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Film / Chopping Mall

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A 1986 horror film involving malfunctioning killer robots chasing people through a mall.

Eight teenagers get locked inside a mall and think they're in for a night of debauchery. The mall also has a shiny new robot security system. The creator of the system says "nothing could go wrong". Things go less than stellar.

Thanks to a lightning strike on the mall's transformer, the computer running the security robots begins to malfunction, deciding all humans in the mall are intruders and in need of removal with extreme prejudice. This leads to a running Stern Chase throughout the shopping center as the humans try to evade detection and destroy the robots.

A classic Roger Corman B-Movie from The '80s, which has gained a cult following due to its hokey plot, tongue-in-cheek dialogue and gruesome robot kill scenes. Also known as Killbots, the film's original working title, used when it was syndicated to television.

Tropes seen in Chopping Mall include:

  • Actor Allusion: Dick Miller plays Walter Paisley, named after his character from A Bucket of Blood.
  • A.I. Is a Crapshoot: A lightning-induced power spike is all that it took for the security robots to go into full-on "Kill All Humans" mode.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: The girls crawl through the ducts to escape the robots. However, the AI controlling them and the mall cranks up the heat, causing Suzie to have a Freak Out and the girls abandon the ducts.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: For the scene where one of the killbots uses an escalator, the production team had a crew member wear a cast of the 'bot because the actual ones were too wide for the escalator.
  • Attack of the Killer Whatever: Homicidal security 'bots.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The very first on-screen kill of the film was some guy in a demo film that showcased the lethality (and thus utility) of the Protectors as security measures. It's not made apparent until the words "THE END" appear on-screen, about five minutes into the movie.
  • Big Bad: Protector One is the leader of the killer security robots.
  • Black Comedy: For the end credits where they show each character along with their actor, the image for Leslie is of her head being blown up.
  • The Cameo: Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov appear briefly at the beginning of the film as their characters from Eating Raoul.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The road flare.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The three killbots shoot differently colored bolts: Protector 1 has pink, Protector 2 has blue and Protector 3 has green.
  • Covers Always Lie: The robots do not have humanlike, scaly looking arms (instead they have stubby, robotic claws), and no-one's body parts get stuffed into a shopping bag.
  • Death by Cameo: Dick Miller shows up as Walter Paisley, a character he has played in multiple films. He's the third one to die to the robots.
  • Distracted by the Sexy:
    • A customer ogles a group of girls in bikinis on an escalator, and falls over, crushing the boxes he was carrying.
    • Likewise, one of the technicians becomes the first casualty while ogling up a pin-up.
  • Driven to Suicide: After Linda is killed by a stray laser beam, Rick deliberately crashes a cart into one of the robots, electrocuting himself.
  • Energy Weapon: The Protectors' main weapon. They fire them from their visors. The effects are wildly inconsistent; Leslie is shot in the back twice, Shot in the Ass twice, keeps on running, and it takes a shot to the head to kill her. Meanwhile, Suzie is shot in the leg and barely able to crawl, while Linda is shot once in the torso and killed. Allison also gets shot in the shoulder but it doesn't really stop her from using it.
  • Elevator Failure: How Protector 2 meets its end, thanks to the humans rigging it to blow.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The film's main events take place over the course of a little more than 12 hours, starting in the late afternoon and ending at dawn the next day.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Played with. After Susie's death, Greg goes into severe Sanity Slippage, threatening Ferdy with his gun at one point when he's defending Allison. He stops before he does anything truly evil, however.
  • Fanservice Extra:
    • Several beauty pageant contestants wearing bikinis are seen on an escalator in the opening credits.
    • In the waitresses' locker room, a topless waitress wearing a Modesty Towel is seen behind Suzie and Alison.
  • Faux Affably Evil: While they're not technically evil, whenever a killbot, well, kills someone, it wishes its victim a nice day.
  • Final Girl: Subverted; Alison has to fight the last killbot alone, but it turns out her boyfriend was only stunned.
  • Firing One-Handed: Ferdy attempts to shoot at one of the killbots with a pistol in one hand and a propane bomb in the other.
  • Gender-Equal Ensemble: Four guys, four girls. And three each are killed throughout the movie.
  • Genre Savvy: Having seen his fair share of horror movies, Ferdy counts as this. He definitely knows the stupidity of the Let's Split Up, Gang! trope when it comes to them, as shown when Alison suggests she and him split up to look for the computer mainframe:
    Alison: Okay, you try over there, and I'll try over here.
    Ferdy: No, I don't want to split up!
    Alison: What can happen?
    Ferdy: You want a list?
  • Gory Deadly Overkill Title of Fatal Death: Both "Chopping Mall" and the original title, "Killbots", showcase right off the bat that people are going to die in this film.
  • Heroic BSoD: Greg goes through this after Susie's death. His increasing recklessness gets him killed.
  • High-Voltage Death: Walter Paisley is electrocuted with a taser into a puddle of water at his feet.
  • Idiot Ball: Everyone who works in the mall is aware that there is a new robot based security system acting as the night watchmen. Mike even HAS his special pass which will prevent the robots from taking him in (it just doesn't work because they are malfunctioning). Despite this, the hot-blooded teens decide that the inaugural night of the new security system would be the best time to bring have an after hours party in the Furniture store. Even if the robots were at 100%, half of the partygoers would have been captured by the robots and presumably arrested.
  • Ironic Echo: "Hey! Have a nice day!"
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: when asked if he knows how to shoot a gun Ferdy says he's watched Dirty Harry twenty-four times.
