The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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Announcement

Hi everyone, it's been a while since I checked the page, and I wanted to make a few announcements.

First and foremost, it appears a dubious site has claimed the old url, meaning any link in any review that goes to the old mattmovieguy url is corrupt. I'm in the process of trying to remove them all, but it's a lot! It's best not to click on any link without hovering over it first to make sure it doesn't have mattmovieguy in the url.

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Thank you all for your patience, and again, hopefully this will all be fixed soon.

--Matt

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Popcorn (1991)

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We're starting to get to the end of our Stars Play 11, this being the tenth. I went with this one because, though I'd never seen it before, I remembered seeing it on the video store shelves, and while it did make about $4 mill at the box office, that still puts it safely under my $10 million maximum for qualification. Which will this be, 90s cult horror classic, or total swing and miss?

Popcorn follows the struggling film department at a small university that decides to clean up an old local theater and host a classic horror triple bill in order to make some much needed cash. In their clean up, though, they come across an old film reel, which reveals some creepy footage-- creepiest of all to our heroine Maggie, because the film is exactly like the bad dreams she's been having. Turns out her dad ran a cult, and he made that movie, with the plan that he'd kill her and her mom before the final act. He got her mom, but obviously not her, and when, during the night of the shows, her fellow classmates start dropping, she suspects old dad might be back to finish his final act.

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I don't know what this was supposed to be. Camp horror comedy? Maybe, but then why is the baddie out for revenge because he was badly burned at the showing of the creepy film however many years before? That was pretty dark, getting into details about how horrible his childhood was after having his face disfigured. You gotta give us one or the other. It's either camp or dark, and when you get dark like that, you lose all the camp; but when that same dark baddie is killed by an enormous mosquito puppet, you've lost me. A lot of the film was like that too: really dark here, really campy there. A film needs one solid identity, otherwise we as an audience are lost.

The thing is, this didn't even need to be a horror film. This would've been great as a fun feel good movie about a struggling film department and what they went through to put on this show. That was the interesting part. And when the show actually happened, all the cool horror fans that attended made it even more fun. Plus the throwback horror films they made bits and pieces of for the movie were great too. Those were things that this should've leaned on more, and then developed some of the really cool characters in the students and faculty that now can be developed because they don't need to be killed off so quickly. It could've been like Summer School, only for a college film studies program.

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Jill Shoelen plays Maggie, the heroine, and I bring her up, because she's in another horror flick that came out in theaters four years earlier, didn't do as well at the gate, but lived onto cult status after while this one dropped off into obscurity. The film I'm talking about is The Stepfather. I think what makes The Stepfather so superior to this, is that one, it has a clear and consistent identity, and 2, it has a real memorable baddie that is well developed throughout. So the question is, $2 million more at the box office, or cult status and a remake over 20 years later?

Other stars in this include Dee Wallace-Stone (now just Wallace) as Maggie's aunt, Tony Roberts as the film department head, and Ray Walston as some kind of Hollywood memorabilia honk who helps renovate the theater, then disappears from the film. All of these have minor parts and are really there to sell the film by having their faces splashed across the cover. Another name I thought I'd mention is Kelly Jo Minter, who plays one of the students. You may remember her from Summer School, Nightmare on Elm Street 5, or The Lost Boys. Personally, I remember her from House Party, where she told Play "I don't even appreciate how you're treating me right now." and Play replied "Ooh, but I do appreciate how you look in that dress."

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Finally, I loved seeing that TDK cassette tape there. They were the ones with the ad where the guy gets blown away in his seat, right? The old mix tape, once the hallmark of any a music listening experience, now an extinct dinosaur, only to appear in 80s and 90s films. I had a buddy who as recently as ten years ago still made mix tapes. He used to get these clear dark blue ones that looked like they were made out of Clearly Canadian bottles-- Christ, even Clearly Canadian is dated, isn't it?

Before I start feeling too old, I better wrap this up. Not enough nostalgia, not sure if it wants to be camp or dark, and ultimately a miss for me. I'd get your 80s/90s trip down memory lane fix somewhere else, because this one didn't do it for me. Try the original Stepfather instead.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0102690/

5 comments:

  1. I have a soft spot for Popcorn. I saw it as a kid, and it made an impression. I watched it again a few years ago for a podcast (shameless promotion http://natsukashi.wordpress.com/2009/09/18/popcorn-featuring-lead-derek-rydall/ )

    I'm gonna side with camp, given its William Castle send-up. I kinda want to see those B-movies they were showing--I'm super curious about The Stench.

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  2. I think the problem with the inconsistent tone can be attributed to the fact that the original director (Alan Ormsby, who also directed Deranged and wrote The Substitute) was fired and replaced by Mark Herrier, the dude from Porky's, who had no experience behind the camera. Also, the flick suffered from various casting replacements and budget cutbacks. I agree with you that the mismatched tone pretty much derails it.

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  3. "$2 million more at the box office, or cult status and a remake over 20 years later"

    I'll never understand how filmmakers don't get this. Big box office movies hardly ever get remembered outside their numbers (exceptions such as Jaws). Whereas good films that struggle can gain a cult following and never age (Near Dark). I guess it's a simple matter of quality over quantity and certain people just prefer quantity.

    I love the review though, I'm tempted to see it because it has Dee Wallace in it but if it really isn't any good I guess I'll skip.

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  4. I saw this one AGES ago man, when it was first released! I would love to re-watch it! It kind of reminds me of Cigarette Burns or The Ring, I mean, when it comes to the whole 'evil movie' thing.

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  5. I'm just going to echo what others have said: the schizophrenic tone utterly undermines the film.

    I saw this on its initial release, and boy, howdy, was it jarring. Especially the big reveal at the end.

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