Screams from the Crypt: Popcorn
d. Mark Herrier, Alan Ormsby (uncredited)
It's finally here! Thanks to our friends at Synapse, we now have the long-out-of-print Popcorn! Over the past few years, Synapse have been releasing amazing steelbook reissues on Blu-ray, packed with special features and some of the finest (might even be THE finest) restorations I've seen. Demons 1 & 2, Tenebre, Phenomena, and later this year Suspiria finally comes to Region A markets thanks to Synapse for its 40th anniversary.
My first recollection of Popcorn comes from that super cool VHS box art, and the daily ritual of my friends and I having a Friday night sleepover which usually consisted of each of us picking out cool VHS covers of movies we'd never seen (special shoutout to the long-haired metal, head manager of the video store, he'd let us rent ANYTHING), pizza, and the occasional raiding of their parents liquor cabinet. We would stay up till 4 or 5 in the morning watching the likes of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Return of the Living Dead, Hellraiser, Evil Dead 1 & 2, Class of Nuke 'Em High, Ghoulies, Surf Nazis Must Die, etc. Plus, leftover pizza for breakfast! All the ingredients a young teenager needed to survive the New Jersey suburbs.
The premise of Popcorn is quite creative, the film pays homage to legendary titles and directors of the past by way of a group of film students who are looking to raise money, so they're plan is to fix up an old movie theater for a one-night-only horror festival. They plan to show 50s horror flicks using their original promotional gimmicks (aroma-rama, 3-D glasses, and shock seats). In a box of old junk they find an ancient film reel containing some really graphic and disgusting footage of an insane, demonic looking hippy chanting "possessor" in a really sick voice.
One of the students, Maggie (Jill Schoelen, of The Stepfather fame) is an ambitious kid who is plagued by recurring nightmares that she wants to turn into a film. She is shocked to discover that the director of the "possessor" film was a madman who years ago burned down the theater and locked the audience inside. It also turns out, Maggie's recurring nightmares may be linked to the film.
As the festival roles on, an actual murderer shows up and proceeds to use the movies' gimmicks to bump off the students whilst wearing a variety of latex masks to deceive his victims. Granted, Popcorn is an 80s slasher in disguise, but it's pretty ingenious with its films-within-a-film concept. Who wouldn't pay money to see faux flicks called The Amazing Electrified Man, Mosquito, or The Stench? (I'm looking at you fellow TFS writer Dan Colón!) Popcorn is super fun; it retains the imagination and excitement of 1980s genre filmmaking while also doing its own postmodern meta 90s thing. The on-screen deaths aren't super violent, and rather than gore, Popcorn's selling point is its satire, pop culture references, and genre deconstructions. Two things: I'd bet money that this was an influence on Kevin Williamson while writing Scream, and the atmosphere of the horror festival immediately made me want to throw a similar event at a local theater, sans murderer!