1991’s Popcorn was made on the cusp of change for the horror film. Much of it is very eighties, a well-made but not hugely interesting slasher. The other side experiments with the aware, self-referential horror films that would follow throughout the 90's. It tells the story of Maggie (Jill Schoelen), a college student having reoccurring dreams of a young girl trying to escape a fire while being hunted by a strange, threatening man.
Meanwhile, her film studies class prepares to put on a show of ‘classics’ at a local movie theatre that is due for demolition. William Castle-style, the chosen films came with gimmicks like Shock-o-Scope and Odorama, and the students decide to resurrect them for the show. In the course of setting this up, when the students discover a ‘banned’ film called Possessor, it eerily matches Maggie’s dream. The man responsible, Lanyard Gates, apparently put on a final showing of his film that ended in murder and fiery death. Maggie becomes convinced he is the man from her dream, and that he will he appear on the big night. Certainly, someone will be responsible for a number of grisly deaths as the evening unfolds.
Popcorn has a lot going for it. There are some solid performances, the films-within-the-film are witty pastiches of sci-fi and horror of previous years, and it’s all done with a good-natured sense of fun. It’s also a little too long, the pace flags and there’s no one to really care about as the film unspools. Fans of harder slashers are unlikely to find much to thrill them here. But if you know the references the film makes, or just enjoy a well-crafted piece of work made with love, you’ll enjoy it.
This 88 Films release ports over everything from last year’s Synapse Blu-ray, and that’s a great thing for fans of the film. It boasts a lovely and crisply colourful 2k scan of the film as well as a 7.1 audio track. There’s a convivial commentary headed up by director Mark Herrier along with stars of the film, as well as an interview with Bruce Glover (from one of the ‘classic films’), a trailer, TV spots and a stills gallery. The jewel however is a near hour-long 'making of' documentary with contributions from many of the key players, covering the genesis, development and production of the film. It’s clear from this that there’s a lot of affection for the film from those who made it, which is understandable. Whilst not scary or violent like some others, it’s fun and this release is the essential version of it.
POPCORN / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: MARK HERRIER / SCREENPLAY: TOD HACKETT / STARRING: JILL SCHOELEN, TOM VILLARD, DEE WALLACE STONE, DEREK RYDALL / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW