Plot: A film school class needs some funds to work on their own movies, so they hatch the idea of an old school movie marathon. A triple feature of b movies will be shown, but in ways that take you back the classic era of theater showmanship. This includes 3-D, electric shock seats, smell-o-vision cards, and all kinds of costumed workers to make the event feel special and immersive. A movie collector is proud to provide the prints and the gimmicks to make the bells & whistles possible, but the friends uncover more than what they ordered. A sealed film reel is also included, which carries a “do not open” label, so of course, the students open the case and watch the film inside. It is a strange movie called The Possessor, which they learn afterwards was made by Lanyard Gates, an eccentric filmmaker. The film’s conclusion isn’t on the reel, as Gates performed it live and killed some of his family on stage, then burned down the theater. The film sparks an interest from one of the students, as she has been having vivid nightmares that seem quite close to The Possessor’s content. But is she just reading into things too much or does a dark presence loom over the movie marathon?
Entertainment Value: This is one of those horror movies that didn’t ignite much interest at the box office, but proved to be a cult draw on home video. I think it is easy to see why it was eventually embraced by genre fans, as it is a love letter to the old school b movies, as well as a solid horror movie in its own right. I love the movies-within-a-movie in this one, as they really capture the intended b movie flavor and of course, the William Castle style showmanship is a lot of fun. The nostalgic atmosphere and obvious love for cinema is a real draw in Popcorn, but it does provide plenty of horror fun even outside of those elements. The narrative is a little overblown, but does what it needs to, which is unleash a madman on a group of potential victims. Our villain is a master of disguise, which leads to plenty of unsuspecting moments, including a humorous scene with a confused guy taking a piss next to himself. The performances are fine, with some colorful folks across the cast, but Tom Villard is my pick as the standout, with some nice manic outbursts and goofy presence. You also can’t discount Jill Schoelen, who shines as usual and brings a lot of charm to her role. I think both sides of Popcorn work well, as the b movie vibe is so much fun and the horror angle provides some creative kills, so for genre fans, this one deserves a spot in your collection.
No nakedness. The gore is limited, but even beyond the bloodshed, this movie just has some kick ass kills and effects. The facial swaps look good, with twisting, ripping flesh and stretching effects that are super fun. I love the scene where the faces are barely hanging on, flipping and flapping like wild. The villain’s disfigured appearance is well handled too, with a lot of detail and gross little touches. A guy in a wheelchair is electrocuted, a giant mosquito impales a man, a girl’s corpse is used like a puppet, and a not so erotic makeout session unfolds, so while not drenched in blood, the movie provides plenty of horror highlights. The writing embraces the b movie texture, so we have some fun lines and exchanges. This includes some cattiness, bad guy monologues, one liners, and claims of Police Academy’s importance in cinematic history. Not a lot of big, memorable lines perhaps, but consistently fun writing that runs with the b movie spirit of the movie marathon. Popcorn sticks close to genre conventions however, so the craziness is on the short side. Even so, the deranged bad guy provides enough lunacy to put a point on the board.
Overall Insanity: 1/10