Rad 1980s horror part 2: giggles and gore

The Slumber Party Massacre. Image courtesy Shudder
The Slumber Party Massacre. Image courtesy Shudder /
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1980s horror
Chopping Mall. Image courtesy Shudder /

The most recent 1980s horror film on this particular short list is 1988’s Child’s Play. Like The Evil Dead, the film’s sequels (there are currently 6, plus a reboot) went further and further in the field of comedy. The first installment plays out mostly as straight horror, but some of the snappy retorts of Chucky caused audience members to giggle.

Not only that, there is something just inherently funny about a cherubic-looking doll going full-on evil. Screenwriter Don Mancini claims to have been inspired by Cabbage Patch Kids dolls and the short film Amelia, which is the most acclaimed story in the tv movie Trilogy of Terror. Yes, it’s the story that features Karen Black and an evil Zuni fetish doll.

Mancini’s script was originally much darker, and included the plan for Chucky to be filled with fake blood. In an interview for Mental Floss magazine, Mancini said the idea was that “if you played too rough with him, his latex skin would break, and he’d bleed this red substance.”

The next 1980s horror film up for discussion is Chopping Mall, and with a title like that, it was destined to become a campy classic. I saw Chopping Mall as part of Shudder seriesThe Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs, and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

It was shot at Sherman Oaks Galleria, the same mall used for Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Commando, with filming taking about three weeks. Originally released under the title KillBots, it performed much better box office-wise as Chopping Mall. I had always kind of assumed it was a slasher flick, given the title.

The plotline is sparse, but effective: four couples party at a mall furniture store after-hours, but the fun ends when an electrical storm affects the three security robots, causing them to become homicidal. 80s sweetheart Kelli Maroney headlined the film, and writer/director Jim Wynorski said he partly cast her because he wanted to date her. Then again, nearly everyone in the 80s wanted to date her, thanks to her appearances in Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Night of the Comet.

Even for 1980s horror, the kills in Chopping Mall are creative and gory, particularly Suzie’s explosive death when she is shot by a robot while carrying a gas can. In 2011, a remake was announced, but there have been no further updates.

So, now we have talked about heavy 80s horror films and lighter fare. In our next installment of Rad 1980s horror, we will be talking about ghosts and the supernatural, so keep your eyes on 1428 Elm.

Next. Rad 1980s horror part 1: the dark and the gritty. dark

1428 Elm wants to know which 1980s comic/horror mashups are your favorites, tell us all about it in the comments section.