Plot: What’s it about?
I love cult films. Blu-Ray format has recently seen a great resurgence of cult films due to distributors like Shout Factory, Arrow Video, and Vinegar Syndrome. The truth is that these guys are all doing a great job of conserving films that have debatable artistic merit. Personally, I can’t get enough of it and have become a bit obsessive about these unique boutique distribution labels. That is why I was very excited to hear that Lionsgate was going to be restoring films from the old Vestron label. Vestron essentially was straight to video filmmaking. Titles include Chopping Mall, Blood Diner, and Return of the Living Dead 3. I was amped when I received my first film to check out, Chopping Mall.
Chopping Mall revolves around a new security system that has been installed at the Park Plaza mall. To try to help keep the mall secure they have installed some robots that are designed to keep the mall safe and cut down on petty theft. It’s unfortunate for the staff of the mall, who all just want to party, that the electrical storm has affected the robots turning them into malicious killbots. The teens that are left in the mall after closing must band together to defeat the evil robot menace.
Obviously, this movie is stupid as hell. Luckily, the film seems in on the joke reveling in the stupidity that occurs on screen, making this apparent by a cameo from Eating Raoul’s Paul and Mary Bland in the first five minutes of the film. It is a horror film that could not possibly scare anybody, because the chances of robots attacking you in real life are pretty slim. It is a sex comedy where two of the lead characters are nerds (as indicated by one main character wearing big eyeglasses. Think Corey Haim in Lucas.) Like most comedy/horror films in the eighties, it is light-hearted and ridiculous, and manages to feel innocent even with all the nudity and deaths by robot. It just seems like a simpler time (probably because with Russia and Reagan with fingers on the red button, people wanted some true escapism.) This was a simpler time when America went to the mall to purchase guns and gasoline and mattresses, from what I can tell. Absent from the film are any original thoughts or attempts to solve any great social problems, and it works to its advantage.
If you like cult movies, and like them to be from the Eighties, this one will fit more in line with what Arrow Video has been releasing. It’s merits are absolutely debatable. That said, if this type of movie is up your alley, I don’t think that Chopping Mall will disappoint you at all. I was laughing like an idiot pretty much the whole movie, which is only 76 minutes long. The killbots have lasers, and they mean business. I can’t wait to show this to my friends.
Video: How’s it look?
Lionsgate and Vestron did a good job on the transfer of the film using an MPEG 4 AVC codec of a new 2K restoration. The transfer looks good overall, with some scenes suffering from softness or drops in focus. This is similar in look and feel to the Arrow transfer on Society. It may not win any awards, but I appreciate all the due diligence from Vestron and Lionsgate. I hope that this represents the work they will be doing in the future, because this is a very good sign.
Audio: How’s it sound?
The audio treatment of chopping Mall was pretty good. Vestron has presented a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track that may not blow any systems away, but fidelity to the source material is very good. The hilarious synthesizer score by Chuck Cirino is great and the lazer sound effects make for a fun time. I had no problem with this track, as the dialogue was clear throughout the whole film. That said, don’t expect much in the way of immersion.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Audio Commentaries:
- Director Jim Wynorski, actress Kelli Maroney, co-writer Steve Mitchell – a new commentary specifically for this release.
- Jim Wynorski and Steve Mitchell – an informative track with the co-writers/directors
- Authors Nathaniel Thompson and Ryan Turek – this is a really fun track with the guys from Momdo and Shock Till You Drop.
- Isolated Score Track by Chuck Cirino
- Back to the Mall (HD, 26:29) – interviews with all of the main players on the filmfrom the directors and writers to all the actors. This piece is pretty solid. Obviously, they enjoyed making the film because almost all of them sat down to be interviewed.
- Chopping Chopping Mall – A Converstaion with Editor Leslie Rosenthal (HD, 8:19) – a quick fun chat with the editor. Best part is the discussion of the amazing head explosion scene.
- The Killbots – with robot creator Robot Smith (HD, 12,:11) – a fun piece on how the killbots came to exist.
- The Robot Speaks! -(HD, 2:12)- Ten Questions for the Killbot – Pretty stupid.
- The Lost Scene (HD, 3:01) – the writers/co-directors describe the one scene that they had meant to film. It involves the Bland characters from Eating Raoul.
- Army of One (HD, 6:01) – A Visit with Chopping Mall’s Biggest Fan Carl Sampieri – he discusses why he loves it so much, and what he has collected from the film, including a working robot from the film.
- Chopping Mall– Creating The Killbots –(HD, 15:41) – an archival piece on the creation of the film.
- ‘Scoring Chopping Mall– a conversation with composer Chuck Cirino (HD, 11:04) – a really enjoyable conversation with the composer behind the goofy electro score for the film.
- Trailer – (HD, :50) – pretty funny.
The Bottom Line
Chopping Mall is good campy kitsch that doesn’t for a second take itself too seriously. It is truly a work of escapism, with no worries about reality whatsoever. At the end of the day, if you are considering this purchase, and you know who you are, then you should probably just go ahead and buy it. It looks and sounds the best it will probably ever look and sound. Lionsgate and Vestron have included some fun and informative special features on top of a very competent transfer. If you are not sure about the Vestron titles, most of them are available on budget DVDs in 4-packs with other Vestron titles. This is a solid way to rent the films prior to a purchase of the super cool Blu-Rays.