Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 2: Chopping Mall (1986)
I was born in 1987, so any memories I think I have of the 1980s are likely false, or at the very least influenced by things I’ve seen on TV. However, having studied film for a number of years, I’ve come to the realization that the ’80s were perhaps the wildest age for movies. The debut of VHS (home video for the younger readers) led to a skyrocketing demand for new content, which studios and distributors rushed to meet by green-lighting films that may have otherwise never been made. Some people call this era of films the ‘cocaine days of Hollywood,’ and if you dive deep enough into the rabbit hole of movies made during that period that are still only available on VHS, if at all, it’s easy to understand why. Given the opportunity, I couldn’t help but feature one of these so-called ‘cult classics’ for this series.
Horror has a long history of horny teens meeting their fate at the hands of monsters, but there is only one such film where the monsters are a pack of mall security robots and it’s called Chopping Mall. An effort produced in part by the legendary Roger Corman, this often overlooked jewel of ’80s moviemaking defies nearly all logic in the best ways possible. The story, as teased above, focuses on a group of young adults who plan an after-hours party in a shopping mall furniture store where a few members of the group work. This same mall is currently testing a new line of robot security guards who stop thieves with lasers and sleep darts—which work great until a late-night lightning strike causes the computer controlling the machines to malfunction, turning them into deadly ‘killbots.’ Sex, violence (exploding heads!), and a whole lot of nonsense soon ensues, all leading up to the epic final showdown between man and machine that honestly has to be seen to be believed.
Chopping Mall is by no means a scary movie, but it deserves to be on this list more than some of the truly frightening tales that will come later in the month. Halloween is meant to be a celebration—generally considered to be ‘fun times’—and there is certainly no better time with friends and movies than those spent watching something so bad you enjoy every single frame (and not just because Barbara Crampton has a nude scene).
I first enjoyed Chopping Mall while it was being projected on the wall of a VFW hall on the outskirts of Kokomo, Indiana surrounded by complete strangers. I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but I remember falling in love as soon as the first robot appeared. It wasn’t the only cheesy film I had seen at the time, but it reaffirmed in me the belief that people really can do anything they put their minds to in life as long as they stay focused. A movie like Chopping Mall only gets made because someone had the idea to create a movie featuring killer mall robots and saw it through to the point of having a completed print distributed internationally. If this movie can get made, you can do whatever it is you secretly desire to do in life instead of holding down the (probably shitty) job that currently sucks away your youth one hour at a time.
If you’re looking for a great time this Halloween season, put on Chopping Mall and allow yourself to escape for 80 minutes. You won’t regret it.