Ratings Key

= Excellent. The best the genre has to offer.
1/2 = Very Good. Perhaps not "perfect," but undoubtedly a must-see.
★★★ = Good. Accomplishes what it sets out to do and does it well.
★★1/2 = Fair. Clearly flawed and nothing spectacular, but competently made. OK entertainment.
★★ = Mediocre. Either highly uneven or by-the-numbers and uninspired.
1/2 = Bad. Very little to recommend.
= Very Bad. An absolute chore to sit through.
NO STARS! = Abysmal. Unwatchable dreck that isn't even bad-movie amusing.
SBIG = So Bad It's Good. Technically awful movies with massive entertainment value.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Popcorn (1989)

...aka: Phantom of the Cinema
...aka: Skinner

Directed by:
Mark Herrier
Alan Ormsby (uncredited)

Enthusiastic California film students put on a midnight, horror/sci-fi triple feature at a soon to be closed down theater. The grounds are haunted by a Phantom of the Opera-style killer who lurks around in the shadows, kills people, and through the magic of latex and molds, is able to impersonate victims. Late 80s Scream Queen Jill Schoelen (THE STEPFATHER) is a young woman whose nightmares about a satanic killer tie into a creepy and mysterious 16mm film found on the grounds. The highlight of this otherwise derivative slasher movie are some excellent, hilarious black-and-white parodies of 50s schlock films and William Castle gimmicks including "Mosquito" (giant bug flies at audience), "The Amazing Electrified Man" (wired audience seats) and "The Stench" (putrid fumes pumped into theater). These little gems were directed by Alan Ormsby, and co-scripted by Ormsby and Bob Clark (collaborators on DERANGED and CHILDREN SHOULDN'T PLAY WITH DEAD THINGS, among others); both of whose efforts went uncredited. In fact, Ormsby was supposed to direct the whole film but was fired three weeks into production. Unfortunately credited director Mark Herrier (best known for acting in the PORKY'S series) gives us a framework that is contrived, monotonous and choppy, not to mention frequently senseless. And what's the point of editing horror scenes together with an annoying reggae band? On the plus side, the characters are at least likable and upbeat and the make-up effects are pretty good.
Ray Walston (theater showman) and Tony Roberts (teacher) show up briefly and Dee Wallace has a supporting role as Schoelen's troubled mom, who's hiding something from her daughter. Hmm... Also with Tom Villard (pretty good as a very dedicated film buff in one of his final roles), Derek Rydall (NIGHT VISITOR), Malcolm Danare (THE CURSE), Kelly Jo Minter, Karen Witter and Bruce Glover.
It was filmed in 1989 but not released until 1991. Despite a great ad campaign ("Buy a bag... Go home in a box.") it was a box office flop.


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