The Deadly Doll's Pick: Popcorn (1991)

Hey everyone. It’s that time for another film swap with my pal Emily from The Deadly Doll’s House of Horror Nonsense. Last month, you might remember that Emily assigned me the Asian cannibal flick, We Are Going To Eat You. This month she picked out 1991’s Popcorn in honor of Jill Schoelen, one of the guests of the upcoming Horrorhound Weekend that both Emily and I will be attending. Now I was familiar with Jill.  She also appeared in one of my favorite remakes, Phantom of the Opera (1989), as Christine opposite Robert England’s Phantom. Now after seeing Popcorn, I have to ask. What is the deal with the beautiful Ms. Schoelen and guys with deformed faces which they try and disguise? It seemed unusual to me that she made these two films back to back, and in fact one of Popcorn’s alternate titles is Phantom of the Cinema. The metaphor doesn’t extend to all her films though unless one of the cast members of D.C. Cab has something they’ve been hiding.

In Popcorn, Jill stars as Maggie, a film student who has been having reoccurring nightmares of a strange man, but she tries to put it out of her mind as she helps her film class get ready for a horror film marathon. After landing the Dreamland Theater, a nearly condemned cinema that once caught fire, as their venue, they assemble a number a movies to show that involve props in the style of William Castle’s theatrical stunts. Getting ready for the show, they come across the film Possessor, a film made by Laynard Gates the leader of a film cult and a man that Maggie begins to believe is her father. When the big night comes and the films start rolling, the bodies start stacking up, but Jill’s suspicion that her auteur patriarch is to blame turns out to be untrue as the killer is someone much closer than she could ever expect.

Originally, Popcorn was intended to be directed by writer/actor/ director Alan Ormsby who is best known for his scripts for Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things, My Bodyguard, and the 1982 remake of Cat People. After only three weeks or principal photography, Ormsby was taken off the job and replaced by actor Mark Herrier, best known as Billy in the Porky’s films, taking on his first directing job. It has been reported that the only thing that remained from Ormsby were the segments of the Castle inspired stunt films. Interestingly, I thought that the first half of the film, which was loaded with long sequences from the faux cult selections, dragged significantly, and the film also tended to cut back to the movie within the movie when I would have preferred more of the killer taking out his vengeance.

For the first hour, little kept me going through this film other then Schoelen who was charming in a way that always reminds me of Jennifer Connelly and the appearance of stalwart character actor Tony Roberts as Maggie’s teacher Mr. Davis. However in the last 40 minutes of film, the film changes pace as the reveal of the real killer entirely changes the dynamic of the film. Unfortunately, I get into the problem that the part of the film I liked has spoilers all over it. So before I get into it a bit, I wanted to give everyone a warning that I was going to tread toward the ending. The killer is revealed to be Maggie’s classmate Toby who was also caught in the fire that Maggie escaped as a child. Now, hidden behind a rubber mask, he’s returned to take his revenge. Tom Villard, who also starred as the baddie gang leader in Parasite, gives an inspired performance in the final act of the film that totally redeems the slow, padded opening of the film. Villard brought to the film an engaging and modern slasher that combined humor with more than enough of the essential creepiness needed to remain a menace. I could have easily watched him in several sequels which sadly did not materialize.

Popcorn is often compared to the other William Castle inspired film Matinee, but the two share little other than an admiration to the King of the Gimmick. Popcorn is a satisfying slasher that starts off a little weak, but the ending pays off so well that it saved the entire picture to me. My early reaction to the film was that it was another low end slasher that come out after the trend had really run its course, but with a simple bait and switch and a couple of good performances from Villard and Schoelen, Popcorn became much more than a hardened kernel. It filled up the bucket with enough clever ideas and entertaining scenes to make for a cinematic delight filled with buttery goodness. I want to thank Emily for recommending this one to me, and I hope you all go over there and check out her site for a review of Motorama, the film I recommended to her for this month.

Bugg Rating 


  1. Ah! the girl from the Stepfather! She's so pretty. She looks a lot like Winnie from the Wonder Years. Haven't seen Popcorn but I totally want to!

  2. Yay for film swaps! Popcorn was near and dear to my heart as a child, though it's aged trickily. I love all the cinema-ness to it and of course, just wish beyond wishing that I could actually GO to one of those midnight showings. Some plots do fizzle and feel crappy '90s, like the ex-boyfriend popping in to save the day. It's by no means a great one, but I like the pure affectionate attitude it takes towards the movies.

    Plus, lots of catchy Jamaican music!

  3. jervaise brooke hamsterAugust 28, 2010 at 1:25 AM

    When Jill Schoelen was 18 she was the prettiest girl of all time.

  4. I think Emily may have taken the words right off of my keyboard. I love Popcorn, but mostly because it is a childhood favorite. Seeing it as a kid, I wanted to go to something like that SOOOO BAD! In fact, I still do.

  5. Yep--saw this in the theater in my college years and enjoyed it, but mostly the "old movie" segments. Haven't seen it since, but have the dvd and plan on checking it again soon.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...