Frequent readers know what suckers we are for tag lines. With a tag line like, "Buy a bag, go home in a box," you can't go wrong. Actually, that’s not true. In fact, in most cases Opening Kill and I get suckered in by some great tag line and the movie turns out to be terrible. That wasn’t the case for POPCORN, which is a tremendously entertaining b-horror exercise. Is it scary? Not in the least. Is it preposterous? Absolutely. Will you have a good time? Guaranteed.
The plot involves a group of film students at an unnamed university somewhere. Their department suffers from a serious lack of funding and is in danger of going under. Note to any students out there: if you’re majoring in a department that is in danger of going away because of no money, chances are it’s not the best place to study that topic.
These students, however, aren’t about to go quietly. Determined to save their department, they put together a fundraiser. Under the leadership of their professor (Tony Roberts, an actor who has obviously fallen on hard times since his roles in films such as ANNIE HALL and SERPICO), they decide to throw an admittedly cool event: a movie screening of cheesy black and white 50s horror films. I have to enjoy the irony of a cheesy horror movie including a movie screening of cheesy horror movies. I’m not sure POPCORN was meant to be deconstructed quite to that level, but hey – just because I like watching garbage doesn’t mean I’m stupid (well, depends who you ask).
But guess what? The theater where they throw the fundraiser happens to be haunted! (surprise surprise). Before long we find ourselves in the midst of another PHANTOM OF THE OPERA knock-off, with the theater’s killer taking kids out one-by-one. This is appropriate since 80s/90s scream queen Jill Schoelen (best known for THE STEPFATHER) starred in the horror version of PHANTOM too. It's probably for the best that this fundraiser was doomed, because they spend so much money setting up the event that I doubt it would have made any profit. Seriously, this thing was a lavish affair for such a cash-strapped group.
In POPCORN much of the enjoyment I got is from seeing an “all-star cast” immersed in a cheese-fest: not only Schoelen and Roberts, but also Ray Walston (Mr. Hand in FAST TIMES IN RIDGEMONT HIGH) and Dee Wallace Stone (E.T. and CUJO). The rest of movie’s fun comes not only from the killings or the plot turns, but also from the B-movie details that really distinguish the “great ones”: the random costumes people wear to this fundraiser, and the cheap Casio-made music score. Best of all, there is a reggae band that manages to play a couple songs in the midst of a power-outage (how their amps got electricity is another matter). Why reggae, you ask? It turns out this film was shot in Jamaica of all places. Who knew?
The point is: this is a fun, silly movie which has enough funny jokes (intentional and otherwise) and enough bloody killings to keep the horror video renter quite happy. It also is a nice tribute to 50s horror king William Castle, for those who follow horror movie history (and you should if you don't). By the way, there was supposed to be a plot point about popcorn in this movie, hence the title. That plot-point was edited out in the final cut, but the producers liked the title and kept it. Good for them, at the very least it made for an awesome tag-line…
Rating: *** 1/2 (out of four).