An old movie theater is rented out for an all night horror festival in this standard Slasher Film from the 80’s. We see some familiar faces in the cast, young people preparing for bigger futures and older actors struggling to make ends meet with bit parts in any old movie they could get. And all the standard slasher-trope characters are featured, including our carbon copy “survival girl”, misfit weirdo, class bicycle, the cool “tough girl”, and wise-cracking handicapped guy. There isn’t really anything extra-ordinary about Popcorn, except for maybe the cheesy “classic” gimmick films they have playing in the background throughout their festival and the films’ obvious ode to classic spook-shows from the 50’s and 60’s. We have a 3-D film where the monster flies through the rafters on a pulley system, “Smell-o-Rama” gas pumped into the theater for “The Stench”, and electric buzzers in various seats for a “shocking” film about an electrified man. We get the standard elimination of cast members through gimmick kills, along with the standard slashes, stabs, and red herrings “jump scares” scattered throughout. The story culminates in an obvious nod toward several Vincent Price films, like House of Wax and The Pit and the Pendulum.
The fact that there isn’t anything extraordinary shouldn’t be taken as any sort of an insult, because it’s not. It’s a decent movie with a few good jumps, a couple of amusing moments, and a fairly decent mystery surrounding the main character. It doesn’t set out to re-invent the wheel, which seems to be one of my most common sayings these days, but it’s something that movie-makers tend to forget. You don’t have to deliver a big surprise twist, you don’t have to invest millions into CGI and gimmick effects, and you don’t need to deliver anything more than a decent story that keeps me entertained and amused from beginning to end. Popcorn was frivolous horror entertainment.
3 out of 5.
Wizards of the Demon Sword:
Cue synthesizers and bring on the California Desert backdrop, because we’re in full mode for a classic fantasy adventure. When a young woman is chased by the vile henchmen of a notoriously evil warlord-slash-wizard, her only hope lies in the sword arm of a brave young warrior. After twirling his sword like a baton for a moment, our hero proceeds to lay waste to the henchmen in a sword battle for the ages. You can almost hear each man screaming, “Not the face!” as they hold their swords out at arms length to block each potentially devastating swing. The Demon Sword in the title? It’s an 8 inch dagger with some jagged edges, made with some sort of clear plastic or glass. They do, however, deliver on the multitude of wizards… a grand total of three, if you want to be generous and label the “seer” a Wizard through technicality. But the real treasure is from the delivery of each line uttered by the “actors” in this story, from their deadly serious invocation of the danger they are all in to the flippant disregard for the bravado of the lead. This movie has it all… but we really slip into something truly special when our two main characters travel the country on horseback, pausing time and again to react to claymation dinosaurs doing battle with one another. They quickly make haste to get the heck out of there before they become lunch… over… and over… and over again. At one point, though, the lead character decides to casually flip his dagger at one of the dinosaurs… and the beast promptly falls dead, allowing our leads to eat play-doh for dinner that evening.
This movie also had some real star power to back it up. Michael Berryman comes down from the hills to do battle with our hero for a brief turn, reminding everyone precisely why these Hills Have Eyes…. Bad joke, I know. But if you thought the mutant mug of Berryman couldn’t sell you on this film, how about the rock-hard gravel appearance of Lawrence Tierney as a slave-trader offering his wares on the open market? There has to be a Mr. Pink joke in there, but I’m just not clever enough to find it. “Wizards of the Demon Sword” is nearly the pinnacle of what you could expect from sword and sorcery films of the 80’s, with synthesizer music and teased hairstyles to the over exposure of skin in nearly all forms of costumes and armor.
3 out of 5.