In the 1970s and 1980s, shopping malls were popping up all over America, and it was only a matter of time before they became a favoured setting for horror films – where better to plunge a knife into the heart of American consumerism and idyllic suburban life? It wasn’t long before malls in the movies were crawling with supermarket creeps, rabid shoppers running amok, and masked psychos in the ventilation system, plotting to burn the shoppers’ paradises to the ground!
To celebrate the release of the ultimate mall horror, the cult 80s slasher PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC’S REVENGE, on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video (featuring three versions of the film, a book and a poster), here are 8 more mall-based chillers featuring everything from security robots running amok to Christmas shopping trips ending in complete and utter chaos.
Canadian horror maestro David Cronenberg sets an outbreak of rabies in humans in the Cavendish Mall in Quebec, where shoppers hoping to shelter from the cold and do a bit of Christmas browsing in peace are confronted by a drooling rabid-infected businessman. Thankfully the guards have machine guns. Sadly Santa is in the line of fire.
BLUE SUNSHINE (1977)
Jeff Lieberman’s superbly unsettling cult classic tells the tale of a group of friends suffering the long-delayed after-effects of a bad batch acid called Blue Sunshine, that they took in college in the 1960s. Hair starts to fall out, psychotic episodes and murder follow. One of the group (who dealt the deadly acid at college) is running for governor, and, at a rally in a shopping centre, let’s just say, the behaviour of his bodyguard (a former heavy user of Blue Sunshine) in the shopping mall discotheque isn’t exactly going to win his boss more votes.
DAWN OF THE DEAD (1978)
Perhaps the most famous, and effective, use of a mall in a horror movie is in George Romero’s 1970s zombie classic, where a group hole-up in an enormous shopping centre to escape the zombie outbreak. As well as providing a sardonic commentary on the idea of the consumer being turned into a listless zombie, staggering around a plethora of shops in a daze while listening to bland muzak, the mall itself (filmed at night at the Monroeville Mall in Pennsylvania) proves a fantastic location for our heroes to do battle the flesh-eating hordes: zombies, you see, aren’t too hot on using escalators and can be neatly trapped behind glass security doors – Our Special Edition 4K review is here!
Cronenberg again, and the opening scene of his superb sci-fi horror takes place in a mall in Montreal that has a cool futuristic vibe, where lead actor Stephen Lack is lurking around the food court, and takes issue with a couple of ladies commenting on his dishevelled appearance. As a result he inadvertently gives away his powerful ‘scanning’ abilities. Sadly, the mall itself has since been demolished, but scanners still walk among us!
BODY DOUBLE (1984)
The exclusive Rodeo Collection mall in Beverly Hills provides the setting for a key scene in Brian De Palma’s infamous psycho chiller. Craig Wasson plays an out-of-work actor who becomes obsessed with a beautiful neighbour he’s been spying on, who lives across the way from the home he is house-sitting. One day he follows her to the glitzy shopping mall where, it has to be said, he is rather too interested in her purchases – someone call security.
THE INITIATION (1984)
In this 1980s slasher favourite, Daphne Zuniga takes part in a sorority initiation that involves breaking into her father’s shopping centre to steal the night watchman’s uniform. So far, so fun, except, someone starts picking off the pledges using various items from a sporting goods store – a knife, a crossbow, a harpoon gun – which goes to show that you can get just anything at the mall, including murdered!
NIGHT OF THE COMET (1984)
It’s the end of the world, around Christmas time, with humanity facing extinction as Earth passes through the tail of a comet. The day after, a pair of lucky survivors soon realise they will need to prepare themselves to survive against the people who have been turned into zombies. Where’s the best place to tool up with weaponry and supplies? That’s right, the nearby shopping mall… but they hadn’t bargained on some zombie stock boys waiting to take inventory.
CHOPPING MALL (1986)
Where shopping costs you an arm and a leg! When some employees decide to have a late night party at the Park Plaza Mall, they don’t reckon on the Secure-tronics security system going on the blink, and the new state-of-the-art Protector security droids turning murderous. The ‘killbots’ aim to get this party ended: malls are for shopping, not hi-jinks.
PHANTOM OF THE MALL: ERIC’S REVENGE (1989)
High school sweethearts Eric and Melody’s romance is cut tragically short when Eric apparently dies in a fire that engulfs his family home. A year later, and Melody is trying to move on with her life, taking a job at the brand new Midwood Mall. But the mall, which stands on the very site of Eric’s former home, has an uninvited guest – a shadowy, scarred figure which haunts its air ducts and subterranean passageways, hellbent on exacting vengeance on the mall’s crooked developers. Uh-oh!