  • Killer Robot: The Protector 101 series security robot.
  • Klaatu Barada Nikto: Spoken by Mike when he showed one of the killbots his security badge.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Greg gets a fatal case of this while running through the mall blindly, leaving his friends far behind. One of the bots ambushes him while they're too far away and kills him.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Apparently, the mall being struck by lightning is all it takes to make the robots murderous.
  • Lock-and-Load Montage: The guys stocking up with weapons and ammo at the sporting goods store.
  • Made of Explodium: Sure, a hardware store holds a lot of volatile chemicals, but still the explosion that demolishes the final Protector was caused mostly by spilled paint and created an absurd fireball, to boot.
  • Male Gaze: In the beginning of the scene where Leslie gets her head blown up, the opening shot gives us a slow close look at her butt, complete with green bunny panties.
  • The Mall: The setting for the entire movie. Even the few exterior shots (so we can see the lightning strikes) are all of the mall.
  • Man on Fire: Suzie dies when a killbot blows up the gas can she's carrying with incendiary results.
  • Mighty Glacier: The Protector 101 robots. They move 8 mph at top speed, but deal a lot of damage with their lasers and plastic explosives and are ridiculously hard to stop, withstanding (at various points) bullets, small amounts of explosives and even their own lasers before going down.
  • Molotov Cocktail: The girls try to use these on one robot, with poor results.
  • Monster Threat Expiration: The killbots quickly and efficiently dispose of most of the cast. But when Protector 1 has Alison at its mercy in a storage room...
  • Murderous Malfunctioning Machine: Apparently the security bots' default setting following a computer malfunction.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: The robots' Frickin' Laser Beams were explained in detail at the beginning of the film and justified (to a point) to be so powerful as allowing the robots to be used in rescue operations. Now, the plastic explosives that the robots use at one point to blow open a door, that doesn't gets any foreshadowing.
  • Nobody Here but Us Statues: Late in the film, the main characters attempt to lay a trap for the bots by hiding amongst a group of mannequins in front of a mirror covered by a sheet; Rick and Ferdy then uncover the mirror to cause one bot to shoot itself and malfunction.
  • Oddly Overtrained Security: Mall Ninja subtype, robot version.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: On more than one occasion, the killbots manage to sneak up behind humans, even in situations where their presence should have been noticed way in advance.
  • The Place: The whole film takes place within the mall.
  • Pun-Based Title: The film was originally titled "Killbots" (and was syndicated to television as such), but it had trouble finding an audience with this title. It was given its current title for its re-release.
  • Railing Kill: Greg is thrown off the third-floor by Protector 3.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Ferdy selects a large revolver as his weapon, which the main characters later use to trigger their elevator bomb.
  • Rule of Three: Of the four couples, three of them die before the end. Oddly, every time one member of a couple dies, invariably, their partner is the next to go, until it's down to the final couple.
  • Sanity Slippage: Greg doesn't take Susie's death well at all, blaming Allison and Linda for it and even threatening Ferdy at gunpoint. They eventually talk him down.
  • Saw Star Wars 27 Times: When asked if he knows how to handle a gun, Ferdy assures that he does because he's seen Dirty Harry 24 times.
  • Sex Signals Death: All the couples who have sex die, while the one that doesn't survives.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: When the guys break into Peckinpah's, Greg selects a shotgun as his main weapon.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Peckinpah's the gun store is a reference to director Sam Peckinpah.
    • Dick Miller's cameo character is named Walter Paisley, after his character in his first film, A Bucket of Blood. This name made a reoccurring appearance throughout his various roles (a grand total of seven times).
  • Slashed Throat: How Mike is killed by the robots.
  • The Stinger: A robot tells the audience, "thank you, have a nice day".
  • Super-Powered Robot Meter Maid: The robots are supposed to be mall security guards. Who the hell decided they needed lasers powerful enough to explode peoples' heads? And plastic explosives, for that matter?
  • Terrifying Pet Store Rat: Snakes and spiders, literally in a pet store. They serve no real purpose, beyond forcing one girl to put up with terrifying things crawling on her without alerting the killer robots.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Whoever decided to employ robots with weaponry capable of blowing up someone's head to guard a shopping mall apparently believed this.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Most of the characters seem not to be familiar with the concept of "cover," standing out in the open firing their guns at the robots—or even completely unarmed—which leaves them incredibly vulnerable and results in at least one death.
  • Trapped-with-Monster Plot: The young people have three Killer Robots after them and are trapped in the mall which won't open until morning.
  • Vasquez Always Dies: Linda, the tough girl mechanic is killed by a random laser blast while Protector 3 is malfunctioning, while Alison, the more chaste and feminine one survives the night.
    • Debatable. Her father is a policeman who taught her to become a crack pistol shot, and as to chastity she has just met Ferdy whereas the rest have been couples for a long time - it's normal that they have sex and she and Ferdy won't.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: Alison stores the road flare that she uses to destroy the final robot between her breasts after nabbing it from a shelf.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The film ends with the three security robots destroyed, but the malfunctioning computer that controlled them (and supposedly has control over other parts of the mall as well) is still operating. Although it can't send out any more robots to do its bidding, it can still cause trouble for any humans in the area.
  • Your Head A-Splode: Leslie, the first girl to die in the movie, goes out this way courtesy of a killer robot's Eye Beams.