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