CURTAINS (1983) – The Dungeon Review!

I have been neglecting my own country and I thought it was time I should begin to remedy that. It won’t exactly be an avalanche of Canadiana but I will definitely be reviewing a couple more Canuck flicks before the month is over. Curtains is the second review I have done for a Canadian film starring Samantha Eggar. The other film being David Cronenberg’s The Brood. Eggar is brilliant in The Brood; she brings just the right amount of class to coo-coo. She gives another memorable performance in Curtains, but we’ll talk more on that later. I guess Curtains would be classified as a slasher, but it has a great gialloesque plot and twist that makes it rather special in my opinion.

This is my third viewing of Curtains which I picked up on VHS a while back. Unfortunately my TV crapped out on me recently so I had to ask a friend to let me bring my VCR over to their place to re-watch it. Before you get too excited about picking Curtains up for your collection, be warned, I have only been able to find Curtains on DVD included in one of those cheapie collections you find in Walmart dumpbins (The Midnight Horror Collection: Bloody Slashers). I do not believe Curtains has ever been released on DVD otherwise. What a shame!

Actress Samantha Sherwood is signed into a mental hospital by her director Jonathan Stryker. A precarious ruse concocted by Sherwood that will enable her to research for her next role as Audra. Stryker visits regularly at first but as time wears on Sherwood inevitably becomes affected by her environment. Instead of speaking to Sherwood’s doctor about their artful dodge, Stryker stops visiting and leaves Sherwood there to suffer her fate. Stryker begins recasting for the Audra role and invites six actresses to his estate to tryout. It is a role to die for as the sextet of actresses will soon find out.

The premise of Curtains is not exactly screamingly original even cliché may not be inappropriate. In the world of slashers there are no lack of young women gathered for the express purpose of their on-screen elimination. It is all in the execution as to whether a director can make it work and Richard Ciupka adds great twists, a big fat red herring not to mention a few delightful visual flourishes that put Curtains a cut above the competition. I love the ugly hag mask the killer wears. When the killer straps on some ice skates and goes whipping across a pond with sickle in hand you know you are watching a slasher with panache! The violence is considerably less graphic than most of its peers but Ciupka makes up for it quite nicely with some very stylish death scenes. Besides the aforementioned skating scene there is a fantastic dream sequence involving a creepy doll and a superb chase though a storage garage of movie props! There is a wee bit of sex and nudity although so little it is barely worth mentioning. The visuals overall are pretty terrific and its mystery unwinds in a nice steady manner giving you brow-raisers at regular intervals. Curtains does have a couple of scene changes that were a bit clumsy, but it is a minor quirk in the overall presentation. The film’s score is quite decent although I could have lived without the cheesy song played during the lengthy ice-skating scene. Curtains has a solid cast anchored by John Vernon and Samantha Eggar. John Vernon is good at playing the guy you love to hate and he is a first rate prick as the arrogant director Jonathan Stryker. Samantha Eggar is strong as the respected older actress who moves from slightly cracked to collected regularly throughout the film. The actresses are a collection of familiar Canadian faces that anyone my age would surely recognize including Linda Thorson, Anne Ditchburn, Sandra Warren, Lesleh Donaldson, Deborah Burgess and Lynne Griffin who played my favourite character comedianess Patti O’Connor. Michael Wincott makes a brief appearance as Matthew, a character whose inclusion was frankly a bit of a mystery to me and Maury Chaykin also has a quick in and out.

I really enjoyed Curtains! It is a great little mystery disguised as a slasher that is worth seeking out. With all the mucky-muck I’ve seen on DVD I can’t believe this nifty little film has not found a distribution company! Recommended!

Dungeon Rating: 4/5

Directed By: Richard Ciupka

Starring: John Vernon, Samantha Eggar, Linda Thorson, Anne Ditchburn, Lynne Griffin, Sandee Currie, Lesleh Donaldson, Deborah Burgess, Michael Wincott, Maury Chaykin

12 Responses to “CURTAINS (1983) – The Dungeon Review!”

  1. You didn’t like the ice-skating music? I thought Canadians loved Burton Cummings! (It was bad.) Seriously, great review. My favorite part is the chase through the prop collection, and I also wonder what the Matthew character was doing there. And Patti was the best character! Hope we get a real DVD someday.

    • And Anne Murray…we all love Anne Murray! This film is great…what an unsung bit of 80s cinema!! Would absolutely love to see a clean print (the VHS is a smidge dark and grainy in spots), I also read that stuff was cut…so a nice uncut dvd with bonuses please!!

  2. If I saw someone with that mask skating to me, I’d run away in terror.

    • Oh the poor ice-skater gal tried… had to run through snow with skates on no less!! And no skate guards either! Ever tried walking with skates on? It’s brutal. You know we all skate here in Canada. You know aqua babies? They throw little babies into a swimming pool to learn how to swim? Well we do that here with skating. Before the kid can walk we strap skates on them and throw them in a rink. Yeah…you want your bottle? Come here and get it! You can’t even walk yet? Well maybe so…but you are going to freaking skate or no citizenship for you!

      • … Damn, I’ll have to learn to skate so I can get to see films at the Toronto International Film Festival! All you have to do for UK citizenship is brave the variable weather. Wear sunglasses and a trench coat because you can never be sure what you’ll get 😉

  3. “Gialloesque”,I love it! I like this film as well. I’ve been a fan of Samantha Eggar,John Vernon and Linda Thorson(her Tara King days),since,you guessed it,the 1960’s. Yes,I’m as old as dirt. This is an above average thriller,and as you mentioned,that twist is great!

    • “Old as dirt” ha!-I love that expression! I’ve been watching 60s films already…and just seen Eggar in The Collector! What a freaking film!! Between you and me I can’t imagine it not making the top 10 for 65! Stamp is just freaking terrific too! Amazing stuff.
      “-esque” is becoming a new bad habit for me! I don’t know where I picked it up but I’ve been using it a lot lately!

  4. Is there even a VHS of this one floating around? I couldn’t find even a listing on Amazon.

    • I am not the least bit surprised Curtains is not readily available. I doubt it was ever mass-released. The copies out there might all be former video store copies. I know mine is. I bought TONS of VHS when video stores were closing!

      Here’s an amazon link http://www.amazon.com/Curtains-John-Vernon/dp/B0001E6CKW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1348010895&sr=8-2&keywords=curtains+1983

      Try Value Village though…I check them out regularily and have picked up some real scores there.

      • Haha, apparently I don’t know how to use the Amazon search engine too well. 😛 Thanks for the link! Value Village? I’ve never heard of them although I live in Ohio and am actually new to this state anyway; thrift stores, however, are definitely good places to run across some goodies. I remember the ecstasy of finding a near mint copy of Night Of The Creeps at one (this is well before it was re-released) for a mere dime – those are the kind of moments that make all of the dull ones totally worth it.

        • Value Village is a chain of thrift stores…might be a Canadian thing…I don’t really know. Are you absolutely sure you didn’t grow up in the 80s?

          • Haha, for five years anyway, yes. 😛 VHS collecting is glorious; I thoroughly enjoy watching horror flicks with that drive-in graininess as opposed to some HD nonsense, feels more authentic to me.

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