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Chopping Mall – Collector’s Series (Blu-ray Review)

Chopping-MallLionsgate is exhuming classic horror films with a red carpet rollout this fall for the limited edition Vestron Video Collector’s Series. Hours of materials have been assembled for the Vestron Video Collector’s Series Blu-ray™ releases, starting with with Chopping Mall and Blood Diner, and continuing with Waxwork and Waxwork II: Lost in Time Double Feature, Return of the Living Dead 3, andC.H.U.D. II: Bud the CHUD, these re-releases are for the collector and horror fan alike and will be available for a limited amount of time.  Each limited-edition feature, transferred from the original film elements to high-definition Blu-ray™, is packed with special features including brand-new audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and interviews with cast & crew — including one with Chopping Mall’s robot!

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Film 

Teenagers trapped in a high-tech mall overnight must find a way out before three malfunctioning security robots destroy them in Chopping Mall.

If you’ll remember, this was one of those elusive titles on my “Blu-ray Wishlist” pieces (New edition coming this November, don’t worry).  There has been word forever that it was going to come to Blu-ray but it was failed attempt after failed attempt.  FINALLY, HERE I AM WRITING ABOUT FRIGGIN’ CHOPPING MALL THE BLU-RAY!  And hell, I’d have been happy with a bare bones release, but my god…this is excellent.  Lionsgate has done what Warner Bros (And other studios) should be doing…looking at the boutique labels and taking notes.  They’ve been sitting on a treasure trove of vintage horror they’ve collected over the years from absorbing old and gone studio catalogs, but doing nothing with them.  Well, now, they’re giving things a go.  And they’re going all in.  Tons of bonus features, using the original cover art, resurrecting the Vestron Video label and a brand new top notch restoration.

Okay, onto the movie, we’ll talk specs more below.  Yes, I gave it 5 damn stars!  This is one of the ultimate cult movies.  The film is Jim Wynorski’s best (and he has some good ones) and a midnight classic.  This is a film that not only fully realizes what it is, but its not super hokey and executes everything so well.  Its self aware in a sense for the audience, not every character in the film.  While the script and some of the details are super cheese and over the top or goofy, everyone in the film and the filmmaking takes it seriously and THAT’s why this all comes together and works so well.  You can go 2 ways with something like this.  In the hands of John Carpenter, this would have surpassed a B-level and been something of an Escape From New York or Big Trouble In Little China type prestige (Which is what he was so great at) or you can go the Wynorski route and turn it into a complete hoot.  Anything in between is going to wind up a failure and forgettable.

Chopping Mall also features quite a terrific cast of characters.  This group of youths have a wonderful chemistry with one another that makes the characters all feel real and genuine without looking and feeling like stereotypes and cliches of the times.  There’s a real sense of friendship, curiosity and comradery in the actors and it helps to propel the film.  Kelli Maroney is the final girl, and she’s brings her natural star quality and command with a character that doesn’t fit the mold of the character type.  She’s allowed to be a regular girl who also happens to know how to be a badass when the situation arises.  Another fun horror presence is Barbara Crampton, who gets a bit of thankless part but is fun to watch cheese through the film.  John Terlesky is the only person in the cast that really gives a typical Wynorski performance (re-teaming from Deathstalker II), but he excels at it. Plus, its a rouse as he is offed very early.

Effects in the film range from impressive to super cheesy.  There’s a great balance on it.  The Killbots themselves actually have aged very well for what the film wants to be.  They know are even more super B-level and silly and fun to watch.  Plenty of laser effects to go around as well.  Most notably, this film has a hell of a head explosion with the death of Suzee Slater.  Its not Scanners, but its definitely up there with Brian De Palma’s The Fury for top notch body explosions of all time.  The cast on the bonus features seems to have that come up as a topic of conversion constantly with the fans of the film.  There are also a lot of awesome practical effects with people burning and explosions within the mall.  Everything in this film seems to be hitting this magical level of coming together at the right place and the right time for the perfect result.

I love love love Chopping Mall if you couldn’t tell.  Its the perfect Drive-In, B-movie, Midnight Movie around from any era.  The film is also the finest in Wynorski.  Its not overly winky or overly sexed (though there are some nice de-clothed teens).  He’s a got a little bit of a harness and its for the better.  This movie has lived on while so many other films have been forgotten or fallen by the wayside.  You really can’t make this kind of film any more, and if they do, its usually not made as genuine as Chopping Mall is.  The best thing it brings around is that the movie is insanely fun, its moves really fast at a great pace, and features the highest level of B-movie goodness ever to grace the screen.

Chopping Mall 2

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail:  Chopping Mall’s Blu-ray debut comes with a new 4K scan of the film overseen and done by the director Jim Wynorski.  And, holy damn, this one looks outstanding.  This blows away any previous edition on DVD by a country mile.  Its safe to say, its hard to imagine Chopping Mall looking any better than this ever.  Its had its probably one shot at a high definition release and it nailed it.  Details are quite abundant, showing good clothing textures (seeing wrinkles), as well as damages to structures and even dirty mop water. 

