Thanks be to Rob, who got me thinking real hard about this movie. I first saw it years and years ago and recently revisited the film for an episode of Natsukashi. If you would prefer to listen to me talk like a moron instead of reading my moronic review, you should click the Natsukashi link. Might I suggest you do both?
Maggie is a film student at UCal. In an effort to boost their presence on campus, Maggie and her classmates host a B-movie marathon at a local theatre. While the students ready the theatre for a William Castle-like night at the movies, they discover an old film canister labeled "do not open". Open it they do and they are treated to an impossibly pretentious short film called "The Possessor". The film was made by one Lanyard Gates, who planned to murder his family in front of a movie audience but was killed when his movie theatre burned down. On the night of the movie marathon, Maggie is convinced Gates has bought a ticket to the show, in spite of the fact that he's dead. When people start dying, it would appear that Gates really has returned from the grave with the intention of finishing what he started years ago.
Not all that scary, Popcorn is a lot of fun to watch. In spite of the fact that the film takes place during a movie marathon, it shies away from being self-reflexive. Rather, the film mines the horror movie arsenal to entertain both audiences. As the movie-goers are drawn into the participatory and immersive nature of the marathon, the viewer is treated to a tale of murder and intrigue as Maggie's classmates are offed one at a time while she stalks Gates through the theatre.
Though Popcorn does showcase some interesting make-up effects, the real showstopper is the line-up of old B-movies. Each one is extremely well made and really captures the quality--and campiness--of their era. And that camp then transcends the boundaries of the film-within-a-film to make Popcorn a campy outing in an of itself.
At odds with the camp is the pretentiousness brought to the screen by "The Possessor". When the villain is revealed and his motivations made clear, his insecurities, instability, and arrogance play off Popcorn's free-wheeling attitude. The result is a film that bridges the gap between schlock and ostentatious.