Curtains Review (1983)

Spoiler-free so you can read before you watch

Curtains Review (1983)

Horrorific content by penguin_pete on July 23rd, 2018 | Movie Review | Supernatural, Drama, Maniac

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It’s about a director and a bunch of actresses assembling at an Ontario home to cast a role, where the actresses start getting picked off one by one.

Curtains was directed by Richard Ciupka  and stars John Vernon (from Blue Monkey), Samantha Eggar (from The Brood) and Linda Thorson.

Six beautiful girls, trying to get ahead... when the curtains fall, five will be dead.

Curtains Review

The best Italian Giallo film ever made in Canada...

Some horror fans say they hate jump scares and fake-outs in horror movies. Curtains knows that, so it plays fair and gives you advance warning. The very first scene is Samantha (Samantha Eggar) pointing a gun fixedly at somebody just off-camera while yelling the cheesiest threats you’ve ever heard... the scene pulls back and she’s on a stage, with her performance being critiqued by the director Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon). The next scene we see Stryker escorting Samantha to a mental hospital to be committed, when she suddenly seizes the scissors off a desk and tries to stab Stryker. Orderlies fight her down and get a straight-jacket on her, and the shaken Stryker requests a few minutes with her alone, then immediately they collapse on each other in laughter, of course, because this was all a ruse. Samantha is faking her way into a mental hospital so she can study how crazy people act, the better to play her next role.

Has the movie explained its intentions clearly now? In this way, Curtains wrestles you into giving the movie an End-User License-Agreement to mash pies in your face for the next ninety minutes, because it’s a movie about actors in show business, hence the fake-outs have to be given, naturally. This goes on through the whole movie, turning the corner from annoying to funny to aggravating to hilarious. It leads to some great set-ups and drop-dead funny lines. The amazing thing is, it never gets old. Curtains never does anything lazy, but with panache, wit, and attitude, so much so that by the time real bodies start hitting the floor, you’re rewinding the movie mentally and counting the clues to figure out if you’re been had again. In short, we have another horror movie that knows horror movies are supposed to be fun.

Bodies, meet floor!

So Stryker is auditioning actresses for the lead role in his next movie, a big deal screamed from the headlines of Variety. To do so, he’ll host the actresses for a fun weekend at his secluded chateau in backwoods Ontario. Except there seems to be some serious competition for this role - serious enough to kill for. We meet stand-up comedian Patti O'Connor (Lynne Griffin), career actress Brooke Parsons (Linda Thorson), ballet dancer Laurian Summers (Anne Ditchburn), musician Tara DeMillo (Sandee Currie), and ice skater Christie Burns (Lesleh Donaldson).

We know we just short-circuited your attention span at “ice skater” so yes, the infamous ice skating scene isn’t far away. In fact, there’s an empty seat at the introductory dinner scene, reminding us we just saw one of the candidates get offed before they even convened. Give or take a couple romps in the hot-tub with the help, the actresses settle in for the night with the party crashed by the newly-released Samantha. Yeah, it seems this time, no fooling, Samantha is pretty steamed that Stryker is casting the role to these other actresses, but if you think this means she’s the killer, you should know better by now.

In fact, the killer stays masked, which is how he/she/it appears the next morning when Christie dolls up in her snowbunny gear to head out to the frozen-over pond for ZOMG! the amazing skating scene, which deserves its own post. From here, let’s just say the rest of the movie lives up to what you’ve seen so far, more or less, and damn near anything that can happen does happen. As much attention as the skating scene gets, don’t forget the doll’s highway scene, the mask’s second scene, the bathroom scene, the prop warehouse scene... this movie has an obscene number of noteworthy scenes.

Self-aware cheese horror stands alone

There really aren’t many movies that compare to Curtains, The basic plot structure follows any Friday the 13th sequel, with people gathered remotely dying off one-by-one, but it’s also a parody of that style. You could definitely put it next to Suspiria, but not as colorful, way less gory, and a heck of a lot funnier. Its sheer audacity is matched by movies like The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, in the way both movies have those “They didn’t just go there!” moments. Try, just try, to imagine all the creative ways you could dispose of a head. Keep thinking, you’re not even close.

Yet for all these fireworks, Curtains manages to be a satisfying slasher flick, albeit disjointed. Rumor has it the production was troubled; the producer stormed off the set due to creative differences leaving the director to finish out of pocket, which took years over schedule. Parts had to be re-written as circumstances changed. So yes, the story works out to be an untidy heap of events in places, but Curtains is so busy rolling in the hay and showing you the naughty tricks the country kids don’t know that it barely shows. Curtains doesn’t want anybody taking it seriously, almost manic in its denial.

On a trivia side note, the screenwriter is Robert Guza Jr., from whose story the cult favorite Prom Night was made. One sentimental family drama later, Guza did this screenplay, and then his IMDB page trails off into soap opera land forever, writing for the likes of General Hospital and Santa Barbara. Did the filming of his opus leave such a bad taste in his mouth? Perhaps the events of Curtains left more than one person ready for a straight-jacket, and by the time you’re done watching this movie, you might be too. But who minds going crazy when it’s such a fun trip?

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