add in a game cast of actual real actors, a subtle score, and an overall "anything goes" atmosphere, you get one of the most under-appreciated slasher classics of all time.
Would ya look at this crop job!
Curtains opens with venom spewing actress Samantha Sherwood (a scenery chewing Samantha Eggar) who decides that her typical acting regime just isn't working for Audra, for her newest role. Under the guidance of her director, Jonathan Stryker (the sleazy John Vernon), Samantha gets herself committed to a mental hospital through a series of goofy events.
During her stay, Samantha becomes more and more unhinged and wouldn't you?
Attack of the Cackling, Tickling, Puzzle Piece Stealing Harlots!
It soon becomes known that Stryker has no intention of releasing Samantha from the asylum and he plans on re-casting Audra. O.K., here's where I get reaaaallly confused. Next thing we know, literally, in the next scene, Samantha is somehow free from the hospital and is shacking up with an unseen friend. Here's the most we see of the friend.
Who the Hell is this random woman?
That's Curtains for ya! It operates on some strange form of dream logic that somehow actually make it's creepier.
Anywhooooooo....Samantha and her leggy friend have managed to obtain all of the Audra hopeful's headshots and good ol' Sam begins burning them to a crisp. Just like this...
Burn, baby, burn!
Cool. So anyway, now it appears that Samantha is pretty pissed and wanting some serious revenge. Oh, goody!!!
Now, we get to meet, well almost, all of the girls who are on their way to Stryker's house for a casting session (If this doesn't sound like a sleazy reality show, I don't know what does! VH1, take note!)
There's Patti (the great Lynne Griffin) who's a stand up comic, with what many have said is the worst, most unfunny act they've ever seen, but I'm here to tell you that it is simply not true. Patti's a pretty funny gal. Considering the circumstances, she's very funny. I mean, look at the audience she's playing to.
Here's a sample of Patti's BRILLIANT act:
"I got with a guy from PhotoMatte once. Y'know how they say in and out in 24 hours? He was in and out in 24 seconds!"
C'mon, that's gold!
We move on to Brooke (The Avengers' Linda Thorson) who is, um, pretty spoiled and refuses to read the Audra script until she gets an offer. Her, eh, flamboyant (?) agent Monty (Maury Chaykin)
is possibly the most enthusiastic actor in the film.
Oh, Monty, you kill me!
Moving on, we meet Amanda (Deborah Burgess) who is unwinding after a long day with a glass of wine in the tub.
Like you never done this!
Turns out that Amanda has an unflattering 80's porn star hairdo and her boyfriend has an equally unflattering 80's porn star stache. They also like to play demented sex games where he breaks into the house and pretends to rape her. I mean, seriously!
You two deserve each other.
Amanda has a REALLY scary nightmare where she's driving during a rainstorm and stops to get a closer look at a figure in the middle of the road.
I can feel the pee down my leg. I'm THAT scared!
I won't spoil anything else, except that she wakes up and is offed by a creeper in one of the scariest damn masks I've ever seen.
On the road to the audition, we meet sweet Christie (horror royalty Lesleh Donaldson) and a random woman without a name in a limo. For the rest of the film, I don't think we even get so much as a name. She has about 3 lines and speaks softly, so you never really know what she just said.
Once they get to the house, they all partake in a little small talk over dinner and we meet another girl named Tara (Sandee Currie), I believe. Tara is about as exciting as a stick, but you better warm up to her fast, cause she somehow ends up becoming the last girl standing by the end. Why? Anyone's guess. I was rooting for Christie.
What an exciting bunch!
Samantha does show up, getting Stryker flustered and making everyone else uncomfortable. There's also Matthew, some random handyman who starts having sex with Tara in the hot tub. Patti does lewd things with a couple of stuffed animals, Brooke acts like a dime store Joan Collins, and poor, sweet Christie is cajoled into sleeping with Stryker. A good night for everyone!
It's actually very scary!
The next morning, Christie's skating routine is rudely interrupted by the killer him/herself. This scene has gone down in infamy and for good reason. It's genuinely scary. It certainly helps that Christie is the only likeable person in the movie, well besides Patti. Remember, I'm apparently the only one who thinks she's funny.
For the next potion of the movie, people bitch, audition, sleep with each other, etc. The best moment in this section concerns Patti's audition where she totally botches it. Patti, you're my homegirl and ya make me laugh, but you're a HORRIBLE actress! She delivers a monologue about child abuse with a gleam in her eye and few awkward pauses for laughter. I mean, it's really awful! Then, she has the nerve to get all on Stryker's case for calling out the fact that she sucks. Someone doesn't take rejection well. Hm, I'm starting to wonder about that Patti.
Mannequins are always scary, especially when played by Kim Catrall.
It isn't until the finale that the film picks up steam again with a suspenseful chase sequence in an old prop garage. It's pretty well done, besides the fact that it features our resident snoozer Tara in jeopardy. I think I'm still a little bitter about Christie kicking the bucket early.
Soon, the killer is revealed and it's a double whammy. Samantha really is the killer, or at least she really did kill Stryker and Brooke, who were fooling around. The big shock is that, Patti, wanting people to take her seriously as an actress, committed all the other murders. Then, we end on a brilliantly darkly comic ending where Patti performs her same HILARIOUS stand up act in front of a captive audience of mental patients!
Curtains is one weird, convoluted movie. Usually, this is a bad thing, but in this film's case, it gives the film an almost nightmarish other layer. The atmosphere is serene and snowy a la The Shinning, the cast is capable (for the most part cough*random ballerina*cough!), some of the set pieces are very memorable, and the musical score by Paul Zaza (Prom Night, My Bloody Valentine) is wonderfully subtle and suitably unnerving.
Apparently, this film had more than a few problems during production, enough to send the film off on a few separate hiatuses. I'd like to say that's why most of the film feels very disjointed, but they certainly couldn't have changed the script that much during the breaks. The script leaves us with so many unanswered questions. What's up with the doll? Who the hell is Matthew? Why do two of the girls have absolutely no personality whatsoever? Where's Christie, ballerina girl, and Tara's little introduction scenes? Most importantly, who the Hell is Samantha's "friend" who helps her escape from the hospital?
If any film deserves a DVD remastering, it's Curtains. The rights are only God knows where by now. It would be wonderful to see all the deleted scenes, the original script, outtakes, cast and crew interviews, etc, etc. Curtains is also one of those movies that you just know would look pretty awesome in a cleaned up print with it's correct ratio. There are many moments on my VHS copy where it appears to be horribly cropped.
Curtains is a classic that you must see if you want to be my friend. I know ya'll are thinking "Why do we want to be his friend?", but trust me you do and Curtains is a sure fire way to my heart. I know what's best for you, so trust me and go find yourself a copy or even watch it on YouTube.
9 out of 10 scythe wielding old hags on ice!