Like no business I know : Popcorn

Intrigued by the podcast I heard today over at The Vault of Horror, in which Vault Master, B-Sol and Mistress of Mayhem, Kristy Jett, spent some time reminiscing  fondly about 1991's rarely seen, Popcorn - I felt it was time to hit up Netflix and see what all the hubbub was about.  Actually, I saw Popcorn when it first came out in 1992, but  frankly I only barely remembered it. 

Today seemed a good day to rediscover this film.

Set in sunny LA at the dawn of the 90's, Popcorn is an ambitious, clever, mess of  a film that tells the tale of a group of film students who decide to run a series of William Castle-like films one night at an abandoned movie palace so that they can raise money to fund some their own projects.  While going through some props for the big night's festivities they come across a film tin that features a rather trippy short named, The Possessor.  Problem is that the maker of this odd ball short was a Kenneth Anger / Anton LeVey-like-freak named Lanyard Gates who apparently sacrificed his wife and daughter on stage at the only showing of The Possessor.   Oh, did I mention that one of the main characters has been having dreams about Lanyard Gates?  Well, now I did.  Be that as it may, the show must go on, and once the movies start playing, it seems that we've got a homicidal stalker hell bent on ruining the film going experience (or maybe enhancing it?).
hey look, it's Stockard Channing's double and that chick from A Nightmare on Elm Street 5!
With a cast including 80's B-Movie queen, Jill Schoelen ;  America's favorite Mom, Dee Wallace; Woody Allen's Annie Hall confidant, Tony Roberts; and the inimitable, Ray Walston; as well as an ambitious story line, one would suspect that Popcorn might have been a contender - and it comes damn close!  Unfortunately, there seems to be so many themes that the movie's makers were trying to cobble together that they sort of lost sight of their ultimate goal ... or maybe it all just got lost in the sauce.  While watching Popcorn, I could not figure exactly what genre film this really was - Slasher?  Supernatural Thriller?  Parody?  Satire?  Murder Mystery? - Frankly, it seemed like a combination of all of these genres - and while that's not a bad thing, it's something that might have been better served with a tighter script and some better acting (Roberts seems to be phoning in his performance, Walston, while delightful, is in the movie for all of five minutes, and Schoelen, well, I was never a fan of hers, she always seemed flat, and here she's like a desert highway).  But before you give up hope, hold out and hold on, because the late great Tom Villard nearly saves Popcorn during the11th hour.  Seriously, Villard seemed like a heady mix of Jim Carrey in Mask and Vincent Price in Theater of Blood.  What a talented guy he was, and what a shame we lost him to AIDS back in 1994.
Tom Villard : it's called "acting".
When all is said and done, you could do far worse than checking out Popcorn and its loony plot that echoes everything from The Phantom of the Opera, to The Abominable Dr. Phibes, to A Nightmare on Elm Street.  I say overlook the flaws, the plot holes and the less than stellar acting, and just go with it; while a few of the kernels might not have popped, it's still a tasty, trashy treat.
Jill, how you can turn your back on Derek Rydall's beefy bum is beyond me!


deadlydolls said...

The one chick totally does look like Stockard Channing! And Kelly Minter (I think, something like that) had a weird ability to survive a bunch of horror films in the '90s, including NIghtmare 5 and People Under the Stairs.

I agree with a lot of your points about this one. I love it as a childhood VHS favorite, but rewatching it recently made me see that it doesn't quite know what to do with itself.

iasa said...

I loved this movie back in the day, but I am a little wary to rewatch it. Maybe I'll give it a go one cold rainy day.

Pax Romano said...

Emily, yes, that's a great way to put it "does not know what to do with itself".

iasa, I would love to get your take on this one.

AK said...

I've never seen this one, it sounds interesting! I love this:
"(...and Schoelen, well, I was never a fan of hers, she always seemed flat, and here she's like a desert highway)." That's kinda one of the reasons I love her so-she's so "Nancy Loomis in Halloween"! And I was just watching Dee Wallace in The Frighteners the other night-that lady really does enhance any movie she's in!

I Like Horror Movies said...

Popcorn is exactly as good as the title implies, just another cheesy popcorn movie for late night fun with friends. I love it, but its a hot mess at the same time.

ThePersonYouBenefitFromKnowing said...

Great post Pax! Glad the podcast inspired you to watch this favorite of mine! xoxoxo

MissSardonicus said...

I haven't seen this yet but you had me at "mix of Jim Carrey in Mask and Vincent Price in Theater of Blood." That describes my ideal man right there!

Jack Veasey said...

I'd forgotten all about "Popcorn," but I'm delighted to be reminded. I'll have to dig it out of the vault and revisit it. Thanks Pax!