Exactly one billion years ago today, a group of settlers had an early dinner with the Wampanoag Native American tribe before playing an unsettling game of touch football in their back yard. They then went to the local merchant to stand in line for many hours in hopes of purchasing an item for slightly less than what it will cost the following day, thus completely justifying the enormous emotional distress of doing so.
Today we honor this tradition by having a dinner with friends and family to celebrate the unification of mankind before going to the mall and doing the exact opposite of that. But hey, it could be weirder. For example, the following:
10. The Most Twisted Dating Show Ever in Mallrats
It’s a shining moment of Jason Lee’s career as best friends Brodie and Quint sneak onto a cheesy mall game show designed to exploit to nostalgia of The Dating Game. Once the show starts, Brodie proceeds to completely hijack the festivities with a combination of profanity, scorn toward his fellow contestants, and elaborate stories about masturbation. Then, as if to top it all off, he plays a sex tape between the director of Argo and an underage girl… All in front of a live audience.
Mallrats is an interesting film to watch – the result of then up-and-coming director Kevin Smith being especially susceptible to studio influences; while still hilarious, it definitely hasn’t aged as well as his other films. It’s weird to think that for this film, Jason Mewes actually had to audition for the role of Jay.
9. The Forest Ridge Mall Flasher in Observe and Report
This film is not unlike Jaws. Really. Seth Rogen would be Brody, who becomes personally invested in hunting down the shark when it almost gets his little boy, or in the case of this film, flashes a girl that he likes. Ray Liotta, the police Detective who challenges Rogen’s authority, would be the mayor. Jesse Plemons’ character would be Hooper… or maybe Quint… I guess the analogy breaks down after that… the point is, the film closes when Rogen finally gets his man, and by ‘gets’ I mean shoots inappropriately in the middle of a mall. Just like in Jaws.
This film was freaking dark, and I think it threw a lot of people off. The reviews were mixed, even ranging in the realm of offense. I think the problem was that it just wasn’t something we’re used to, especially for Rogen. It was funny, but in a very cynical way, the kind of funny you have to be in the mood for. One imagines that it’s a good breakup film.
8. The Ending Fight Scene in Police Story
Imagine you’re at the mall. You’re miserable, tired, broke… you just want to get your shopping done and get the hell out of there. But of course, you can’t do that. Why? Because you can’t stop watching this dude Kung Fu all over the place like a freak. How could you even think to stop watching something like that? Maybe in the world of Police Story this stuff happens all the time, but the closest thing I’ve seen to Jackie Chan Kung Fu fighting in real life involved two Soft Slugger bats, a trampoline, and a bottle of scotch.
So since this is Chan we’re talking about here, of course he nearly died like forty times while making this thing. The one burst of insanity that stands out has to be in this scene, where he slides like three stories down a pole covered in Christmas lights into a glass kiosk. Naturally, he managed to suffer second-degree burns and a dislocation of his pelvis while performing the stunt.
Someday it will come out that Chan has an honest to god mental disorder that causes nihilistic behavior and we’re all gonna feel like jerks.
7. Escalator Car Crash in Crank
A film like Crank doesn’t come around very often, mainly because it’s ridiculous. That said – it was a Jason Statham film begging to be made. His surly rage coupled with a proclivity toward borderline slapstick stunts makes him the perfect subject to be spoofed. Not to mention his character’s nonchalant approach to lunacy as he casually tears through a mall while talking on the phone with his doctor. Not since The Last Action Hero has there been an action star playing such a perfectly amplified version of himself.
You either love every second of this film or you can’t stand it, there’s not much room in between. The reason is that there are details to this film that are well, horribly offensive. For example, the women in this film are, at best, treated as objects. But that’s kind of the joke of the film, and you’ve either seen enough bad action films to appreciate it or you haven’t. No matter what, we can all agree that Amy Smart is crazy awesome.
6. That Scene in The Blue Brothers
Thanks to this movie I can never just drive through the inside of a mall without getting Otis Redding stuck in my head. Seriously, I dare anyone out there to plow through a JCPenney and not think of that song – it’s impossible.
Fun fact about the Dixie Square Mall, which was the location for this chase: it has the most depressing history of any mall ever in the world. I guess that wasn’t really a ‘fun’ fact, but still, it’s kind of interesting. The place ran for 12 years before being shut down due to heavy crime, so much so that in the final two years alone they spent a million dollars just on mall security. After they shot the film it was pretty much abandoned, occasionally being used for various horrific crimes until it was finally demolished in January of this year.
