Robot Review: October 24, 2018
“I guess I’m just not used to being chased around the mall in the middle of the night by killer robots.”
– Linda (later killed by laser blast)
Chopping Mall is a classic 80’s horror movie, except that instead of an ax wielding psychopath at a summer camp, we get laser wielding security robots at a shopping mall.
It has all of the necessary plot devices of this genre: cool kids, nerdy kids, guys and girls partying in various stages of undress, alcohol, bad dancing, bad hair, exploding body parts, guns, low budget yet believable-within-the-story special effects and a synthesizer-based soundtrack.
And then there are the robots – or the Protectors as they are called. These automated security guards look like a mix between Johnny 5 and Wall·E with the head of a Cylon. They have a variety of weapons at their disposal, including lasers, sleep darts, tasers, plastic explosives and four extendable arms with pincher hands at the end.
The Park Plaza Mall implements three of the Protectors as their overnight security team, which are linked to a master computer, which is supervised by a lone human in a control room. All mall employees are given security badges that the robots scan after hours to determine whether or not they are an intruder.
But things go wrong very quickly when the mall is struck by lightning and the master computer’s circuits are fried. This malfunction alters the robots’ programming, which turns them into self-activating stone cold killers.
The first to die is the night watchman in the control room. The remainder of the movie follows a group of young adults as they go from partying after hours in a furniture store to fighting for their lives against the murderous mall machines.
The original title of the movie was “Killbots” with the tagline “…shopping will never be the same!” but was changed to “Chopping Mall – Where shopping can cost you and arm and a leg” after a lackluster release under the first name.
Writer Steve Mitchell drew an illustration that became the early blueprint for the robot’s look although the actual remote controlled units were designed and constructed by Robert Short. Director Wynorski told Short that he wanted the Killbots to be an updated version of the 1950’s robot Gog.
The robots’ treads were made from industrial belt material that was used for conveyor belts in restaurants. The small wheels in the treads were taken from roller skates. The robots were able to reach an actual speed of 8 miles per hour.
Chopping Mall was originally going to be shot at the Beverly Center Mall in Los Angeles, CA but was moved to the Sherman Oaks Galleria just outside of town. The robots were designed to fit on the escalators at the Beverly Center, but when they got to Sherman Oaks, they discovered the escalators were narrower. As a result, the Protectors’ escalator shots were done with creative angles to hide the fact that the entire robot body was not there.
Visit our Chopping Mall title page for more information and to watch the trailer.