Of all the holidays celebrated worldwide, no single day is loved by the Substream staff more than Halloween. With October’s arrival, the time has finally come to begin rolling out a slew of special features we have prepared in celebration of our favorite day.
31 Days Of Halloween is a recurring column that will run throughout the month of October. The goal of this series is to supply every Substream reader with a daily horror (or Halloween-themed) movie recommendation that is guaranteed to amplify your All Hallows’ Eve festivities. We’ll be watching every film the day it’s featured, and we hope you will follow along at home. Reader, beware, you’re in for a… spooky good time!
Day 30: Popcorn (1991)
For the horror genre, 1991 was kind of a banner year, thanks almost entirely to the release of The Silence Of The Lambs, which would go on to win the Big Five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. It’s the only horror to ever do so, not to mention the only horror to ever win Best Picture period. But even though films such as The People Under The Stairs, Child’s Play 3 and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare were also released in 1991, this piece focuses on a far more overlooked gem from that same year: A little-known flick called Popcorn.
As his first and only feature-length directorial effort, Porky’s actor Mark Herrier took the reins on Popcorn a few weeks into shooting as the original director, Alan Ormsby, was replaced. It may be production obstacles such as this that ultimately led to some of the missteps in the film—or it could of course just be a weak script—but the truth is, if you’re looking for a wholly cohesive story within an impressively smart horror film, Popcorn will more than likely let you down. While maybe not on the same level of notoriety as From Beyond, Night Of The Creeps, or other cult favorite B movies, Popcorn is more in that vein, for those simply seeking a good time with awesome kills, meta jokes, and some genuinely disturbing (and practical!) makeup effects.
Without delving too far into the details and twists, Popcorn takes place almost entirely in and around a theater. In order to gain recognition to prove their worth for proper editing space, and to raise extra funds for personal projects, a college’s film department decides to put on an all-night horror movie marathon where they’ll show three old films, each with a promotional gimmick: Mosquito (3D project-o-vision), The Stench (aroma-rama) and The Attack Of The Amazing Electrified Man (shock-o-scope). While searching for props and equipment to deck out the theater for the marathon—but only after an obligatory montage set to a cover of the Drifters’ “Saturday Night At The Movies”—the students find an old experimental film called Possessor. The crew of course watch it, and given the material, they do as any of us would by roasting it with the MST3K treatment. But, then, things get a little weird. Popcorn‘s lead, Maggie, realizes that scenes from the strange film perfectly resemble the disturbing dreams she’s been experiencing. After finding out that Possessor‘s creator went on to commit a truly heinous crime involving live, on-stage murders as a finale to the film, Maggie begins to dwell on why Possessor is connected to her recurring dream and what it could all possibly mean.
Soon, the horror festival starts; a massive success attendance-wise. However, as the raucous, oblivious crowd enjoy the show and all of its interactive fun, behind the scenes people are being slaughtered in various production-related deaths at the hands of a killer who can disguise himself as nearly any of Maggie’s friends, due to a convenient collection of likenesses in mask form.
As previously noted, if you’re a fan of fun, inventive deaths, you’ll probably get a kick out of Popcorn. The films-within-a-film motif works well, too, and there’s a lot of goofy dialogue inherent to the campier end of the horror spectrum that isn’t so much eyeroll-inducing as it is chuckle-worthy and fitting, given the material. Popcorn isn’t perfect by any means—it’s certainly gone largely overlooked for a reason or two—but you could spend your time watching something far worse and less enjoyable this holiday season.
Give Popcorn a chance, especially if you’re looking for something to watch with a group of friends. If anything, you can turn it into a drinking game where everyone has to take a drink each time you point out a continuity mistake or catch a glimpse of a crew member in a shot. All in all, there are quite a few drinks worth. Cheers! [Drink responsibly!]