So going back to the film, in terms of losing the cops on Lower Wacker Drive in Chicago it’s pretty much just these guys and Batman, right? I’m willing to bet that the Caped Crusader had Redding on loop when he was busting through that building on his bat-bike.
5. Giant Damn Spiders in Eight Legged Freaks
It’s time to get into the sphere of impossibility, starting with radioactively enlarged spiders. And no, in case you are wondering, I am not sorry.
Despite the title, Eight Legged Freaks isn’t actually about an octet of bipedal sideshow acts but is rather a quaint tale of oversized man-eating arachnids. The beauty of giant spider films is this: no matter if it’s Earth Vs. The Spider, Tarantula, The Amazing Spider-Man, or The Giant Spider Invasion – there’s a pretty consistent presence of sucking. No one goes into a giant spider film and thinks, “Man, they really don’t make these like they used to.” This is why Eight Legged Freaks excels. It knows its disadvantage and it embraces it head on. As to whether or not it achieves what is was out to do is another question altogether.
As for this list, giant spiders freaking out on pitchfork and chainsaw wielding locals is pretty high on the crazy when it comes to shopping center activities. So let’s give credit where credit is due.
4. Robot Gun Fight in Terminator 2
This is the weirdest normal-looking thing on the list. On the outside it’s just two emotionally repressed guys fighting over a small child, something that happens all the time at the mall. However on the inside, robots from the future deciding the very fate of mankind via close quarters combat. It’s the pinnacle of human ridiculousness when the axis of our very existence takes place four stores down from a Family Dollar.
What I want to know more than anything else in the world is just how awkward it was when The Terminator got those flowers. Can you imagine that? Some giant shotgun-wielding man in leather looking to procure a box of roses? He probably stole them, which makes it even more awkward. Picture some poor bastard being reprimanded by his manager for not going after the guy who stole the flowers.
3. Unprecedented Time Travel in Back To The Future
Almost certain that when Eli Whitney threw together the cotton gin, it wasn’t in front of a JCPenney at one in the morning. Of course the cotton gin didn’t need to go 88mph to work, and was made in the 19th century leading to the growth of slavery in the U.S. – so I guess the comparison is a little off. But hell Doc, couldn’t you find an airplane strip or something? Man, this should have been a Wright Brothers analogy from the start.
Then again, perhaps I’m not thinking fourth-dimensionally. Marty did end up in a kind of safe place when he made it to 1955. Then again, Doc was originally planning to head to the future, wasn’t he? So come to think of it, while there is no real safe place to time travel forward in time, if you want to guarantee an accident the best place to do it is an already populated area. Like a shopping mall. I’m starting to think that this Doc fellow is kind of insane.
2. Even More Unprecedented Time Travel in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure
Not to sound cynical, but it takes a massive amount of naiveté to put some of the most complex minds from history in a shopping mall and not expect anything short of a mass suicide. Again, not trying to be difficult here, but had Joan of Arc actually witnessed 90s aerobics she probably would have broken down in tears. Then again, I might just be projecting. Realistically speaking they’d probably all just spend hours staring at the escalator.
You have to admire Bill and Ted’s ‘screw it’ approach to time travel. They take some of the most historically significant people they can think of, people who changed the world, and risk their life in the interest of school credit. Not to mention that they expose these people to modern times in the absolute weirdest context. Napoleon is gonna be going around telling his friends that the future filled with lubricated tubes and slack-mouthed vested caricatures fingering the air like brain-damaged clowns. It’s the kind of stuff that would make a person second-guess human progress.
1. Zombies, Obviously, in Dawn Of The Dead
We’re a society that takes zombies for granted. At this point the idea of a corpse being reanimated and hungering for the flesh of the living is a little mundane, even passé. We even act like we’re somehow prepared, as if our own family might start snapping their teeth at us and it’ll be no big deal. The truth is that in terms of one-on-one, we’ll probably end up dead. Not because zombies are hard to kill, but because the average person wouldn’t be able to do what is necessary.
What we always forget about zombie films is that for the most part, they are set in a world that isn’t already saturated with zombie lore. When you take that into consideration the whole ordeal becomes extremely surreal. We expect zombies to walk the mall, but in their world it’s not really a thing they’ve prepared themselves to see.
Then again, it would actually be weirder if zombies existed in the world we know, because that would make it a rather huge coincidence that something we’ve invented in fiction just happened to become a non-fictional thing.
It would be like finding out that aliens looked exactly like ALF.
And so, on the subject of zombie hoards walking the mall at all hours and the eating of flesh, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving and a stress-free Black Friday. Above all else, I truly and deeply hope you have the day off from work, because that would blow otherwise.