Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Be Kind, Rewind: The VHS Reviews ~ Popcorn (1991)

"Buy A Bag, Go Home In A Box."

Synopsis: Maggie (Jill Schoelen, "The Stepfather", "Cutting Class") has been having nightmares of a guru-looking man with a sacrificial knife chasing a little girl named Sarah. She doesn't seem that disturbed by the recurring nightmares as she thinks that they are unconscious inspiration for a possible film idea. She is one of the members of a fledgling film program at UC Oceanview taught by Professor Davis (Tony Roberts, "Amityville 3-D") who is eager to make a splash with the department so they won’t keep getting shafted in terms of budget, space, and resources. Class obsessive film nerd Toby (Tom Villard, "Parasite", "One Crazy Summer") comes up with the idea to have a horror film marathon featuring the triple feature MOSQUITO (in 3D), THE STENCH (in Arom-O-Rama) and THE ELECTRIFIED MAN (in Shock-O-Rama) with all of the original 1950's gimmicks included. With the help of film memorabilia collector Dr. Mnesyne (Ray Walston, "My Favorite Martian"), the group renovate the abandoned and soon to be demolished Dreamland Theater for the show. While setting up the gimmicks (a giant mosquito to fly above the audience, electrified audience seats, odors to be piped through the vents), the group find a reel of film marked “Do Not Open.” They run the reel and it is revealed to be an experimental film called “Possessor” featuring the imagery from Maggie’s dream and she faints. When she comes to, Professor Davis tells her that the film was made by a man named Lanyard Yates who had a film cult in the 70's where they took drugs and made avant-garde films. When his film was laughed off the stage, Yates responded with a follow-up called "Possessor", the final scene of which was the onstage murder of his family and torching of the theatre with the patrons locked in. Of course, his body was never found. When Maggie mentions Yates to her mother (Dee Wallace-Stone, "E.T.", "Cujo"), she tries to convince Maggie to drop out of the show and take a trip with her, but Maggie says that she can’t escape from something that’s in her mind. Later that night, her mother receives a mysterious phone call from someone claiming to be Yates who tells her to meet him at the theater. She goes and gets nabbed in the dark after the requisite voices, backlit silhouettes, and appearance of Yates on the theater screen. The next night at the show, Maggie thinks she sees Yates while taking tickets. As she searches the theatre for him with the help of her skeptical jock boyfriend Mark (Derek Rydall, "Phantom of the Mall: Eric's Revenge", "Night Visitor") and an equally skeptical Toby, someone starts bumping off the professor and students and taking on their identities (it is revealed that the killer has a secret hideout where he can make moulds of peoples faces).

My Thoughts: Sure this is a completely by-the-book slasher movie, but when everything's done the right way that could make for a really fun horror flick. Let's talk about everything they did right. The lead actress (or 'final girl') ...they chose the amazing Jill Schoelen, one of my all-time favorite scream queens. She gets a 10/10, no doubt. The setting ...a horror flick in an old movie theatre, what's better than that? Exactly, so 10/10. The 3 made-up 1950's movies (or 'stinkers') that they had playing at the theatre were hilarious, again 10/10. The music also worked perfectly, especially the reggae song they used during the theatre renovation montage. Well, at least a 9/10. Of course, the movie does have a few flaws. It's pretty cheesy at times and a lot of the acting isn't the greatest, but like I mentioned before when it's done right somehow it works ...and besides, it's a horror movie.

Oh, I almost forgot. The title ...Popcorn. It's perfect too. You're not gonna find a better example of a 'popcorn movie' than this one. This film definitely brings back good memories of seeing it on the big screen. Remember, this was made at a time when the slasher film was considered a dead genre, so for a movie as fun as Popcorn to come out and get a wide release at theatres was pretty rare.

My Rating: 8.5 / 10

This movie was actually released on DVD by Elite Entertainment in 2001, but is out-of-print and comes with a hefty $108 price tag on ($44 for a used copy). Fortunately, there may be some hope for you Popcorn fans out there. Video Nasty productions is in the process of filming a documentary with some of the original cast members (click on the photo above). The plan is to include their documentary on Popcorn’s re-released DVD. Besides the movie and documentary, this “ultimate fan edition” DVD will come with a cast commentary, a collector’s booklet and a poster. It was set to be released on March 23, 2012. I think they might be having some money problems, but hopefully it works out. Go to for more info.

…For now, if the $44 DVD is too steep, you can always watch it on Netflix instant or pick up a used VHS copy for 5 bucks. Hey, it’s better than nothin’.

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