Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Buy a Bag... Go Home In A Box

My friends are always confused and, oddly, upset by the major gaps in my movie knowledge. They assume that, because I spend an obscene amount of time lost in one movie or another, I must have seen every classic out there. "What? You haven't seen(insert favorite movie here)?!? How can YOU not have seen that movie?!" is a very common question for me. The first problem with that assumption is that everyone's definition of 'classic' is different, and just because Ratboy totally saved your life in Jr. High doesn't mean it's anything more than a dull Sondra Locke flick about a boy(actually played by a girl) in bad rat makeup. The second problem is that, even if I live forever, I won't be able to see every 'classic' movie out there. Sometimes that bothers me, but more often than not I enjoy always having something new and unknown to look forward to.

And so it happened that one night I was introduced to Popcorn, a movie that I somehow missed out on in 1991. Admittedly this was before my horror movie fixation, but usually I'm at least aware of these films. I probably saw a trailer or two back in the day, but when Amber brought it up I was completely ignorant. And when I use the phrase 'ignorance is bliss' here, it isn't a slam on the film itself. I mean that I really enjoyed this film, and I attribute that greatly to my ignorance going in, a theory tested and supported by a recent rewatching. To say I enjoyed this movie less the second time around is also no big slam, as I still found it enjoyable and worthwhile.

The story follows Maggie, a film student plagued by laughably 'deep' dreams of a little girl being chased by an unknown man. She walks around recalling these dreams into a mini-tape recorder, composing her first screenplay and comparing it to Citizen Kane, of all things. These dreams may or may not be connected to the laughably 'deep' films of LSD saturated cult leader Lanyard Gates(hint, they ARE connected). There's a fine line in those dream sequences that the film doesn't quite tread, but in this they are most definitely not alone. It's hard in film to be believably symbolic and yet still let the audience know it's intentionally pretentious. What usually happens, as happens here, is that the result comes out as merely silly.

Maggie and her fellow film students, under the guidance of Mr. Davis(Tony Roberts), decides to host a one-night only midnight movie marathon, complete with William Castle inspired shock gimmicks(joy buzzers under seats, Aroma-Rama...). And to this I say; if it was this easy to find a grand old theatre and renovate it and get clearance to play these films, I would have done it years ago. Still, suspension of disbelief is required in just about every horror film, so I'll let it slide. Unfortunately for this little group of would-be filmmakers, Maggie's dreams are going to start haunting her in real life. It turns out the cult leader who is inspiring her nightmares killed his wife and daughter at a showing for his final film, burning the theatre down and killing everyone inside. When eerie things start happening around her, Maggie begins running around the theatre, convinced that Lanyard Gates is still alive and trying to kill her.

For the most part, the deaths in this movie go unnoticed by the majority of the characters until the end of the film, so it's actually not that obnoxious when nobody believes her and goes along like it's business as usual. The deaths are nothing mind blowing, but a couple are a step above the normal slasher film in their inventiveness, and there's some really good makeup effects in some of the scenes involving the killer, whose face has been horribly burned and has been literally stapled in place. The real draw of this film, however, are the horror movies being shown, which are all pretty accurate-and funny- recreations of certain horror archetypes. There's The Stench(complete with aroma-rama, which strikes me as possibly bad for your health), a Japanese film about, well, really bad smells. Mosquito! is your typical bug radiated to massive proportions movie. The standout is The Amazing Electrified Man, about a convict, who, with the help of a mad scientist, survives the electric chair to go on a killing spree. You see only glimpses of these films, but they are a welcome addition. All in all these elements make the film feel like the type of project that Joe Dante might attach himself to, although with not half as much fun and good humor.

The rest of the film doesn't acquit itself quite as well. The story is fairly predictable, even if the killer isn't who you would at first suspect(I only figured it out early because of the actor's... unique voice). Aside from the film parodies, there isn't a lot of self awareness in here. The plot and(most of) the murders are very much by the book, and the acting and dialogue are about what you'd expect. The most inventive thing about the film, actually, is it's reggae heavy soundtrack, which confused me until I saw that the entire film was made in Jamaica. This also probably explains the sudden, all too brief appearance of Ray Walston as the proprietor of a film-memorabilia business. He's actually too good for this film, but a paid vacation in Jamaica for one day's work? It's understandable.

In the end I can't, in good faith, call this a good movie. But it was fun, and I did get a certain enjoyment out of it on each viewing. If you haven't seen it, I can think of much worse ways to spend a Friday evening.

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