Cult Movies

Wicked Wednesday Halloween Edition: Chopping Mall (1986)


This week I am taking a break from watching Wisconsin movies because it’s Halloween week and I deserve a treat (and a break). I’m celebrating the most wonderful time of the year with the 1986 slasher Chopping Mall. Last night I attended the Prince Charles Cinema’s monthly quiz, Filmageddeon. It was a horror-themed quiz in which I provided 95% of the correct answers for my team. But one of them I didn’t know was the poster for this little gem. Enraged by my own ignorance, I decided to sort my shit out today.

I asked myself How has this movie with such a fantastic title evaded my knowledge for so long? Well, it turns out it hasn’t. About fifteen minutes in to watching the movie I realised I had seen the damn thing before and it only existed in the dark recesses of my mind. The death scenes in this film (also known as Killbots) are some of the more instantly recognisable in the heavily-saturated 80’s slasher genre. But alas, this movie was obviously one worth revisiting.

Chopping Mall begins with how any teen slasher should start: a press conference! This movie barely clocks in over an hour, and a good portion of the beginning is this strange robot-pitch in a movie where clearly every minute matters. Or maybe it doesn’t. The robots that are subject to the scintillating discussion are the new security system at the shopping mall. Suck it, mall cops.

This was the 80’s, where apparently everyone lived at the mall in a sort of uber-consumerist society filled with vapid teens. I wasn’t born yet, but that is what the movies tell me. The teens in this one are not any better than you’d expect them to be. Of the four couples, I think three are just xeroxes of each other and another is, of course, the slightly-nerdy virginal pair named Ferdy and Alison. These are the only two worth mentioning because we all know that they are the only two have any chance in hell for surviving.

These kids are planning on staying after mall closing hours to party. Because, you know, the 80’s! Of course things are destined not to go smoothly once lightning strikes the mall, causing the computer system for the robots to malfunction switching their program to a much deadlier setting. Unbeknownst to the teens, the robots are slowly taking out the people in charge of them. That’s what happens when power goes to your head, right?

While the couples get laid in furniture beds, one of the robots continues on its killing spree by killing a janitor via animated electrocution (strangely enough, played by Dick Miller). Clearly these are just some cchoppingdickold-blooded killers because robot gives no fucks before hunting down the next victim. Before long, the teens ultimately become the prey. In some massive oversight (either by the movie or just the idiotic characters that were written), the robots were originally meant to attack anyone in the mall after hours who don’t present an identification card. Clearly bad things would happen to these idiots whether or not the robots had their boards on the fritz.

After watching one of their friend’s heads explode, the remaining three couples barricade themselves in a room where the immediate first idea is to split up. Little girls escape via air vent and boys take care of business with the power of guns! Instead of just listening to the boys, the girls panic and leave the air duct in search of the males. This is obviously a bad choice, but it just has to pay off in excellent death scenes, so who cares?

One of the other bland ladies takes a fall. Her idiotic boyfriend decides to seek revenge instead of them all just getting the hell out of the stupid mall. But there are plenty of bullets to fire at the robots, which are about as helpful as taking out Michael Myer’s eyes. Though eventually, the inevitable happens are we are left with the two heroes of the story, and they are both hell bent on taking down the computer that controls the robots. Poor Alison gets herself into all sorts of shenanigans like getting covered in tarantulas and fun with primer reducer.

The two go through hell together, but at least they can still have a laugh together, right?

Chopping Mall plays out like any typical 80’s slasher movie, but it’s still plenty of fun. The strength is hands-down the outrageous plot of the movie. It’s clearly a sill movie that never tries to take itself too seriously. The death scenes are fantastic and totally satisfying. Even the dialogue is pretty off-beat. I rather enjoyed (apparently) revisiting the Chopping Mall.  Oh and one last thing? The music in this is fucking mint.


“Thank you, and have a nice day.”

Basket Case: some Belial to love


“So. What’s in the basket?”

They say the bonds of siblings is one that runs deep. Twins even more so. Conjoined sisters Daisy and Violet Hilton spent their entire lives together building a career of entertainment despite physically abuse from their managers. Even in their decline, they had each other. But what if that bond was somehow broken? The 1982 film Basket Case explores that possibility in the sickest, most twisted, most hilarious way possible.

It can be difficult to imagine a New York that was dark and dirty – one not totally saturated with “fashion bloggers” and vegan restaurants. Henenlotter said he was inspired by the film by walking around the seedy Time Square. The New York that small-town Duane Bradley (Kevin van Hentenryck) arrives in is dingy and filled with people from the underbelly, including a rather friendly hooker (Beverly Bonner). He checks in at a hotel carrying only a large wicker basket.

In the mysterious basket is (SURPRISE) the other Bradley brother, Duane’s former Siamese twin brother who was severed from from him at an early age. Belial is deformed, looking rather like a tumor. He has long pointed teeth and what appears to be a hunchback (though there isn’t much of him as he is mostly built from the shoulders up). The puppet is absolutely grim to watch. The film’s small budget of $35,000 doesn’t promise high special effects and it certainly doesn’t deliver any.

While the brotherly love runs strong, it turns out that Belial is a killer and Duane is (usually) his accomplice. To be fair, anyone named Belial is doomed from birth whether they’re a misshapen blob of skin or not. The two have set out together to avenge… well, themselves (their separation has clearly left more than physically scars) against the doctors that separated them against their will years ago. Their plot for revenge is even made easier by their telepathic connection to one another.

Director Frank Henenlotter has been said that he would rather be considered an “exploitation” director instead of horror. Nothing about Basket Case would even suggest otherwise. The film is exploitative. There is one scene in particular that stands out – a scene where Belial attemps to rape a woman. The telepathic connection between the brothers leads to one mind-fuck of a scene.

Basket Case existed in a world newly embracing the VHS. A place where cult films really got going outside of the midnight showing. 1982 was snuggled between a successful string of 80s slasher films that were going to take over the cinemas for the remainder of the decade. The feel of this film is in some way similar as the deaths are bloody and over the top, but the death scenes are also very reminiscent of Italian horror (the colour of the blood is almost Argento in feeling).

In the end, Basket Case delivers what it promises on the packaging: it’s sick, full of nudity and excessive violence. At times it is a big difficult to swallow the jokes, but there really isn’t anything like it. Watch it, if you can stomach it.