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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, June 8, 2018

Popcorn (1991)

By the early ‘90s the slasher genre was getting tired and had run its course. But there are still a few worth mentioning that trickled out towards the end. Popcorn is one of those and had some potential based solely on who was involved. Bob Clark is an uncredited producer and Alan Ormsby (frequent collaborator with Clark) was the original director. Though he was replaced, and the movie was finished by actor Mark Herrier who was in Clark’s movie Porky’s. Obviously, something was going wrong to replace the director, but the movie still turned out pretty well.

Maggie wants to make movies so her reaction to having the same bad dream over and over is to write them down and use them in a potential script. While this is happening the film department at her college decides to hold an all-night horror marathon at a theater that is about to close. The only way they can get butts in the seats is to use the William Castle like gimmicks to draw a crowd in. So off they go to setup the props and clean up the theater. You know what that means don’t you? Yeah, we get a sweet montage!

Here is where things get nuts. Maggie’s Mom isn’t her birthmother since we find out that Maggie’s father and real mother died in a theater fire when her Dad tried to kill them both on stage as part of a performance for his latest movie. Mom is actually Maggie’s aunt and managed to stop him from killing her. She gets a call and she thinks it must be Maggie’s father, Lanyard Gates, so she heads to the theater to stop him from finishing the job and killing Maggie. I guess his body was never found. Anyway, she gets grabbed and things move back to the students and movie marathon. We see them sell tickets, use a rubber mosquito, and several other gimmicks. But all the while there is a killer stalking the theater. We get a couple kills and then the killer is revealed. Was it who we the audience expected it to be? Is it ever?

There is both good and bad to be had with Popcorn. I’ll start with the good. I like the identity of the killer as it is a twist I don’t remember seeing in other slasher movies. The killer gets a lot of dialogue and drops a few funny lines all while being sort of sympathetic. There is even a scene where the killer stops because of a conversation that happens and leaves not being able to kill someone. While crazy the killer is torn about what they are doing. That might not make sense but I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers.

I like the effects from the "fake" movies better 
The gimmicks for the fake movies they are showing were fun to see, as were the clips they filmed and cut into Popcorn. You have giant Mosquitos, an electrical killer, and a stinky something. All have their own gimmick right out of the William Castle playbook. Weaving this into the story made for some fun nostalgic moments.

Now we get to the bad. There are only four kills in the movie! The only slasher that has less is April Fool’s Day and you know why that is. Those four kills are all really tame and hardly have any blood at all. I understand that at this point the MPAA was cutting the hell out of horror films, but you could still get away with more than is here. The design of the killer is decent, but most of the time the makeup work is “hidden” by different masks. Again, without giving anything away I have a hard time suspending disbelief that anyone would be fooled by it.

I really want to love Popcorn. A slasher movie set at a horror movie marathon sounds amazing. While they do the hard stuff with the plot, characters, and fake movies well they fail the most basic thing. They skimp out on the gore. There isn’t a single memorable kill in the entire movie! It has moments but overall is sort of mediocre. I wouldn’t spend a lot of money on it, but if you can rent it or catch it on a streaming source it is worth a look.

© Copyright 2018 John Shatzer

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