Senior HTF Member
- Jul 11, 2003
- Real Name
- Michael Elliott
Studio: Lions Gate
Film Length: 77 minutes
Aspect Ratio: Open Matte (1.33:1)
Audio: Dolby Digital Stereo
Retail Price: $19.95
California always gets the newest cool items first and that’s the case when the Park City Mall gets three new robots that are state of the art security guards that can stop anyone in their tracks. These new robots are being made to keep criminals out of the mall and make shoppers feel more secure. These new gadgets seem to be doing their job just fine until one night an electrical storm hits their breakers and the robots loose focus of their job. Instead of killing the bad guys they instead go after anyone they see. Fortunately for the robots and the viewer, eight teenagers (all played by actors in their late 20’s/early 30’s) are in the mall and become the targets.
Director Jim Wynorski is a director I really love because, like Roger Corman, he can take no-budget films and make them watchable. Also like Corman, Wynorski is a fan of those old horror movies and that’s some added charm when you see all sorts of homage throughout his movies. Chopping Mall was his second feature film but other cult favorites followed with the underrated Sorority House Massacre 2, Not of this Earth and the all-time masterpiece Big Bad Mama 2. All of these films have a strong cult following and that also rings true with Chopping Mall, which started out as a joke to teen splatter films but ended up years ahead of its time (if you consider Robocop was released a few years later).
If you haven’t heard or seen any of the above movies then I doubt you’re going to find any charm in this type of film. However, that’s why I love being a fan of the horror genre because we can find the charm and charisma in films that have no budget, feature bad actors and a screenplay that seems to have been written by chimps. Chopping Mall is certainly nothing great because it really doesn’t feature anything great but it’s still very entertaining because you can tell the filmmakers were having fun. Face it, they were just trying to make a fun movie and they weren’t trying to create the next Citizen Kane like most directors even though they have no talent whatsoever.
What’s good about this movie you ask? Well, I’m not exactly sure but perhaps it has something to do with the cheapness running through it. The special effects are very bad clones of Star Wars and this here adds some laughs for the viewer. The effects were so badly done in some scenes that the lasers actually hit the actors yet they don’t fall dead because it wasn’t written in the script that way. Take a look at the scene where the three girls are cornered by one of the robots. There are several shots here where these lasers hit one of the girls yet she isn’t effected by it. Another added charm comes from Roger Corman’s advice that a film like this needs at least three naked girls. Well, we get three naked girls and who doesn’t enjoy looking at three naked girls?
The biggest highlight to the film is one victim getting their head blown off with a laser. Again, who doesn’t want to see a screaming head get blown off? Those who don’t enjoy this type of thing will certainly hate this movie with a passion but those who do get it should have a blast. There are several problems keeping this from being a great bad film and one of them is the running time, which is a mere 77-minutes. Even with that short running time things get stalled out, especially the final twenty-minutes that go on and on. However, Roger Corman veterans like Mel Welles and Dick Miller show up so that’s just another reason to check out the film.
VIDEO---I’m sure you fellas are happy to finally have this title on DVD but there’s some bad news and some more bad news so we’ll start with the bad news first. This film is shown Open Matte (1.33:1) when it should be shown at least 1.85:1. There are many instances where you can tell there’s way too much headroom. Even in the commentary the director brings up the fact that there are many goofs that appear at the top of the screen, which were meant to be matted off. Why Lions Gate would give this a special edition and not deliver a widescreen print is beyond me but….I don’t see this getting another release so I’d have a hard time telling you not to buy the disc because of this issue.
Now, the second bad news might make you reconsider your purchase. The print used for this DVD was taken from the out of print Lightening Video label. How do I know this? If you watch through the end credits, when the film is over the old address to write Lightening Video is still there so I guess Lions Gate forgot to cut this off. At least they didn’t let the tape run until the end. The actual picture quality is very bad and I think this is the first VHS I’ve seen in many years. Seriously folks, watch this thing and you’ll be thankful for what has happened on this wonderful format. All the colors are faded beyond belief. The reds look more pinkish and it’s even hard to tell that the mall used was the same used in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Skin tones are drastically off the mark and the overall transfer is very fuzzy. Take a look at the beginning of the film when a kid with an ice-cream cone gets on an elevator. The scene has five or six scratches where it appears Freddy got a hold of the film print.
AUDIO---The Dolby Digital Stereo track hasn’t been cleaned up either but it isn’t too bad, albeit VHS quality. The track is free of any hiss, scratches or cuts but at the same time there are a few video dropouts, which might require you to adjust the volume while watching. There’s certainly no range to the track, although some of the sound effects come off sounding pretty good.
EXTRAS---Up first is an audio commentary with director Wynorski and co-writer Steve Mitchell. This is a very entertaining track from start to finish, although there’s a bit too much ass-slapping throughout the thing. The two men are constantly talking and I honestly can’t think of a single quiet moment. Everything from pre-production to post-production is talked about as well as the original ideas for the film, which was your basic slasher film. There’s also a lot of talk about Roger Corman and the films he made that influenced this one. There’s a small making of featurette that takes a look at the making of the robots. This here is rather boring and I must admit I didn’t make it all the way through the short running time. Rounding out the extras are is a small photo gallery as well as (gasp) a theatrical trailer. Strange to see a theatrical trailer on this considering Lions Gate has dropped them from most new releases.
OVERALL---If you’re a fan of the director then you’ll certainly want to add this film to your collection. I personally prefer some of his other works but this one here had enough charm and enough nice homage to make it worth viewing. Lions Gate has created this “20th Anniversary Edition”, although it’s actually only eighteen-years-old. The video quality is quite horrid even though they credit it as “newly remastered”. The Stereo track is good for what it is but the commentary is the main reason to buy this. Outside the extras you can really just hold onto your videos.
Release Date: August 17, 2004