“ARE YOU READY?”
Genre: Homage Horror
Release Date: 1991
Where I Watched: Shudder
Gist: Maggie and her fellow film students are gonna throw a big huge horror film fest, so their department can raise some funds. They decide to go all out, with schlocky oldies known for their in-theater gimmicks, but what they don’t know is that there’s a killer who seems to want Maggie and her friends dead…and that could be tied to an old film the kids find while setting up, and the nightmares Maggie’s been having lately. Yo, killer; don’t mess with a horror movie marathon, you jerk. Not cool.
Talky talk: Popcorn is an early 90s horror homage that feels like an early 80s slasher, and it doesn’t get nearly as much love as it deserves. I blame that one the film’s original trailer and poster, that made it look like an Italian Giallo rather than the gleefully silly American (though filmed in Jamaica) slasher it is. From the fantastic cast (many of whom we’ve seen in other genre/80s fare), to the obvious love this film has for the works of gimmicky B Movie creators like William Castle, this is a horror movie lovers horror movie. And I adore it. The creators have the same attention to detail with the “classic movies” playing during the marathon as they do with the overall story, making this film a fun watch on many levels.
That’s not to say that there aren’t problems. The mythology is kinda iffy, with supernatural bits thrown into the revenge-horror plot seemingly out of nowhere. The reveal of the Big Bad is a bit too over-the-top, and this is from a gal who loves over-the-top. And a subplot featuring Maggie’s boyfriend/ex/whatever and his movie marathon date doesn’t know if it wants to be comedic or serious, so it ends up being silly in a bad way. But the cast is all-in, and the scene where the film students clean up the run down theater and set up the “stingers” for each film is pure joy. Shout out to “Ossie D and Stevie G” for delivering a fantastic cover of The Drifters’ “Saturday Night at the Movies”, as the kids goof around.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves horror movie tributes, story-in-a-story plots, and newbies who are looking for a scare that isn’t too much for their developing genre sensibilities. Bookend this film with Bava’s Demons and Joe Dante’s Matinee for a horror-to-comedy night of films set in theaters. Or better yet, go old school and grab OG gimmicky faves like William Castle’s The Tingler, Gordon Douglas’ Them, and Jack Cardiff’s Scent of Mystery, and watch ’em before this one to really get into the vibe Popcorn is putting out.
Come for: A fun homage to 50s horror wrapped in a slasher aesthetic.
Stay for: Characters you’ll come to actually give a damn about, and super cool onscreen FX. Oh, and spoiler – this is a horror film where the black character survives! SWEET!