The Possessor will possess your dreams. The Possessor will possess your body. The Possessor will possess your life! In the 1970’s hippy film maker and movie cult leader Lanyard Gates created his abstract masterpiece; The Possessor. Having been scoffed at and ridiculed for his previous ill received failures, Gates set out to create the ultimate horror movie experience as a revenge on his critics; a movie so dastardly it would instantly invoke true fright in the audience and possess their very souls with terror (but more likely laughter). The film would climax in the death of his family; sacrificed live on stage in ritualistic fashion before a crowd of half baked onlookers tripping on acid. Before Lanyard can complete the filming of his sadistic swan song a terrible fire engulfs the theater, and the movie cult as well as Lanyard are presumed dead and crispy.
Cut to 15 years later and local high-school’s film club is looking to re-open the Dreamland Theater for one last all night horror show. Maggie is having some bizarre dreams, the kind you wake up screaming from, which happen to be my favorite kind. She dreams of a fire kindling and a man’s face, smiling at her, mocking her, calling out to possess her very being. The fire in her nightmares is so hot she can feel it singe the short willowy hairs on her arms, almost as if she’s lived through it; almost as if the dream was being recalled from repressed memories rather than fabricated from her subconscious. Maggie thinks she’s kind of psychic, but her aunt and legal guardian knows the terrible truth; she is the long lost daughter of cinema wack job Lanyard Gates. She’s been getting mysterious phone calls where the caller claims the 9th circle of Hell is reserved for her. What a lucky lady. I tried reserving the entire 9th circle of Hell and was told I would have to call months in advance. The aunt sneaks out late at night to the Dreamland theater, confirming her worse fear; The Possessor is back and looking to wrap up the movie he started 15 years ago. She’s armed but not so dangerous. Someone dressed like the undead finds no problem taking her down and out after distracting her in the darkened theater with some loud horror movie sound samples.
There’s a music video montage of the film club renovating the dilapidated Dreamland Theater for its final show. That’s how you know that while this was released in the 90’s its heart and soul and guts certainly belonged to the 80’s. The film club itself consists of the typical stalk and slash selection of prime cuts. There’s a kid in a wheelchair, a ditz, a laid back party dude, the teacher’s pet, the sassy Latina, and the nerdy shy outsider. The crew is motivated by a former theater owner who regales them with tales about the schlock shows and movie gimmicks of the past. He compares the audience to turkeys, and says it’s their job to cook them. The Possessor however will do all the carving.
Later they discover a copy of the avante-garde film The Possessor, a movie previously thought to have been completely destroyed by the fire that claimed Lanyard’s life. It consists of close up shots of an eyeball, a man’s bearded face, lasers, and Lanyard Gates repeatedly telling the audience to “Come into my head” as he pulls his skull apart. Maggie however wants Lanyard out of her head. When she sees the movie her mind reels with incredible déjà vu and she passes out. Tobe can’t wait to play it again…hint, hint…and he’s good at making latex masks…hinty, hint, hint…
The all night horror movie marathon kicks off, and the party is off the hook. The film club pulled no punches when decorating the joint; and the costumed crowd of movie goers is licking it up with glee. This is the kind of horror-thon I’d love to attend, with audience participation through the roof and gimmicky attractions like “projecto-vision” where movie props suspended by wires are launched toward the audience, or “aroma-rama” where the audience is dosed in a raunchy smelling fog. I also enjoyed the idea of a “shock clock” screaming when a new feature starts playing.
Unfortunately for the film club this is the kind of horror marathon where people in front and behind the screen will be screaming for their lives. During the first feature the film class teacher is grotesquely impaled on a mosquito prop. The killer quickly fabricates a latex mask replica of the teacher’s face and is able to lure the ditzy class slut to her demise. During the electroshock feature the wheelchair bound student is electrocuted and left sizzling. Meanwhile Maggie is stalked by a strange old man with burns on his face. She suspects Laynard Gates, but soon enough Tobe takes her “down the rabbit hole” to his lair beneath the movie house and reveals the horrible truth; Maggie is really Lanyard’s daughter Sarah Gates and her aunt is the person responsible for killing him and setting the theater on fire. Tobe and his mom were part of the unfortunate crowd locked in the theater. His mother burned to death in front of him, he lost most the flesh on his body, not to mention a good piece of his sanity. Now he aims to undo the past by replicating the sacrificial ritual Lanyard was originally going to perform, except this time it will be completed. Tobe’s warped idea (something he calls geometric logic) is that if he brings the ritual to conclusion it will bring his mother and him together again. With Suzanne and “Sarah” captured, he has time to kill before the midnight ritual, and spends it doing just that…killing!
Tobe’s facial skin has been completely burned off but his proficiency at mask making is unparalleled, meaning he can make whatever face he wants for himself. He plays doppelganger to the class slacker, pisses on him in the men’s bathroom, then disposes of him with poisonous gas. Tobe closes in on the short haired blonde from the film club but finds out she secretly had a crush on him, which scares him away and sends him on another emotional tirade. Soon it’s midnight and Tobe has the stage setup for the final blood sacrifice in front of a live audience of people who falsely believe it to be all part of the show. At the last possible moment Maggie’s horn-dog boyfriend swings in to save the day, causing the mosquito prop to malfunction, drop and impale Tobe, thus ending the horror of the night.
Popcorn is a fun film full of buttered up stalk and slash goodness. The main antagonist, Tobe does a great job of channeling the crazy with his spastic emotional swings and outbursts of destructive homicidal rage; it would have thawed this ghoul’s cold black heart to see Tobe fill the screen for any potential sequels; the character, despite being a deranged lunatic, had a certain dash of class and charisma that reminded me of Vincent Price spun up on 5 hour energy drinks and huffing gas. Those fried egg eyes carried a lot of emotion and the master of disguise bit separates him from other famous cinematic stalkers. I enjoyed his over the top reaction to finding out about his secret crush. Love is such a foreign, alien concept to him that even considering it sends him into a fit of fury. It confuses Tobe, and I think upsets him because he thinks it will get in the way of his ultimate plan, his “geometric logic”.
The kills, although not overly gory, were original in the way they coincided with the movies being played in the theater. There were a few members of the film club I was left wondering what happened to. It seemed like Tobe just ran out of time and wasn’t able to get to them all, like the Latina girl in the lobby. And we never come back to see what became of the blonde with short hair that professed her uber crush on Tobe the film student (as opposed to Tobe the skinless killer).
I really disliked Maggie’s boyfriend in the film (Mark), and it’s annoying that he gets to save the day, because the guy is a real dick. I mean he dumps Maggie for some bimbo because she won’t put out on demand and he can’t be bothered with helping her deal with her night terrors. He gets beat up and has to be defended by some sassy broad with shoulder pads, then spend the rest of the movie bumbling around until he figures out Tobe’s true identity after the audience already has that information. He swings down from the balcony to stop Tobe from stabbing his ex-girlfriend, his one big heroic moment, but killing Tobe with the mosquito prop was just dumb luck. This crypt dweller would have loved to see the Tobe-ster skin Mark alive and dump his body in the popcorn machine.