Another Barbara Crampton ‘80s horror classic comes out on Blu-ray today. Chopping Mall was a movie she made in 1986 after Re-Animator. Actually, it was first called Killbots, because it is about a trio of security robots who hunt teenagers who stayed after hours in the mall to party. After Killbots bombed, they retitled it Chopping Mall.
The Blu-ray features new interviews with Crampton and costars Kelli Maroney, Jon Terlesky, Russell Todd and Nick Segal, plus director Jim Wynorski and screenwriter Steve Mitchell. Maroney and Wynorski also record a commentary track. Crampton was happy to participate in the interviews. “I was all for it from the very beginning,” she said. “I said, ‘Whatever you guys need, just let me know. I’ll be down there. I’ll do whatever you need me to do.’ I just appreciate that the fans have loved this movie for so long and stayed with us that I wanted to do whatever I could for the fans.”
I got my own personal interview with Crampton, who I’ve now known for five years since You’re Next premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. I even met Maroney at one of her parties. So Crampton spoke with me about Chopping Mall and her upcoming projects. Chopping Mall is out on Blu-ray today.
Did you become lifelong friends with Kelli Maroney from Chopping Mall?
Yeah, I think anybody who follows me on social media knows that she and I are really good friends. That’s one way I get to keep in touch with her. For some reason, while we worked on that movie, we just clicked immediately and became really good friends. She’s a friend I count on to this day as being one of my lifelong best friends. So I got a few things out of that movie. I got a cult hit and I got one of my best friends.
Did you ever keep in touch with Karrie Emerson and Suzee Slater? On the Blu-ray they say they tried to get hem but they seem to have disappeared.
You know, I’m friends with Karrie Emerson on Facebook. I hadn’t seen her in many years and I did see her at our 30th reunion that was at the Egyptian about a year ago or so. She hasn’t been acting for many years. In today’s world, it is hard to keep in touch with people. There are so many things pulling you here and there but I had a really nice conversation with her when I saw her. I think they’re really focused on their family but she’s as beautiful as ever and as nice as ever. She was married at the time we made the movie. We were all in our early 20s and that was pretty interesting. She was the first woman I’d worked with who was my age that was married. She’s still married to the same man after all this time.
Was Suzee at the Egyptian screening?
She wasn’t. I don’t know what happened to her. I have no idea where she is. I think she was the only one we had missing because pretty much everybody came to that screening. In fact, it was Nick Segal and Kerrie Emerson we weren’t sure if they were going to show up. I messaged both of them on Facebook and I think they showed up without us even knowing they were going to be there. So that was cool. I hadn’t seen Nick Segal in 30 years. I don’t believe he’s acting anymore either. He’s in some sort of financial business and he did real estate for a while. So it was really great to see him. He brought his fiance, he’s engaged and so it was really a fun get together and group. Of course it’s always great to see Jim Wynorski. I just adore him. He’s the funniest character on the planet. It was a great evening all around. We had a very large crowd. I was surprised. That’s a big theater.
What did you think when they changed the title from Killbots to Chopping Mall?
I thought it was really dumb. [Laughs] At the time. Because nobody got chopped in the movie. We got lasered. It didn’t make sense to me that they called it Chopping Mall. What is that? They came up with that title because they thought it would sell better and it was a better marketing tool. Looking back, they were right because the title Chopping Mall is very catchy. They knew what they were doing but at the time I thought it was the dumbest thing ever.
I know you were busy working but did you have any fun after hours in the Sherman Oaks Galleria?
You would think making a teen sex comedy that there would be some shenanigans going on, but there was nothing. Everybody was just having fun. We all were very friendly on the set. The whole setup for the movie was that we’re a bunch of late teens in one of the parents’ furniture stores having a party. How fun is that? But the reality was that we were just acting as if we were having a party. We were all together and it was really fun experience. It was my first initiation into night shooting. I didn’t realize that we were going to be shooting at night. Even though the movie took place at night and it was a mall, it hadn’t dawned on me until they gave me my call sheet on the first day. “Oh, your call is 6PM.” I was like, “6PM? What does that mean?”
It hadn’t occurred to me that they couldn’t shut down the mall. We had to shoot it in the middle of the night because that’s what we were doing in the story as well and the mall had to go on. People had to buy their socks and underwear and T-shirts and things, and their ammo I guess. They have the gun store there. So that was fun and interesting, doing a night shoot and staying up all night and I didn’t really know how to sleep during the day. So I think during that movie, I didn’t sleep very much at all for the three weeks or so that we shot. I remember bringing my pillow and blanket and just curling up in a corner in between my scenes and just trying to rest as much as possible. We were all on adrenaline and having a great time, so it was all wonderful. It was a wonderful experience.
Did you have to run a little slower because the robots weren’t that fast?
Exactly. They weren’t so we had to act terrified of them but they were actually kind of cute. So yes, we had to run slower and just move in ways that appeared as if we were terrified and running from them but in fact, yeah, they didn’t move very fast at all.
Do you remember humming “Stranger in Paradise?”
