they all offer up some fun memories of the shoot. They cover how they landed the parts, thoughts on their characters, what it was like working on the set and a fair bit more. This is well put together and a lot of fun, it seems like everyone had a pretty good time working on the film and that definitely comes through in this piece. There are a few cool archival stills and materials included here as well.
There are a few shorter pieces here worth checking out as well, like the eight minute Chopping “Chopping Mall” featurette where editor Leslie Rosenthal talks about cutting the film together into the form that we see on the disc. Wynorski and Mitchell appear here too as they discuss the effectiveness of the pacing in the film, how it made some of the effects set pieces more impressive and what Rosenthal brought to the table in terms of improving what was shot. In Talkin’ About The Killbots robot creator Robert Short and Wynorski talk about what went into creating the robots that play such a big part in making Chopping Mall work, some of the technology that was used to bring them to life and some of the difficulties encountered while working with them. Scoring Chopping Mall lets composer Chuck Cirino discuss, for eleven minutes, all the nitty-gritty details of putting together a score that is as cool as the one assembled for this picture. He also talks about some of the scores written for older films than this that influenced him while working on this picture and talks about the creative freedom that Wynorski and company gave him on the project. In Ask A Killbot Mitchell poses a handful of questions to one of the robots featured in the movie, the answers voiced by Wynorski. This is a quick two minute piece that they clearly did just to have some fun. Army Of One spends six minutes with a man named Carl Sampieri who is essentially a Chopping Mall superfan who spends a few minutes talking about why he loves the film as much as he does before then showing off an impressive array of Chopping Mall memorabilia.
Also carried over from the old DVD release is the Chopping Mall: Creating The Killbots featurette that runs around fifteen minutes. Here we get input from Wynorski and Mitchell as well as Robert Short. It covers some of the same ground as the other featurette on the Killbots but it’s interesting enough to learn here how and why they wound up looking and sounding like they do in the movie.
Also found on the disc is a single Lost Scene, with an introduction from Wynorski and Mitchell explaining its history. The scene was never shot but three pages of the script exist, and these are shown here over three minutes where we learn a bit more about Woronov and Bartel’s characters in the film. Rounding out the extras on the disc the film’s original theatrical trailer, Chuck Cirino’s score as an isolated audio track, animated menus and chapter selectio. The Blu-ray keepcase fits inside a slick foil-embossed cardboard slipcover.
The Final Word:
It’s hard to imagine Chopping Mall looking or sounding much better than it does on this Blu-ray release, and on top of that the disc is jam-packed with some pretty amazing extra features. The film itself holds up well, a time capsule maybe, but a really fun, entertaining one. All in all, a great release for an awesome movie.
Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!