Underrated: Popcorn

un·der·rate
/ˌəndə(r)ˈrāt/
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verb
past tense: underrated; past participle: underrated

  1. underestimate the extent, value, or importance of (someone or something).
    “a very underrated film”



It’s interesting to watch a film a second time around, picking up on new things but I wonder if that makes the movie any better. Does 1991’s Popcorn fit the criteria of being an underrated B-movie horror?

popcorn3

popcorn1“An opening night (guessing because half is hidden with a Blockbuster Video price sticker) turns into an endless night of terror when a crazed killer decides to make a movie of his own. Inspired by the gruesome scenes on screen, he stalks the theatre for victims to “star” in his murder masterpiece. Assuming that it’s all part of the show, the eager audience cheers him on, unaware that any one of them could be next!”

Really? Why are we lying in this suggested summary on the back of this vhs case? It misleads you thinking the entire 93 minutes of the film is going to be at this theatre and he’s picking his victims one by one in the audience. No. However, the paragraph is for the last 40-45 minutes of the film. The other is build up to characters we care about some, and dream sequences that really make no sense as to why the main protagonist, Maggie, is having them all of a sudden.

This movie is bizarre. It’s not bad per se, I just find it ridiculous at times but there are some “fun” moments. But cult films or b-movies are supposed to be to the left, off the wall, bizarre, not of the norm. 

popcorn5If I had to explain the entire movie in the same manner as the vhs tape suggests, I would say: “Maggie, a college student, is having bizarre dreams while preparing a huge theatre showing with her fellow film student friends. All the while, her dreams seem to become reality when a crazed killer shows up for center stage.” 

popcorn4Pros: The “B” movies that are shown to a very excited and eager audience. They are definite callbacks to the 1950s and 1960s sci-fi horror such as “Them”, “The Thing”, “It Came from Outer Space”, “The Green Slime” or “War of the Gargantuas”. There is a movie shown called “Mosquito” that definitely gives off “Them” vibes. I also enjoyed the use of color and lighting, some very cool framing of the actor’s faces surrounded by darkness but lighting is clearly used to see their facial expressions. And finally, the character Maggie said something that I stopped me was: “I can’t run away from something inside my head”. That entire sentence alone is powerful. I will give the film credit to starting off very rough and rocky but when we get to a decent hour into the film, it gets better. 

popcorn6Cons: It can come off as over the top. I guess that the portrayal of Toby (Tom Villard) is somewhat valid to be but still. The acting is so so until Toby goes ballistic at Maggie and her mother. It’s comes at times as not serious with the whole revenge plot and trying to recreate or “finish” the ending to this fictional film within the film called The Possessor. One kill made me feel sad for the character because it was very much beyond his control but everyone else is either strangled or stabbed or burned in a fire… only two stand out and they were very similar: being impaled by a large, fake mosquito.

popcorn_2And this next short bit isn’t about pros and cons. I did want to mention that the film uses movie theater gimmicks and it reminded me of a video from youtube channel Dead Meat, where James and Chelsea discuss movie gimmicks, especially horror movie gimmicks and how that medium is non existent. Check out that video if you haven’t, it’s educational. It also reminded me of the 1985 film Clue that used real life gimmicks and it backfired.

Popcorn is an ok film. It’s an ok horror film. Is it underrated? Yes. Should you watch it?Give it a chance. However, I’d also like to watch the “films” within the film as well. Gimme Mosquito, The Attack of the Amazing Electrified Man and The Stench, please!

*Popcorn stars Jill Schoelen, Tom Villard, Dee Wallace, and Derek Rydall.
Directed by Mark Herrier and released in 1991. 

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