Popcorn (Blu-ray) [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - United Kingdom - 88 Films
Review written by and copyright: Rick Curzon (12th October 2018).
The Film

Canada took the slasher movie to the next level when the country produced the trendsetting BLACK CHRISTMAS in 1974, at the height of what has become known as 'Canuxploitation'. Later shockers from the nation of moose, Mounties and maple syrup included the equally effective MY BLOODY VALENTINE (1981) and HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME (1980) but by the turn of the eighties the terror-trend was drying up... at least until the plasma-spilling shocks of POPCORN in 1990!

This is Canadian slice and dice action par excellence - and returns to the good old days of splashed blood, high body counts and a mysterious killer as a young female screenwriter (played by the great Scream Queen Jill Schoelen from THE STEPFATHER and CUTTING CLASS) suffers nightmares of a strange figure who may well be breaking into the 'reel' world... postmodern and provocative, and featuring a genre ensemble cast that includes Dee Wallace Stone (THE HOWLING) and Kelly Jo Minter (THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS), POPCORN has maintained a following of macabre movie fans for decades since its release!

Video

A gaggle of university film students try to raise funds by hosting a gimmicky movie night in an old theatre. Somehow this ties in with a Manson-like cult figure and filmmaker who set fire to a cinema screaming of one of his films causing a mass tragedy fifteen years before. Essentially this slick, well made, well directed film pays tribute to the films of William Castle attached to a slasher framework that recalls the various versions of The Phantom of the Opera and Stage Fight: Aquarius (1987). There's not much more to it than that. It's energetic and tons of fun with minimal gore (it was meant to be a PG-13 release); colourful, popped up and daft, it's easy to see why it's become a cult film.

This excellent 88 Films release is an almost exact clone of the 2017 Synapse BD released in the USA and uses the same masters taken from a brand new 2K scan of the 35mm interpositive. That release was no slouch and neither is this one.

Made in 1990 and released in 1991 this is still very much an '80s production with that great hazy, grainy MTV look that permeated the decade's film making style. Colours are florid and rich with an emphasis on the warmer end of the spectrum. Director's Mark Herrier and Alan Ormsby (the latter uncredited and replaced by Herrier) favour a richly coloured, EC-like palette which also suits the popped up performances and story well.

Black levels are deep and rich with minimal crush and contrast is supportive with no flaws like whites being blown out creepy in. Detail is excellent in all focal planes with closeups obviously coming off best. The detailed production design and set dressing are also a joy to behold with the enhanced HD helping the viewer to see plenty of interest.

I could see no signs of any print damage or digital manipulation. The encode is robust and gets the job nicely with no signs of telltale artefacts like clumping in the grain field nor holes. I saw no macroblocking in darker scenes.

The film within a film scenes come off quite well despite being subjected to Grindhouse-style damage and colour fading.

The image quality is a peach and really enhances the viewing experience even if the film is no world beater.

1080/24p / MPEG-4 AVC / 1.78:1 / 90:46

Audio

English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1
English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo
Subtitles: English HoH

Made in Dolby Stereo which would indicate a larger that usual budget for a Canadian horror flick of the period (most used Ultra-Stereo, Dolby's budget alternative). The original track has been restored and sounds splendid (2.0 Stereo) and is lossless; it's there for the purists.

Everyone else will want to go for the 7.1 bump which also being lossless blows the other track away with greater depth, range and subtlety. Make no mistake, it isn't going to compete with a modern 7.1 track and probably wouldn't be as dynamic as the boosts afforded contemporaneous blockbusters like License to Kill (1989) or The Hunt for Red October (1990). In any case, it's a wonderful surround sound experience with the rears getting more use than you'd expect. It's largely front heavy which is in keeping with the original 2.0 but it has been opened up substantially. No distortions and plenty of base.

As is usual for this excellent label's discs, we get English HoH subtitles which are - in my view - a necessity in 2018.

Extras

Audio Commentary by Mark Herrier, Mat Falls, Jill Schoelen, Malcolm Danare and moderated by Kristy Jett

A warm, nostalgic track covers the production as well as plenty of on-set anecdotes. The troubled nature of the production is not shirked either with discussion of Herrier's late start due to Ormsby's exit; the Jamaican sojourn that had Danare really excited

Ported over from the Synapse BD.

Ormsby Amy O'Neill

"Midnight Madness: The Making of Popcorn" documentary (57:11)

An extensive, all-encompassing documentary ported over from the US BD that covers all aspects of the production including the more troubled aspects like the exiting of original director Alan Ormsby and the original lead Amy O'Neill who was replaced by then up and coming scream queen Jill Schoelen who's recent hit was The Phantom of the Opera (1989) which would make a great companion piece with Popcorn in. A themed double-bill.

Interview subjects:
Elliot Hurst, Malcolm Danare, Jill Schoelen, Mark Herrier, Mat Frills, Derek Ryder, Paul Zara, Jonathan Wolf and Ivette Soler.

"Electric Memories with actor Bruce Glover" featurette (6:38)

James Bond villain actor Glover (and father of Crispin) famously played the homosexual assassin Mr. Wint in Diamonds are Forever (1971). He talks about being thrilled to make this film and about his disappointment that his scenes in the film within a film were edited back in post production. A chatty, gabby piece and Glover is a great raconteur.

Theatrical Trailer (1:27)
TV Trailer and TV Spots (SD) (5:31)


The usual collection of trailers and other promo pieces (9 all together). Emphasising the violent shenanigans and mystery of the plot etc.

Still Gallery (7:01)

Beautiful, extensive HD still gallery has plenty of images of interest. Behind the scenes, publicity material and posters.

Reversible cover
Card sleeve


Choice of vintage artwork with or without the Slasher Classics collection branding.

Overall

A superb, well-nigh flawless release of a cult favourite slasher epic from the heyday of brief theatrical releases followed by extensive afterlife on home video formats. The transfer is as good as can be with excellent picture and sound options. Encoding is strong and the extras package definitive being a clone of the wonderful Synapse release from 2017.

Bravo 88 Films!

The Film: C+ Video: A+ Audio: A+ Extras: A+ Overall: A+

 


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