WARNING: THIS BLOG CONTAINS BODYCOUNT. HIGH RISK OF SPOILERS. ENTER IF YOU DARE.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Saturday Night at The Movies!: Popcorn (1991)

Popcorn (1991) (AKA "Phantom of The Cinema")
rating:****1/2
starring: Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard and Dee Wallace

15 years ago, Director and Producer Lanyard Gates finished a film called The Possessor, which was almost lost in a fire that engulfed the theater where it was being screened. Gate's body was never found and the movie remained lost.

Until now.

Maggie (The Stepfather's Jill Schoelen) attends a film school were, as a project, she along with her classmates and professor decided to do a B-Movie Horrorthon featuring movies that used gimmicks such as 3D, Shock-o-rama and Odor-Vision, in, by luck, the same theatre Gates worked on during his filming of The Possessor. It's was a college project they all can enjoy until a horribly burnt figure starts to take the identity of Maggie's friends and killing them one by one. Could it be that Gates had escaped his southern fried fate?

With plot holes everywhere and a low (actual) bodycount, Popcorn should have been a disastrous movie. Its box office bombed, with the movie ending up being tossed from one discount theatre to the next, barely making any recognition.

Still, for us slasher fans, we see something else that we learned to like and appreciate; for starters, Popcorn knew how to handle its characters as, while being a horror film, you can tell there's a lighthearted feel to them to the point they are chummy, in good terms with everyone though there were animosities between some, making them such a strong and likable cast. Though the individual characterizations might weak per se (and so might be some the actor's performances), they're the tolerable corniness that reminisces of the 80s stereotype, making Popcorn a film that sparks nostalgia of our favorite decade.

Other lighthearted moments include an 80s inspired montage of our gang happily preparing the theater, a reggae band that plays a bad yet catchy pop song during a momentary black out and, as of the B-Movie element, snippets of 50s B-movies played from time to time!

Next, the story; it may be bombarded with holes but there's enough thrills, eerie moments and an estranged situations to keep a fan glued to the screen. Some references to the Italian Gialli were used such as black gloves, the use of mannequins to distract victims,the fancy colored lighting and trippy imagery. The kills, while indeed are little in count and very tame, makes up for it with the tension they build and their bizarre nature. Where else can you find death-by-poisoned stink bomb? Or a man impaled on a giant mosquito prop? 

The climax also features a clever twist on the identity of the killer and his connection to the Gates' fire incident, giving the villain a personality and a motive that is similar to Wes Craven's Scream. The killer's habit of putting face masks may not sound like a new idea, but it got a neat twist on it; instead of a mask of pure flesh or paper-mache, our killer creates a realistic latex masks that resemble Maggie's friends and uses it to lure his victims. While no Scooby-Doo style unmasking happened here, we did got a good look on the killer's real face and it ain't pretty!


Lastly, and perhaps Popcorn's strongest point, was that it took us for a good stroll back further into memory lane with the snazzy gimmicks used to promote or made to make a film from the 50s unique and fun. Popcorn is kinda like that, a gimmick that shows off like a love letter to those decades of dangling skeletons, multiple endings and electro-buzzers on seats, were you could have fun and be your greasy, horror obsessed self. Even with it's modest budget, you got to hand to the movie's resourcefulness for props (That Shock-Clock. I want one, NAO!)to give it a big-budget look.

Shock Clock! Everybody wants it!
A few years before the witty, self-satire of Scream, Popcorn made a good run at that and, while flawed, still managed to be entertaining and fun. It may suffer from the 90s disease of tame kills and teenage angst, but it's enthusiastic plotting, solid cast, and a homage to the 50s horror era, you can't go wrong with a viewing of this cult classic.

Bodycount:
1 male sucked dry by giant mosquito (film)
1 male impaled by giant mosquito prop
1 female strangled with rope
5 males electrocuted (film)
1 female suicide, electrocutes herself (film)
1 paraplegic male electrocuted in a makeshift electric chair out of his own wheelchair
1 female stabbed with knife (flashback)
1 male shot (flashback)
1 male inhaled poison gas
1 male impaled on giant mosquito prop
total: 7/ 14 with film deaths

6 comments:

  1. long ago since I last saw this. No perfect movie but pretty entertaining and highly inventive.
    Great review, Kai!

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    1. Makes me wanna sing reggae that night! XDD haha! glad you think so, too, mate! cheers!

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    1. Thank you, but It's a proto-type. Just checking if it looks good! ;)

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  3. I used to see this movie on cable a lot in mid-90s. Guess I should give it another watch since I don't remember the movie being this fun.

    I, as well, like the new banner.

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    1. oh guys, please don't like the new banner ^^; it's a prototype. I might take it down!

      eitherways, I think you should see it again. It's a silly slasher, but it's very entertaining!

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