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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

RETURN OF THE KILLBOTS!

There was something gently pleasing about the news that Chopping Mall (aka Killbots) had been digitally restored for a new theatrical run. I'd heard that it was making the rounds, screening recently at Cinefamily in Los Angeles, but it seems as if director Jim Wynorski and crew have more ambitious plans for the movie, hoping to get it back in theatres.


I suspect that my first experience with the movie is common across the cult that surrounds it. First seeing it on cable back in the 80s, I do remember it being a fairly cheap affair. And I was mystified by the movie's title: Chopping Mall suggested a cheerfully low-rent slasher, but the threat facing our teenaged cast in the mall of the title were a trio of berserk, laser-bearing robots. Was the title an attempt to cash in on the then-waning vogue for slasher movies? And yet my memories are pleasant, recalling the movie being better than a run-of-the-mill 80s horror flick. It plays differently than its ilk, with the really not-too-threatening robots releasing some surprisingly gory carnage against the movie's better-realized-than-usual characters. Final girl duties are fulfilled here by Kelli Maroney who, between this and Night of the Comet deserved a more prominent scream queen career than I think she wound up having. Maroney leads a game cast, which boasts a few cult favorites, including Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel (those two got around in the 80s) and veteran character actor and fan favorite Dick Miller.

As seriously as we take our mission here to help you find new and fun things to watch online, this blogger remains a devotee of the theatrical experience. In today's digital age it's a real joy to see a forgotten favorite up on screen in even a beaten-up 35mm film print. So it's weirdly even MORE pleasing when a movie like Chopping Mall is resurrected in a new digital print. The advent and forced adoption of digital cinema has almost completely changed the cinematic landscape, with the change in format from 35mm to DCP threatening to standardize what we see in theatres (not to mention the smaller theatres unable to make the transition and thus being forced to close). So for a movie like Chopping Mall, a decades-old low budget oddity with a small but devoted cult, to be resurrected in this digital format seems like a welcome obscene gesture against the forces that would suppress such cinematic weirdness. I can't help but think that it is a nice offering for the smaller independents that have weathered this change and remained devoted to oddball, less mainstream fare (from California's cult stalwarts like the Roxie and Cinefamily, to the recently reopened Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM). And I recall that Chopping Mall is not the only movie to be so re-released, from the 1981 object of cult weirdness The Visitor to the 3-D noir gem Inferno.

Yes, it's likely that these movies, freshly digitized, will wind up on line eventually, but if you have the option to see them theatrically why wait? Why would you even want to wait? I'm delighted that these and other cult  movies are crawling across the rep theatres of the world, like crazed killbots ready to attack the unwary. Come join me in the line of fire.


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