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Black Friday Flicks: 5 Favorite Mall Movies

Posted by Scott Kearnan  November 29, 2013 02:57 PM

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Attention, Black Friday shoppers: go home.

No, seriously. What are you doing? It's the day after Thanksgiving. You should be enjoying a fabulous food coma with leftovers in the company of loved ones, not lining up like cattle to the slaughter for 10 percent off a cartload of gifts that your family would, frankly, probably trade in a heartbeat for a chance to spend a day off together. Besides, do you really want to be one more person encouraging a culture where stuff like this goes down, only to head home and post some hypocritical status message on your Facebook decrying "the commercialization of Christmas"? No, no you don't.

So get your mall fix the good old-fashioned way: Netflix.

There are a surprising number of films that take place (almost) entirely in the setting of the all-American shopping center. My suggestion: pull on your fat pants, prepare for a Round Two battle with green bean casserole and tryptophan, and skip the shopping spree in favor of a "classic" (I use the term incredibly loosely) mall-set flick from the '70s, '80s, '90s or '00s. Bonus: no buyer's remorse.

Dawn of the Dead (1978)

The different installments of writer/director George A. Romero's Living Dead series (which kicked off with 1968's classic Night of...) have been analyzed by many — including but not exclusively totally stoned film majors — as critiques of various aspects of American society. Honestly, you don't need a PhD or a bong to get the allegory in this installment, where a small, ragtag group of survivors attempt to stave off Zombie Armageddon by taking refuge in a shopping mall. If you're interested in a super academic take that includes phrases like "commodity fetishism," check this out. Otherwise, here's the abstract: it's a movie about hordes of empty-headed shells of humanity ambling through a mall and mindlessly devouring everything and everyone in their path. Happy Black Friday!

Chopping Mall (1986)

And now for something completely different stupid. In this Reagan era explosion of awfulness-slash-awesomeness, several horny couples decide to stay overnight in the furniture store where they all work. (Because: beer and firm mattresses.) Unfortunately, the newly installed super-duper high-tech mall security robots, which I wish looked exactly like this, decide to short circuit (REFERENCE) and go on a killing spree. Wacky! There are crunchy bangs and '80s-rific laser beams aplenty. And while Chopping Mall kinda flopped in theaters, it was part of a wave of mid-80s horror/sci-fi flicks that helped trail blaze the still-burgeoning home video market as fertile ground for the creation of successful cult hits. So it's sort of a seminal title, for those of us with extremely questionable taste in cheese.

Mannequin (1987)

Speaking of cheese, there aren't enough crackers in the world to accompany my love for this movie. I was obsessed with it as a kid — obsessed. And I still have, somewhere in my parents' attic, an early elementary school writing assignment that is basically my attempt at inserting myself into the narrative of what was every young boy's dream: discovering that the super-hot mannequin in the store window is actually the reincarnated spirit of an Egyptian princess, who comes to life after the mall closes and maybe, if you're lucky, will give you a little touch over in the bikini department. Magical. Kim Cattrall is expectedly foxy, Andrew McCarthy is typically adorable, and Meshach Taylor, as flamboyant window decorator Hollywood, is played by the movie for queeny laughs while still being treated lovingly, which was sort of progressive for '87. Also, five words: "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." Fist pump.

Mallrats (1995)

Poor Mallrats. Writer/director Kevin Smith (who appears, as he usually does in his films, as the Silent Bob half of his stoner "Jay & Silent Bob" characters) was bound to disappoint in the follow-up to his indie breakout Clerks. The success of that (overpraised) flick set Smith up as some sort moviemaking messiah for a certain strain of Generation X: chain smoking, philosophizing and politicizing, Boston Phoenix reading, Alternative Nation watching, flannel and Doc Martens wearing video game and comic book nerds. (Praise.) He could have filmed the resurrection of Kurt Cobain and it still would have let some people down. But by featuring a cast of mainstream friendly, brightly scrubbed notables looking to cash in on Smith's Cool Factor association (oh hai, Shannen Doherty) Mallrats wound up striking many as a "sell-out" move. Of course, in a way, that was kind of its self-reflexive point: what happens when you give cinema's scrappy, darling "It Guy" of angst-y slackers access to real stars and a Hollywood-level budget? (Mallrats was made for Universal Studios for $6 million. Smith self-financed Clerks off credit cards for about $27,000.) He totally blows the Establishment's money, of course, flipping them off by turning in a useless movie about nothing. Which in retrospect, sorta makes it everything.

Paul Blart: Mall Cop (2009)

I'm not going to go so far as to say that I endorse watching Mall Cop. You can pretty much rest assured that any movie starring Kevin James is not going to be Oscar caliber. But I feel obliged to add this flick to this list since it was filmed locally at Burlington Mall. And if you're really reaching for entertainment, it might (might) be worth sitting through this story, about a hapless mall security officer who has to foil a heist/hostage crisis, for the fleeting joy of pointing and yelling, "That's my favorite Cinnabon!" The greatest thrills in life are free.

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About this blog

Scott Kearnan (@thewritestuffSK) is a Boston-based writer, editor, and communications consultant focusing on lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment. He's also a part-time smart aleck and buffalo wing connoisseur. "Media Remix" is where couch potatoes meet pop culture criticism. More »

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