Chopping Mall (originally released as Killbots) is a 1986 American science-fiction comedy horror film co-written and directed by Jim Wynorski, produced by Julie Corman, and starring Kelli Maroney, Tony O'Dell, John Terlesky, and Russell Todd. The story focuses on three security robots turning maniacal, and killing teenage employees inside a shopping mall after dark.
== Plot ==
Park Plaza Mall has just installed a state-of-the-art security system, including shutters across all exits and three high-tech robots programmed to disable and apprehend thieves using tasers and tranquilizer guns. Four couples (Rick and Linda, Greg and Suzie, Mike and Leslie, and Ferdy and Allison) decide to have a party in a furniture store where three of them work. After hours, all of them (except Allison and Ferdy) begin to have sex, drink, and party inside the furniture store.
Outside, a lightning storm strikes the mall several times and damages the computer controlling Protectors 1, 2 and 3, which kill the technicians and a janitor before starting their routine patrol. Starting with Protector 1, Mike and Leslie get killed as they leave the store, witnessed by the others, who scatter. The men break into a sporting-goods store to arm themselves with firearms, while the women take gasoline and flares from an automotive store. Using a propane tank, the men blow up and seemingly destroy Protector 1. While the men set up the elevator as a booby trap, the killbots ambush the women and ignite Suzie by shooting her gasoline can, killing her. Greg unsuccessfully shoots them before Rick drags him away.
The teenagers regroup and rig the elevator trap on Protector 2, destroying it. They then hide in the restaurant where Allison works. Inside, Greg confronts Allison and Linda about leaving the air ducts and exhibits rage due to Suzie's death, pulling his gun on Ferdy when he intercedes on Allison and Linda's behalf. Rick tries to calm him down, and Ferdy suggests destroying the killbots' main control center in hopes of shutting them all down. The group agrees and heads to the control center on the third floor. The robot throws Greg over the railing and he falls to his death.
On the run, the four remaining survivors, Allison, Ferdy, Rick, and Linda also find the first robot recovered after its earlier defeat. They take refuge inside a department store and set up mannequins to confuse Protector 1 and Protector 3. Their plan works as they fire at the dummies and one of them blinds itself with its own reflected laser. However, the blind Protector 3 kills Linda and an enraged Rick rams a golf cart into it. A bolt of electricity kills him, but his attempts successfully destroy the robot.
As the final robot called Protector 1 corners Allison, Ferdy rescues her and shoots it point-blank, damaging its laser just before he falls unconscious. Despite an injured leg, Allison escapes into the paint store and sets up a trap by mixing paint and chemicals. She lures Protector 1 inside, where it gets stuck for failing to find traction on the spilled paint and thinners. She tosses a flare into the store, igniting the chemicals and finally destroys Protector 1. As daylight appears, Allison leaves the store and Ferdy awakens. The two remain the only survivors.
In a post-credits scene, a fourth, unknown Protector says its catchphrase "Have a nice day" one last time.
== Cast ==
== Production ==
=== Writing ===
Julie Corman had a deal with Vestron to make a horror film that took place in a mall. Jim Wynorski agreed to write one cheaply if he could direct.
Wynorski wrote the script with Steve Mitchell, whom he had known since the 1970s, when they met at conventions for EC Comics, and became friends. They decided to do a "phantom of the mall"-type movie and Mitchell says it was Wynorski's idea to feature robots. Wynorski said he was inspired by the 1954 film Gog; he claims he never saw the 1973 TV film Trapped, which some believe inspired Chopping Mall.Mitchell says they wrote up the story in 24 hours and sent it to Julie Corman. Vestron gave their approval within a week despite lack of a script. The script took around four or five weeks to write.Wynorski says Roger Corman "was nothing but supportive from the get-go. He loved the idea."
=== Casting ===
Wynorski says Kelli Maroney was cast because "I had seen Kelli in a couple of things and I wanted to date her. So, I figured the one way to make that happen was to put her in a movie." She replaced Dana Kimmell, who had been cast on the strength of her performance in Lone Wolf McQuade but Dana did not want to do anything that was sexual," according to Mitchell. "So Jim was very quick to say, "Well, she’s out, let’s get Kelli," who was pretty much game for anything." Karrie Emerson also replaced someone else.The script was full of in-jokes, writing in characters from A Bucket of Blood and Eating Raoul. The writers got the actors from the respective films: Dick Miller, Mary Woronov, and Paul Bartel.
Mitchell wanted John Terlesky to play the hero, but Wynorski wanted Russell Todd. Terlesky played the part of Mike.Chopping Mall also acts as a debut film for Rodney Eastman, who later went on to star in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master.
=== Filming ===
Wynorski says Roger Corman took him out to lunch before making the film. He bought a yellow pad, "and after lunch he said this here is what you gotta do and he gave me film school in an hour. Everything I learned in film school didn't count, but what he said made a lot of sense and I still have that yellow pad and I live by it. I now have it memorized, many dos and don'ts."The film was written to be filmed at the Beverly Center Shopping Center, but they charged too much money, so the film was shot mostly at Sherman Oaks Galleria, where Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Commando had been filmed. The Beverly Center was used for some exteriors.Mitchell later recalls, "I think we both felt a pretty fair amount of pressure when we started shooting. It was Julie’s picture, but it was still Roger’s company, and he was the bottom line. We both very much wanted to make him happy." He says, "the specter of Roger loomed large for the first couple of days", but after the second or third night, Corman said they were doing a "very fine job". "So there was a collective sigh of relief on our part that we were making Roger happy, and that’s what really mattered," says Mitchell.Wynorski says that Bartel and Woronov ad-libbed the bulk of their parts.Mitchell estimates filming took 20 days at the Galleria and two days at Corman's studios.
=== Alternative versions ===
At least two different versions of the film exist. The TV cut has some extra footage, such as a small homage to Attack of the Crab Monsters, extended scenes of Ferdy and Allison watching TV, some aerial shots, and an extension of one of the Ferdy/Allison scenes. No official source offers this version.
On the DVD commentary tracks, Wynorski and Mitchell discussed many details of production, including an injury that the director suffered while helping prepare a stunt sequence, their unfriendly relationship with the Galleria's security chief (and friendly one with the mall's owner), the many beautiful women who were part of the cast, and ways that they dealt with having little time or money, yet finished their work on time.
== Release ==
Concorde Pictures released the film in limited theaters on March 21, 1986. It was known during production as Robots, then Killbots. Upon initial release as Killbots, the film did poorly at the box office. However, it fared better when it was re-released as Chopping Mall. The name Chopping Mall was a suggestion of a janitor.The film was released on VHS in the United States by the Vestron sublabel Lightning Video in 1986. Lionsgate released the film twice on DVD, once in 2004 (with special features including a featurette, commentary, still gallery, and trailer) and in 2012 as part of an 8-horror film DVD set. It was released for the first time on Blu-ray on September 27, 2016 as part of Lionsgate's new Vestron Video Collector's Series line.
Wynorski later said, the film "did okay when it was released in theaters. It got some okay reviews and did decent business, but it really found a life on VHS and cable. That’s when it really was embraced."
== Remake ==
In November 2011, Dry County Entertainment acquired the film rights and is planning a remake with a supernatural twist. The film will be produced and written by Kevin Bocarde and directed by Robert Hall. As of January 2021, nothing has materialized.
== References ==
== External links ==
Chopping Mall on IMDb
Chopping Mall at AllMovie
Chopping Mall at Rotten Tomatoes
Chopping Mall at the TCM Movie Database
Chopping Mall at the British Film Institute