A jewel thief has broken into this mall and smashes the window of the jewellers there, helping himself to the wares in the display case, but he has reckoned without the mall's security guards. Yet these are no ordinary, human security guards, these are robot versions which order him to stop mid-getaway, chase him, and overpower him with a taser, rendering him unconscious and able to be picked up by the local police. The End. That was actually a promotional short to tell the assembled store owners about these new Protector robots, and the prospect of using them appears attractive - what could possibly go wrong?
How about a freak bolt of lightning that gives the marauding machines a mind of their own? Yes, you can pretty much write the plot of this yourself, but that was not to say that Chopping Mall was a trudge through a bunch of eighties horror movie clichés as director and co-writer Jim Wynorski conjured up something unexpectedly entertaining out of them. A lot of the appeal of this nowadays may well be down to nostalgia, as it does come across as the epitome of the kind of diversion that filled up the video store shelves way back when, and unlike some stands the test of time while remaining redolent of the era.
This was a Roger Corman-connected production, so Wynorski added in a bunch of references to his employer's previous movies, with the likes of a shop named Roger's Little Shop of Pets, to the characters watching Attack of the Crab Monsters on television (and getting scared at it, somewhat improbably), and even having Corman stalwart Dick Miller appear in his Walter Paisley guise, although that's just the character's name as he doesn't behave much like the protagonist from A Bucket of Blood, and is mainly present to be Killbot fodder. Additionally, Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov show up in their roles from Eating Raoul, not getting much to do but a welcome sight all the same.
But they are not the actual stars, as that task falls to a bunch of supposed teenagers, or actors playing teenagers more accurately, led by Kelli Maroney, fresh from Night of the Comet and essaying much the same type of part. She is Alison, who works at the pizza parlour and is persuaded by her friend Suzie (Barbara Crampton, herself then recently hailing from Re-Animator), to stay late and have a minor party. I say minor party because Alison is but one of eight people hanging around in a furniture store, and they all pair off for a spot of nudity except her and nice, bespectacled boy Ferdy (Tony O'Dell), who Suzie thinks is ideal boyfriend material for Alison. You'll probably think so too, as there's nothing very taxing here.
Well, nothing except the Killbots which go on the rampage, wishing their victims "Have a nice day" as they lie dead at their feet. Or their tracks. Whatever, you can't help but notice a brisk walk would be enough to escape from the 'bots, but they are persistent and after they start firing off laser beams (exploding one head in the process) they prove tricky to get rid of. This is all executed with brisk, light efficiency, and after initially seeming as if the boys will do all the heavy lifting and the girls will do all the screaming, Maroney emerges as the typical eighties plucky heroine with a sure aim and innovative line in getting away from the metal menaces. If this had not been released in 1986, you might have thought it had been influenced by Robocop, but that was out the following year, although they share a sense of humour and the contraptions do have something of the sci-fi spirit of the age about them. As it is, Chopping Mall is an unpretentious treat. Music by Chuck Cirino.