Movie: "Popcorn"
Year: 1991
Rated: R
Genre: Horror
Directed by: Mark Herrier
Writing credits: Mitchell Smith, Alan Ormsby

Reviewer: Kitsa
Posted: 9/28/2010

Plot: Maggie, a film student (Jill Schoelen), is haunted by recurring dreams of a demonic hippie who calls himself "The Possessor". When the film department decides to revamp an old theater and put on an all-night horrorfest to raise funds, the students are stalked by an entity who may or may not be "The Possessor" come to life.

Review: My brother and I watched the almighty hell out of this movie in the early 90s, mainly because that's what kids did, hoard VHS tapes like the precious commodities they were. We thought the line "I look like a fucking Sno-Cone" was hilarious, for one thing.

Popcorn has it all, from an ensemble cast who all seem vaguely familiar to just about every stereotypical character you could want in a late 80s-early 90s horror film. That one chick from Summer School (Kelly Jo Minter) is in it, playing exactly the same chick she plays in Summer School. The mom from ET and Cujo (Dee Wallace) is in it. I used to think that the teacher with the man-perm and turtleneck was the same guy as the one in Jason Takes Manhattan, but was disappointed to find they just make them in a factory somewhere and that this was a completely different guy.

Maggie is a film student who has been haunted by some recurring dreams, all of which involve a strange, hippie-like man called The Possessor whose disembodied head stares at her from a dinner table. There are slow-mo pyrotechnics and a woman on a sacrificial altar calling, "Saraaaaaah!", but Maggie always snaps awake just before a little girl is stabbed with a ceremonial dagger. Because she thinks this is all inspiration for a great film, she recites every detail into her little cassette recorder and can't understand why her mom isn't as enthusiastic as she is.

Maggie goes to "The University of California at Oceanview" and it's well-known that there's little to no interest in filmmaking in California, so it's obvious that their tiny film department would be suffering for interest and funds. Fortunately, goofy classmate Toby (Tom Villard) has an idea: revamp an old cinema slated for demolition and put on an a horrorfest.

All of the movies they plan to show rely on William Castle-style gimmicks... the electrified seats, aroma-rama, a giant prop mosquito, and so on. The dusty old theater will need to be whipped into shape, but that's what wacky montages are for, right? And with a little help from the mysterious Dr. M (Ray Walston) and his trunkloads of vintage equipment, they're sure to "make a splash". Yes, they actually said that.

While cleaning, the students find and screen a mysterious reel called "Possessor", and Maggie realizes that the scary hippie in the film and her scary dream hippie are one and the same. She passes out, and when she's revived the man-permed prof (Tony Roberts) tells everyone about Lanyard Gates, a Manson-like filmmaker who murdered his whole family at a showing of the film.

Really, there aren't a lot of surprises here. The dialog is pretty clumsy and a lot of realizations are needlessly sledged into you. By this time you're already quite aware that this is all some repressed-memory thing and that Maggie is the girl about to be killed in the dream. You quickly realize that there's more to Toby than meets the eye and the only thing that remains is to see how the rest of it will be played out.

With the exception of Maggie and Toby, the characters aren't very fleshed-out or endearing, and you're left not really giving a rat's ass who lives or dies. As in many of these slashers, you're just waiting to be entertained by the inevitable death scenes. There's one that looks like it's right out of a primitive version of Saw, and the Fucking Sno-Cone meets what seems to be an entirely escapable (if somewhat pee-soaked) fate.

This movie tries something sort of slippery... making itself seem more sophisticated than it is. It's obviously a partial send-up to the campy 50s exploitation-style horror movies, but rather than its own dated & campy style being 100% deliberate (like Strange Invaders is), this seems less than intentional. You get the feeling that the director would say he was going for that if he were asked, though. (fun fact: Mark Herrier was "Billy" from Porky's, and the guy who did Freddy's Nightmares)

The most entertaining aspect of this movie is definitely the spoof 50s horror films at the screening. Watch Popcorn for those, if nothing else. Well, also watch it just because it's a stupid good time and it's a good little brain-nap of a movie.

Also, they need to mass-market Shock Clocks. ("When it screeeeeeeams, the feature beeeeeeeeams!")

Favorite Quotes:

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

"I look like a fucking Sno-cone."

"How come it's the film department that always gets shafted?"

Overall rating: WholeWholeWholeHalf
(Scored on a 0.5 - 5 pickles rating: 0.5 being the worst and 5 being the best)

Reader Comments

teacup of sunshine
Sep 29th, 2010, 10:12 AM
And, aha! Found it.

filthiest soap dish
Sep 29th, 2010, 01:52 PM
One of my favorite campy horror movies.
Sep 29th, 2010, 02:39 PM
Good fun it sounds like. I never saw this one, but it sounds right up my alley.
Sep 29th, 2010, 05:48 PM
A really fun send up. I should watch it again soon.
Cranberry Everything
Sep 29th, 2010, 09:49 PM
Excellent review, Kitsa! I wish they would just release the special edition DVD already. My VHS copy broke a long time ago.
teacup of sunshine
Sep 30th, 2010, 07:40 AM
From what I understand the people who own the rights have no interest in a re-release, but there's a writer who's campaigning for it. Thanks!
Oct 1st, 2010, 03:59 PM
I always love old campy movies like this.