Depth:  Good spacing and free-ness between people and environments.  Solid sense of spacing in foreground and background.  Movements are smooth and cinematic.

Black Levels:  Blacks are rich and deep.  They provide some excellent shading, never hiding too much detail in the dark reaches of the mall.  Details on black surfaces, dark hair colors and darker clothing still shine through quite well.

Color Reproduction:  With this new transfer, the films color palette may come out benefiting the best.  The 80s look and colors come through much more prominently and as they were than ever before.  There are great tints and tones including blues, reds, yellows and the like.  Lasers from the Killbots are the most vibrant part of this transfer.  Its got a pop but not bleeding out or being too much.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and maintain a consistent appearance throughout all 76 minutes of the film. Facial details like make-up texture, sweat beads, lip texture, dimples/forehead wrinkles and dried blood come through with great clarity in medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: There is a nice layer of grain left intact on the film as well as a couple cigarette burns marking a reel change.  Things have been expertly transferred and don’t seem to be tampered with, which is excellent.

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA

Subtitles: English SDH

Dynamics:  This mono track for Chopping Mall is true to its roots and sounds quite terrific in its Blu-ray debut.  The sound effects are well placed, layered and provide good depth in the mix.  Explosions, glass shattering and gunfire all sounds pretty good and deep here for a mono track. The score also sounds quite prominent and great.  Everything is blended in a way that they get their time to shine, but the vocals, score and foley/effects never step on one another’s toes.

Low Frequency Extension:  N/A

Surround Sound Presentation:  N/A

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is crisp with plenty of clarity and audible during any point of enhanced action in the feature.

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Extras 

Audio Commentary

  • With Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorksi, Actress Kelli Maroney, And Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell
  • With Historian/Authors/ Nathaniel Thompson and Ryan Turek
  • With Director/Co-Writer Jim Wynorski and Co-Writer/2nd Unit Director Steve Mitchell

Isolated Score Track By Chuck Cirino

Back To The Mall (HD, 26:29) – Jim Wynorski, Co-Writer Steve Mitchell and most all of the cast (Maroney, Crampton, Terlesky, Todd, Segal) gather to tell the story of Chopping Mall’s production and legacy.  A lot of this is led by the cast who have nothing but glowing, fun and really good memories of their work on the film.  Its a story that’s as engaging and fun as watching the film itself.

Chopping Chopping Mall (HD, 8:19) – The editor, along with Wynorski and Steve Mitchell discuss the editing process of the film as well as a lot of the different techniques used in the 1980s and how the filmmaking could be looser and require different styles.  The head explosion is given total credit for it’s success to the editing.

Talkin’ About…The Killbots (HD, 12:11) – The robot creator, Jim Wynorsi and the cast reflect on the film’s antagonists.  The inspiration, execution, design, construction and details of movements, powers and such are laid out.  This very much covers the same as the vintage featurette (on this disc), but its a little more modern with it and includes more talking heads.

Scoring Chopping Mall (HD, 11:04) – An Interview with composer Chuck Cirino.  He and Jim Wynorski talk the early demo version of the score and the references and influences in the music (Like some spaghetti western and Shogun nods).  Chuck was pretty much left alone for a month to compose it and both Wynorski and Steve Mitchell were floored at how perfect it was the first time they heard it.  Kelli Maroney even reflects on some of her favorite moments. Cirino even discusses the recent Mondo vinyl release of the score.

The Robot Speaks! Ten Questions With The Killbot (HD, 2:12) – Steve Mitchell asks a Killbot (voiced by Jim Wynorski) some questions about working on the film.  Some funny responses.

The Lost Scene (HD, 3:01) – Jim Wynorski & Steve Mitchell talk about a scene containing the Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov that was in the script but never shot.  It contains the script pages of the scene.

Army Of One (HD, 6:01) – Carl Samperi, one of the biggest fans of the film, talks about his love for the film while showing some of his collection.

Chopping Mall: Creating The Killbots (SD, 15:41) – A vintage featurette with the guy who created the designs for the robots, which started as a conversation at Hamburger Hamlet and wound up being a script called Killbots.  This goes over the inspirations for the look and the execution in constructing them. He’s a big Man From UNCLE fan and points out the Killbot homage and relation to the show.

Trailer (SD, :50) 

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Summary 

I have been waiting forever for Chopping Mall to come out on Blu-ray.  I almost chalked it up to a lost cause.  Then, when at a Night of the Comet screening I went to with Kelli Maroney, she said something about it, but I was weary.  Fortunately, this came to the ultimate fruition.  I never in a million years expected Chopping Mall’s Blu-ray release to be one of the best of the year, let alone one of the best vintage horror title releases EVER.  And from a major studio nonetheless.  The transfer is outstanding and the extras leave you with absolutely no questions or demands left from the film.  Its a PERFECT release.  Fans, Lionsgate has put together the effort for you based on your requests, its time to pony up and purchase this if you want to see more like it.  Bravo! Excellent job here!  Don’t miss this release.

Chopping-Mall-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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