Posted October 5, 2018 by Chris Hick in Film Reviews

Popcorn (1991) Blu-ray Review

Are you looking for, or thinking about your choice of film for Halloween? Of course it’s always good to grab a classic. How about cult VHS era classic Popcorn? Self aware and made in 1991, Popcorn ensures it references some of the modern classics as well as earlier films from the 1940s and 1950s. Whether you choose to view the stereo version or benefit from the 7.1 Surround Sound version with a mix supervised by Synapse Films, this 2K scan from a positive is the 39th title from 88 Films in their Slasher Classics Collection. It’s a story that also lends itself well to a Halloween viewing.

Popcorn, a great title for a teen horror movie set in a cinema, is a horror comedy and has plenty of scope for its comedy and parodying old horror films. The premise is set around a group of college friends studying film. Their professor, Mr. Davis (Tony Roberts, the co-star of many Woody Allen films and best known as Allen’s best friend in Play It Again Sam, 1972) helps the students put together an all night horror fest at an old abandoned movie theatre called Dreamland. One of the college kids, Maggie (played by minor horror Scream Queen, Jill Schoelen) lives with her mother (Dee Wallace) and has recurring nightmares of a bogeyman calling her Sarah. The students put on three old horror B movies: ‘Mosquito’, a 3D creature feature ‘The Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man’, referencing directly two Lon Chaney Jr. movies, The Electric Monster (1942) and The Indestructible Man (1956) and Japanese horror movie, ‘The Stench’. The students also find a small reel with an odd artsy film on it showing a close-up of an eye and plenty of blood. Mr. Davis relates that this is the lost film, ‘The Possessor’, in which the director, Leyland Gates had made before killing his family and himself on the stage of the same movie theatre back in the 1960s.

Come the night and the kids put on the show (played to The Drifters’ ‘Saturday Night at the Movies’ over a montage). The evening plays to a full house with all the kids turning up in their masks and make-up for a Halloween extravaganza. Maggie’s mother has already disappeared and now she is receiving what she believes are prank calls. Meanwhile, the friends start getting bumped off by the bogeyman killer with some effective and inventive deaths, beginning with Mr. Davis being killed off by the large flying mosquito on a wire. The pastiches come thick and fast in this slasher, not least of all in the films within a film, the first of which, a 3D 1950s creature film, replete with dodgy acting, has a giant mosquito flying across the auditorium as with emergo, the technique used in William Castle’s flying skeleton in The House on Haunted Hill (1958) or the electrified seats in the Chaney pastiche film (that again Castle had used in The Tingler (1959)) or the Odorama used in ‘The Stench’, a gimmick used by John Waters’ trash classic, Polyester (1981). The spectre of more recent horror films was not far away either, including the slasher film and plenty of nods to A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984).

Popcorn is great fun and from early on there is some dodgy acting by the younger cast members, but fun remains at its heart. It is better than director Mark Harrier’s teen titillation Porkys films and some of the special-effects aren’t half bad either. Of course the gags are a bit groanful, but viewing in the spirit it was made helps, especially cheered on by the kids in the cinema audience. The film is co-produced by Bob Clark, one of the well known grunge producers of the period. Clark had directed one of the first slashers, Black Christmas (1974) and was producer on the Porkys films. On the one hour Making Of extra on the disc the cast and crew talk of Clark’s interference on the film, as Harrier insists it was mostly his film with some assistance from writer Alan Ormsby. In addition there is an engaging commentary on the disc by¬†Herrier, stars Jill Schoelen and Malcolm Danare and Special Makeup Effects Artist Mat Falls; this is also definitely worth a listen as they go into detail well, complimenting well the Making Of featurette that includes most of the surviving cast of the film as well as the Herrier and composer Paul Zaza. One other extra includes Bruce Glover who plays the ‘Chaney’ character in the film within a film who directly acknowledges his reference to Lon Chaney Jr.

Chris Hick

Chris Hick