Oh yeah. That was a fun moment. It’s kind of silly. That’s kind of a silly song to pick for a young girl but it’s public domain I believe so they picked that one.
Do you remember crawling through the vents?
Yeah, and I’m trying to think where we did that. I wonder if we did that on a soundstage or where they set that up because obviously that wasn’t real in the mall. I don’t know if we set that up in the mall, if they brought that in and built that. I don’t remember actually even being on a soundstage. That would be a good question for Jim. You know, those vents in reality are a lo smaller but in movies they’re always pretty big, right?
Yes, like Die Hard.
Was it a man in a wig who did your fire stunt?
I don’t know if it was a man or a woman. That was a pretty good stunt. Did it seem like it was a woman or a man?
Well, a stunt person.
Any stunt person, yeah. That’s probably on the credits but that was a really good stunt, very exciting to see that. Unfortunately, that’s how Kane Hodder was burned on one of his first stunt performances as someone that was burned. I think that’s a pretty tricky thing to pull off, being burned. You can only do that for a few seconds before they have to cool you down. That was a great looking stunt.
When you look back at these horror movies you did in the ‘80s, do you see a little kid?
Yeah, I definitely feel like I look a lot different now than I did then. The funny thing is, growing up I never thought that I was attractive at all. I never thought I was thin enough or cute enough. Working on that movie specifically, I remember thinking Karrie Emerson was one of the most beautiful women I’d ever seen. She had the perfect hair, she was thin, she was just gorgeous. She had a beautiful smile and I thought oh, if only I could look like her, my life would be perfect. Now I look back at my young self and I think okay, she wasn’t as bad looking as I thought. [Laughs]
You’re in another movie coming out in October called Little Sister. Do you have a big role in that?
I don’t. I have a supporting role in that. The main actors in that are Addison Timlin and Ally Sheedy. Addison Timlin’s character is a nun who is about to take her vows and she’s wondering if she should do it. She comes from sort of a troubled background. She grew up as a goth teenager. Her parents are partiers and her mother’s an alcoholic . They both do drugs and smoke a lot of pot. She’s trying to reconcile her past and connecting it to her future, trying to grow up and seeing if she’ s taking the right path.
So I play the Reverend Mother of the convent. I’m advising her. She asks me if she can go home to see her family and I tell her she only has a few days to do that. So she has to figure her life out in a few days. The story is about her coming to terms with herself so that she can actually move on with her own life. There’s some wonderful performances in the movie, not the least of which is her, Addison Timlin. She’s amazing as the goth teenager trying to find herself. I’ve never seen Ally Sheedy in a better role. She’s amazing in the movie as the mother who’s been carrying a lot of demons her whole life, and the choices that she makes in her life are quite different than Addison Timlin’s character. So you see that juxtaposed. It’s a nice movie. It’s a Halloween movie because it takes place around Halloween but it’s not scary at all. It’s really a family drama and a very nice, really beautifully told story.
They’re calling Death House the Expendables of horror. Is that more of a classic horror role with lots of screaming?
Oh definitely. Actually, the person who first coined that phrase “The Expendables of Horror,” it was actually “The Expendables of Terror,” was my agent Mike Eisenstadt. It was his original idea maybe six years ago to do a movie with a lot of horror movie notables, and a lot of his clients because he has a lot of clients because he has a lot of clients who are in the movie.
Gunnar Hansen was his client as well and he went to Gunnar Hansen and said, “Can you write me an outline for Death House? This is the basic story.” It was a one or two line premise. “And I want to be able to use a lot of my actors.” One of the first people that he wanted to use was me, so I’ve been with the project for five or six years. I’ve known about it for a long time, so Gunnar wrote the outline, then wrote a treatment. He did a first pass at the script. They had a few different money people involved and a couple of different directors. They found Harrison [Smith] because Dee Wallace is also Mike’s client. Dee and Harrison have worked together and she introduced Mike to Harrison. Then he just fell in love with the project, took the reigns and rewrote the rewritten script, added a few more characters and made it what it is today. Then we started filming about nine months ago now.
So “The Expendables of Horror,” the term has morphed into that. “The Expendables of Horror” I guess was more catchy, like Chopping Mall was more catchy. But it’s a new story. Nobody’s playing their parts that they’re known for or famous for in various movies. Everyone’s playing a different character.
Right, just like The Expendables were new characters.
But it’s funny because some people think, “Is Kane Hodder playing Jason? Is Barbara Crampton playing some character from Re-Animator?” No, we’re not playing any of the roles that we’re known for.
Are you producing a movie too?
I hope The Wildness gets off the ground. We’re supposed to start shooting that in February. Evan Dickson wrote it and we brought that to Bron Studios so it’s in development with them. We have a director and we’re supposed to start shooting in February. I loved the script so much that I really wanted to help Evan find a home for it. That was the most important thing for me from the very beginning because I just thought it was an excellent script. I’m happy to not have a part in it.
What is The Wildness about?
Oh, it’s about a ne’er do well ski instructor who moves to Aspen, CO and there’s a werewolf outbreak. He has to save the town. It’s a cross between The Big Lebowski and The Lost Boys. It’s very funny and a little bit dark.