Ah, Halloween …

It’s that time of year again, kids. This week I delved into my DVD library to recommend some of the horror movies that I consider classic horror movies, starring my all-time favorite actor, Dick Miller (1928-2019). Check out the man’s resume on Wikipedia or IMDB, he has genre credits for days and always hosted the movie or TV show he was working on.

(Read in your best “Valley Girl” voice) Omygod, guys, “Chopping Mall” AKA “Killbots” by Jim Wynorksi (Concorde Pictures, 1986, 76-95 min.) Is, like, so 80s. a definitive example of horror in a “Spam in a Box” location and an archetypal model in the “Mall Horror” subgenre. Chic California mall upgrades its security system with three robotic security bots that just bypassed and posted on the night a group of callous youngsters host a night of sex and booze in the furniture store from the mall. (The images of the interior of the mall were shot at the Sherman Oaks Galleria, also seen in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” The exteriors were shot at the Beverly Center.)

I was thinking what I said about the movie which was so 80s. “Chopping Mall” doesn’t have one but two legendary 80s scream queens: Kelli Maroney (“Night of the Comet”) and Barbara Crampton (“Re-Animator”). The cast includes Gerrit Graham (“Phantom of Heaven”) in a cameo as a technician, Paul Bartel and Mary Woronov reprise their roles as Paul and Mary Bland from “Eating Raoul” at the start of the picture, and the joint stock company Roger Corman players Mel Welles (“Little Shop of Horrors”) and Dick Miller play respectively a cook and a security guard. Filled with gender riffs, violence and nudity, “Chopping Mall” will have you wanting to head to the nearest food court for a slice of pizza and a soda.

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In “Chopping Mall”, Dick Miller’s security guard is called Walter Paisley, a nod to one of his first leading roles in Roger Corman’s horror comedy “A Bucket of Blood” ( American International Pictures-Alta Vista Productions, 1959, 65 min.). Hilarious black comedy set in the beatnik scene of Los Angeles, the film stars Miller as single bus boy Walter Paisley.

Walter wants to be a sculptor, but doesn’t have the talent. He accidentally kills his landlady’s cat and covers the kitten with clay to cover up the crime. “Dead Cat” is causing a sensation at the cafe where Walter works, and now he needs corpses to fill his wallet.

Shot by Corman in five days, “A Bucket of Blood” manages to parody the pretentious arthouse crowd while hitting all the rhythms of horror films. Miller gives a surprisingly sweet and sad ride – with over 180 credits under his belt, it’s his best performance. The cast includes future game show host Bert Convy as an undercover cop who has a bad ending, Julian Burton as a pompous poet and Ed Nelson and John Brinkley as two mad beatnik bums who are still on the outskirts of the city. action, a hilarious Rosencrantz and the Guildenstern duo.

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Dick Miller plays the wacky next door neighbor Murray Futterman in 1984’s “Gremlins”, but for my money he’s even better and funnier in the sequel, “Gremlins 2: The New Batch” (Warner Bros.-Amblin, 1990, 108 min.). The Joe Dante follow-up is a much more lawless, “Hellzapoppin” version of the concept, with the little devils taking control of a “smart building” run by John Glover, a Trump-style media mogul who is much nicer than Trump. The film ruthlessly pokes fun at its predecessor and the notion of sequels in general, and features comedic turns inspired by series regulars Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, alongside guest stars Robert Picardo, Robert Prosky, Kathleen Freeman and Christopher Lee as a scientist working at the local gene splicing lab.

RIP James Bond (“No time to die”)


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