After Halloween was released in 1978, the slasher genre took off. There were tons and tons of slashers in the 80s that all shared a similar formula. Usually, someone in a mask wants some sort of revenge and one by one slashes unsuspecting victims. These movies overall were cheap to make and were hits.
The slasher genre even gave birth to some iconic killers such as Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Ghostface. Well into the 90s, the slasher film seemed to die down a little. A movie would come out every now and then but those days of blood and guts and whodunnits just weren’t the same. This isn’t to say there weren’t some hidden gems in the mix.
One of the most fun, underrated slashers is one called Popcorn.
Popcorn was released in 1991 and is about several college film students who decided to raise money for their final film projects by hosting a horror marathon in a rundown movie theatre. The students choose three movies to show that all have certain gimmicks. These gimmicks include 3D, aroma rama, and shock o-scope. During this film festival, someone starts to kill the students one by one. It is sure to be a scream at the movies.
I’ll start off by saying there are not enough horror movies that take place in a movie theatre. Demons and the opening of Scream 2 are ones that come to mind but the number of killer scenarios that could be creatively thought of in this setting is strong.
Popcorn leans into the meta-ness of horror films. Not as much as Scream does but we do get hints of it. People talking to the screen, dressing up, and truly investing in the fun of midnight movies. A lot of scenes involve the students running around making sure everything is going well with the festival while we get reactions from the audience watching the movies.
What I found most impressive about Popcorn is that it would have been very easy to find stock footage of old films to use for the marathon but we actually get three original films here. We do not see the full films of course but the director-directed segments that we do get to see along with the audience. They definitely reflect the type of movies and gimmicks that would be shown in a theatre during the 50s.
Jill Schoelen plays Maggie and she is our main character. She feels that the killings that are occurring have something to do with her past. She was somewhat of a screen queen in the 80s and does a pretty good job here. The rest of the cast is a mixed bag for the most part. This doesn’t hurt the movie though because a lot of these low-budget horror films back then had cheesy acting. That is a part of the charm.
The best acting though comes from Tom Villard who plays Toby. Toby is a huge film nerd with a past that is pretty dark, to be honest. The performance he gives definitely elevates the movie as he has to channel all sorts of ranges. You might recognize Tom Villard’s work in Grease 2, One Crazy Summer, or My Girl. Tom was suffering due to aids while filming Popcorn and for one of his final movies, he definitely gives it his all.
Scream Queen Dee Wallace also makes an appearance but she isn’t in this much. It is as if she owed someone a favor perhaps. The last great casting in this movie is the audience themselves. A lot of extras that fill up seats but they honestly have the best reactions.
One of the most fun scenes in the film is when the audience is treated to a concert during intermission in which a random Jamaican band is singing and playing. Why? Because the movie was filmed in Jamaica and because it is simply a good time. Random but fun.
The villain in Popcorn also deserves some recognition. He is deformed and when he kills his victims he removes their faces to use as masks later on. The prosthetic work in this movie is amazing. Whenever you see the killer applying a face to wear it is done really well. It also is pretty creepy when a character is talking to him while thinking they are talking to one of their friends.
The yellow eyes are great. The burned skin is a nice touch. I purchased this movie on Blu-Ray just to have the artwork of his face. He is scary at times. Silly at other times and overall a worthy horror villain.
Popcorn isn’t a perfect movie. It comes off as cheesy at times and sometimes the tone is all over the place. What makes up for all this though is truly how fun it is, especially if you love movies. Popcorn is filled to the brim with love.
It has a couple of really good performances, an amazing setting, a great soundtrack, and a killer villain. Popcorn is the equivalent of sitting in a room with your friends, eating a bunch of snacks, and forgetting your problems for a couple of hours. You laugh and point out things from your favorite movie. You peek left and right to see how people are reacting to some of your favorite scenes.
Popcorn gives us this feeling. A movie made by people who love horror, go to the movies, and enjoy movies in general. It may not have reached the heights of other iconic horror films but these reasons should be enough to not let it be forgotten. If you haven’t seen it, seek it out, quiet your phone, and enjoy the show.