1986 was remarkable for its spectacles: Halley’s Comet, Hands Across America—but perhaps none more enduring than the landmark cinematic masterpiece Chopping Mall.
Clocking in at a taut 77-minute runtime, Chopping Mall accomplishes what few films twice its length do. A perfect balance of humor, horror, and heads exploding from laser blasts, the movie never wastes a moment in building and maintaining pseudo-terror. You can’t help but root for the twenty-somethings’ unlikely survival—as one endearing character points out, they’re “not used to running around a shopping mall in the middle of the night being chased by killer robots.”
The incredible cast of Kelli Maroney (Night of the Comet), Tony O’Dell (The Karate Kid), Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator), and expert gum chewer John Terlesky (who would go on to an incredible career as a director—seriously, look it up) deliver relatable and compelling performances. The shy nerd. The wise-cracking jock. The blonde babe—“It is babe, isn’t it?” Each of the essential 80s-character tropes are represented. And we’re so here for it.
Perhaps that’s where the film’s greatest strength lies: Chopping Mall is a perfect encapsulation of so much of what we love about the 80s. A glamorous mall. A pizza party. Robots. Well, evil robots. Evil robots that will kill you then tell you to “Have a nice day.” The film expertly takes the things we love and meshes them with the things we fear. Placing the familiar and comfortable American mall and flipping it into a hunting ground for technological terrors makes the film truly brilliant. It’s as if Dawn of the Dead and Terminator married and made an adorable, cheesy, laser-shooting baby.
A baby who just turned 35.
The fact that anyone anywhere is talking about a B-movie decades later might be surprising. To celebrate it, unbelievable. But Chopping Mall deserves its day. Fans all over this country still regularly gather for drive-in showings. Its stars have tens of thousands of social media followers. There’s just something undeniably enduring about it: fun. 77 straight minutes of fun. Oh, and killbots.
(You can currently enjoy Chopping Mall for the first or the fifty-first time on Prime Video, Pluto TV, and Tubi.)