Popcorn is a midnight movie about midnight movies, an exploitation film about exploitation films, a slice of grindhouse cinema that’s about the grindhouse cinematic experience. Popcorn is primarily a comedic slasher movie that tells the story about a group of student film-makers who decide to put on a ‘grindhouse style’ horror movie triple-bill screening at the local ‘Dreamland’ theatre, however, there’s a killer in the wings who plans to bump off the students one by one who has links to an old cult and it’s Charles Manson style leader. Thematically, Popcorn is a light-hearted horror comedy romp that is full of montages, cheesy moments, campy sequences and wuirky character; a film that feels at home in the 1980’s, despite the fact it was made in 1991.
Popcorn has a story that is quite refreshingly imaginative when it comes to the slasher genre. The film cannot be described as ‘run of the mill’, ‘generic’, or ‘paint by numbers’ because it tries so hard to carve it’s own identity amongst the slasher movies that littered the silver screen during the 1980’s. Popcorn is a slasher movie devoid of copious gore, gratuitive nudity, nor does it contain the slasher character stereotypes and instead decides to create characters with ‘character’, a move that works well in the film’s favor by showing that it has more to offer than the average slasher movie. However, Popcorn is a horror comedy at heart and the film combines scenes of suspense and mystery, with scenes of slapstick comedy and witty dialogue. However, like a good horror comedy, Popcorn doesn’t dwell too much on the horror and overplays the comedy, allowing the comedic moments more time to sink in. That being said, though, the overall story of Popcorn isn’t perfect. The plot spends the majority of it’s time focusing on the ‘films within the film’ that are shown in the cinema, and the people watching them. The films shown within Popcorn are little more than irrelevant comedy sketches that try to imitate the style of 1960’s/1970’s cheap cinema, and I feel that too much time is spent focusing on these films for filler footage instead of focusing on the main plot, as I was more interested in the story behind the villain and the carnage that he inflicts upon the film students. Each time Popcorn showed a film within the film, I found that I was just waiting impatiently for the main plot to come back as soon as it could.
The finest aspect about Popcorn, however, isn’t the great writing or characterization, the finest aspect is the acting. Every actor from the acclaimed Dee Wallace to the unknown Tom Villard is fantastic to watch as they portray quirky, offbeat characters, each with their own personality and story arc. However, out of all the actors, Tom Villard stands out as he looks like he’s having the time of his life as he portrays the demented, yet eccentrically hilarious, villain. Tom Villard throws everything into the role making it one of the most memorable roles of his, sadly short, career. Upon reflection, I feel that Popcorn is one of those films where everyone involved had such a great time making it because of how the characters interact onscreen and how they let loose as they play their comedic roles, when that happens it’s very charming to witness and it makes the experience of watching a film a better experience overall.
In the end, I really enjoyed my time watching Popcorn despite the film’s flaws. Popcorn is a loving ode to the cinema experience of days past, and it’s a story that I feel is just as relevant today as it was in 1991 because in today’s film industry the digital age has taken over and cinemas are sadly going out of business. Popcorn is a film that really stands out amongst the swamp of slasher movies that made up most of the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000’s. Unfortunately Popcorn did horribly during it’s first run in America, but I believe that the film is a hidden gem among slasher movies. In conclusion, Popcorn is a lovable midnight movie that is a must see for film fans and film-makers alike.