Bag 'Popcorn' if you want artful cinema

"Popcorn" isn't too clever by half, but only by seven-sixteenths. It's so busy being droll and ironic it forgets to be any good.

It's one of those insanely ambitious double-personality jobs that aspires to be a movie and a movie-parody at the same time, and manages to convince deeply as neither.


Jill Schoelen, who was so wonderful in Joseph Ruben's "The Stepfather" and is apparently taking over the franchise as teen ,, queen of scream, plays a film school student haunted by memories of a strange horror film she once saw or -- good heavens! -- experienced. When her class of aspiring directors decides to put on a horror film festival to raise money to make its own films, a reel of that film mysteriously appears.

And so does its star-director, a madman from the '60s who wanted to murder his own family before the cameras in the interest of art, but was stopped by an inopportune bullet. Now he's back, and on the night of the festival, the kids start disappearing one by one while he closes in on Schoelen.


The festival structure gives director Mark Herrier a chance to parody the delirious contrivances of '50s black and white horror to some effect, but the mock scenes are never as funny as the real thing. Who wants to see Herrier's take when the original "Mesa of Lost Women" or "Plan 9 From Outer Space" are occasionally available in all their tacky daffiness on the tube?

What plot remains is the usual stuff involving killers with rubber scars and staples on their faces, a variety of uninteresting murders and the usual cast of near-unknowns struggling artlessly to play characters that haven't been written.


Starring Jill Schoelen.

Directed by Mark Herrier.

Released by Studio Three.

Rated R.