Thursday, September 20, 2007

Popcorn (1991)

Horror lite, to say the least, but not a bad way to spend an evening, even if one expects the worst at first since the movie has the gall to start with one of those great scriptwriting mistakes: a (bad) dream sequence.
The script is credited to "Ted Hackett" but was actually written by Alan Ormsby, the man behind three superior trash-classics of early 70s horror: Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things (1973 / trailer), Deranged (74) and Dead of Night (72 / trailer). Ormsby was also the initial director of the film, only to be replaced by the actor Mark Herrier; Herrier hasn't been very active as either an actor or director since then, but probably not due alone to this movie, his first and as of yet last job as a feature film director.
Popcorn has enough bad aspects to it that is should be a painful to watch, including under-used talent (cult-actor Dee Wallace-Stone and Woody Allen regular Tony Roberts), extremely bad acting (in particular the hero Mark [Derek Rydall, who has also fallen off the face of the earth] and heroine Maggie [one-time scream-queen Jill Schoelen, who has since smartly retired into marriage]), no real gore or T&A and a thin plot with mostly flat jokes. But if the movie itself really isn't all that good, what saves Popcorn more than anything else are the entertaining films-within-the-film which punctuate the narrative: Mosquito, The Stench and Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man. (One can't help but wonder if the guys who wrote Tibor Takiács’s Mosquito Man [2005] ever saw this film.) Without them Popcorn would play like a substandard episode of some third-rate television horror movie.
The plot involves a group of film students who organize a retro-night of bad films and who, on that said night, are bumped off one-by-one in the style of the William-Castle-like gimmicks employed in the tacky films being screened. Could it be that the crazed, deceased "avant-garde" filmmaker Lanyard Gates has come back from the dead to complete his unfinished film The Possessor? Or is there some other, equally implausible reason behind the chain of events?
The film's logic is impeccably bad from start to finish and plot holes abound, but there are a few nice moments aside from just the three entertaining burlesques of bad 50s film. This includes a hilarious and whiny tirade from the killer during which he keeps switching faces, a slightly icky scene involving a sticky facemask and French kissing, and a nice final in which it looks as if the heroine is going to be killed in front of an audience of Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975 / trailer) refugees.
All the same, Popcorn leaves one with the feeling that the movie should have been much better than it actually is.

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