Thursday, December 10, 2009

Popcorn (1991)


Written by Alan Ormsby
Directed by Mark Herrier

Maggie...Jill Schoelen
Toby...Tom Villard
Mr. Davis...Tony Roberts

A school-sponsored film club decides to host an All-Night Horror-A-Thon to raise awareness and funds. Charging ten bucks a head for such films as Mosquito, The Stench, and Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man, it looks like they're going to rake in quite a bit of cabbage. Each of these films was originally released to theaters with a William Castle-style gimmick ("the ballyhoo, the giveaways and the bullshit"): scratch-and-sniff cards, electrified seats, models of gigantic insects flying overhead, etc., and in order to make a splash, they're playing the movies with gimmicks in tact!

Now why can't any theaters around here have the cojones for a stunt like that?

But before the show can go on, the film club has to fix up the Dreamland Theater first. It's being torn down in three weeks, and looks like it hasn't been used in three decades. Luckily, this is (practically) the 1980s, and all it takes is two minutes and a Fixing-Things-Up-To-Cheesy-Music-Montage--the kind made famous in such films as Revenge of the Nerds.

While setting up for the show, they find an old film canister clearly marked "WARNING: DO NOT OPEN!", which, of course, they promptly open, slap in the projector and give a watch. It's kind of like a celluloid version of the video tape from The Ring--a slightly surrealistic amateur film showing a close-up of a mustachioed sleazeball whispering harshly, calling himself The Possessor, and inviting people into his head.

Ooh...spooky. They learn that the man onscreen is actually Lanyard Gates, a deceased cult leader who used to drop acid with his followers, make movies of themselves, and, you know...kill people. What it would have been like if Ken Kesey had seized control of the Manson Family.

Then comes the Big Night, and while the deaths are occurring bloodlessly onscreen, they're occurring slightly-more-bloodily off-screen, as some unknown maniac begins killing off members of the Film Club using the movie's gimmicks against them.

There's no use denying it: I love Popcorn, both the salty buttery snack and the cheesy throwback film. The clips of the movies-within-the-movie weren't real, but they very real could have been, and if I didn't know any better I'd be scouring Amazon right now in search of The Stench, and E-Bay in search of the original Scratch-and-Stench Card. Sure, you're not actually going to be scared while watching this movie; and, okay, it's painfully dated at times. But we horror fans tend to enjoy a little pain--we're sick pups, you and I. The special effects were pretty good (the makeup was supervised by Bob Clark), especially the prosthetic face masks seen towards the end.

There are a lot of fun pop-culture references throughout, and a couple of characters even debate the fact that Police Academy 5 is more important a film than anything in the entire Ingmar Bergman catalog. We do get quite an ugly and theatrical villain--what I imagine the Phantom of the Opera would be like if he was a homosexual Cenobite--, but unfortunately the soundtrack consists of cornball horror movie-themed rock songs and utterly terrible classic-style California ska music, including a completely out of place live performance!

Overall, it's an extremely uneven but pretty damned entertaining film that definitely has its audience. Are you among them?

Double-bill it with Matinee for back-to-back bijou hijinx!

View the trailer below!

Rated R
91 Minutes
United States

"This is the age of safe sex. And sex with you on any level is not safe."

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  1. I hated this movie. Slow moving and the kills were really lame. And the villain looks like Mayor McCheese.

  2. the Possessor...the Possessor...the Possessed...the Possessor...

    I unapologetically love this movie! I dream of running a theater like the Dreamland some day and incorporating Castle-style tricks and gags.

  3. Haha, sounds terrific! Ironically, I just posted a blog today about popcorn.. but the food, not the movie!

  4. I love this movie and applaud anyone giving it a shout-out! It's flawed, like kind of lame in fact, but I can't help holding a huge amount of affection for it.

  5. It always amazes me that this was made in 91, because it is deeply entrenched in 80s camp! I love it to death, and I forgive all of the terribler aspects of the film because of its awesome entertainment value as well.

  6. A Chris Hallock: Me too! There is a movie theatre that was built in the 30's about 40 minutes away from where I live and I always dreamed of owning it and doing just what you said. I finally got to tour it a few years back and it's just like something from a horror film, I loved it. Now if only I could become rich....I hate it when when a no-money blockade stands in the way of my dreams! ;P That being said, I also LOVE this film and could never watch it enough, it's one of my favorites!


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