Buy a bag…go home in a box!
Those who thought Scream started the self-referential horror movie shtick should think again. Back in 1991 the lesser known horror movie Popcorn was released with the same type of humor that the Scream series has, only on a smaller budget and with lesser stars. Poking good natured fun at the golden age of sci-fi and horror (the 1950s) and simultaneously giving gore fans their fill of blood, Popcorn is a fun treat for fans of the genre (and anyone who ever wanted to see Mr. Tony "I've Worked With Woody Allen" Roberts in a horror flick). Elite Entertainment scares up this little gem on DVD (Goobers and Raisinettes not included).
Facts of the Case
Maggie (Jill Schoelen) has been having bad dreams lately. It seems that she has hd nightmares of a bearded hippie whispering sour nothings into her ears while smoke and graphic horror swirls around them. Recording her dreams on a tape each morning, Maggie hopes to maybe form these thoughts into a hit screenplay. Meanwhile, she's attending the University of California film school with some other nutty film students. A professor (Tony Roberts, Annie Hall) decides to put on a fundraising "horror-thon" by showing old B-movies while utilizing some classic gimmicks of the past (including 3-D glasses and "Aroma-rama" gas). While setting up for the fest the group comes across an old film called "The Possessor." Its director was Lanyard Gates, a drug induced hippie who apparently went nuts and killed dozens of people while showing the film, then attempted to kill his family on stage. Gates was shot onstage and killed…or was he?
As the show gets underway, strange things start happening to each student. As the night progresses, Maggie is forced to come face to face with her past—and maybe even Lanyard Gates.
Plain and simple, Popcorn is a goofy, enjoyable romp. The film pulls no punches on what it is: an homage to horror films of yesterday and today. The movie even gives kudos to films like Indiana Jones and old '50s movies Them! and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. You can certainly do much worse than Popcorn when it comes to horror movies.
I enjoyed a lot of Popcorn's offbeat humor. Much like Scream, Popcorn knows its sources and isn't afraid to show them off. In fact, in one of the TV spots featured on the disc, an announcer makes reference to Halloween, Friday The 13th, and A Nightmare On Elm Street in the span of just a few seconds. The story is much better than some of the schlock drifting around on your local video shelves. The story behind the maniacal Lanyard Gates is chilling, and the killer's make-up looks pretty neat.
Popcorn also rises above the rest because it sports an above average cast. While Jill Schoelen is fairly bland as lead heroine Maggie, the supporting cast has a few famously fun faces in it. There's Tony Roberts as a college film teacher, Ray Walston ("My Favorite Martian") as a William Castle-like gimmick inventor, Dee Wallace Stone (The Frighteners, E.T.) as Maggie's mother, and the nutty Tom Villard (My Girl, In The Army Now) as Toby, an oddball film student who seems to be a few toes short of a foot.
If Popcorn does nothing else, it succeeds in getting a pitch perfect tone of the 1950s. During the film festival, three different movies are shown: "Mosquito," "The Amazing Electrifying Man" and "The Stench" in amazing "Aroma-Rama!" All three of these movies are an absolute riot, especially the cheeseball "Mosquito" with a fully functioning mechanical mosquito (complete with visual strings and pulleys). The actors they wrangled to play in these "parodies" (so to speak) are also excellent, a giddy mix of overacting and '50s sensibilities.
Popcorn will not go down as a classic in the horror genre. What it will do is entertain and make you laugh, and if that's what you're looking for on a Friday night, then you'll found it in Popcorn.
Popcorn is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and oy vey, is it disappointing. Sadly, the transfer suffers from tons of grain and dirt, and even has a shaky quality that I found quite annoying. While the colors and black levels were generally bright, overall there was a sufficient enough amount of edge enhancement and shimmer to make me wish Elite had spent a little more time on the transfer.
Audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and sounds only passing. All aspects of the dialogue, music, and effects were clear of distortion, though this Dolby 2.0 track certainly isn't going to blow your sound system away. No alternate soundtracks or subtitles are available on this disc.
Popcorn is an empty bag when it comes to extra materials. The only supplements featured on this disc include seven full frame TV spots for Popcorn, as well as a full frame theatrical trailer for the film.
Popcorn is a fun little flick. However, the transfer on this disc is very below par with a mediocre audio track at best. With only a few extra features included on this disc, I can't really say that Popcorn is worth purchasing for its retail price. If you can find it cheap or as a rental you'll be spending your money much wiser then if you pay full price for what is essentially a bare bones title. Fun performances abound, and with a tag line like "Buy a bag…go home in a box," well…I think it speaks for itself.
The movie is free to go, but the disc is found guilty of poor craftsmanship. Case dismissed!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Elite Entertainment
• Theatrical Trailer
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