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Premise = Six actresses are invited to a cabin in the mountains to
audition for the part of Audra. Well, all of these actresses are really
good-looking (well or so they're supposed to be I guess) but one,
there's someone running around in a hag mask killing people around the
cabin. Anyone who gets in her way will die.
I watched this movie recently and found it very entertaining, quite different from the other slashers that came out during this era, and plus the acting is actually really good especially Samantha, there are many effective scenes like the ice skating murder scene which is really well done, the dream sequence with the doll at the beginning and the final chase scene which takes a rather unpredictable turn and last but not least the ending which has a bit of a twist which i never saw coming.
The killers mask is really creepy as well and the directing is rather sleek even though we know when the killer's going strike next. All in all this is a really entertaining slasher that deserves to be remembered.
A number of good Canadian horror movies have made their way to the USA,
to become cult classics. Bob Clark's outstanding 1974 horror-thriller
Black Christmas remains a staple of the modern "scary" movie. Beloved
Jamie Lee Curtis came to horror fame through the likes of Prom Night
(1980) and Terror Train (also 1980). However, you may not have heard of
this interesting little shocker...
Curtains is a better-than average slasher, despite some of its reviews. The movie is about six actresses who go to audition at a director's country house, where it seems someone is willing to kill for the role! While this may sound cliché, the film has enough creativity on it's side for one not to really notice. It sets up some pretty good shock sequences. Anyone who has read about this film will surely have seen mention of the infamous "ice skating" scene, which is very memorable.
Curtains was a troubled production though. It was to be filmed in 1980 and ended up taking years before completion. So, any of the films "loose ends" are more likely a product of this problem. But it does hold together. The cast is quite good; Eggar, Griffin, and Thorson are in especially top-form. The direction is well done with a touch of style. Paul Zaza's music score is an effective one. Last, but not least, the story itself is a gripper!
For horror fans, Curtains is a rare treat that is well worth seeking out. It ranks with some of the better slashers of the early '80s.
*** out of ****
"Curtains" is a pretty good slasher.It's well-made and genuinely creepy.The scene with the killer coming across the ice with the sickle is extremely scary!The film isn't as good as Bob Clark's brilliant "Black Christmas"(1974),but still it has some very suspenseful moments.The killer wears an ugly mask which makes him/her even more menacing.There is not enough gore for my liking,but I'd still recommend this little gem to horror fans!
As slasher movies go, this one is not too bad. It borrows liberally
from other more famous Canadian slasher films (the wintry setting and
actress Lynn Griffith from "Black Christmas", the killer's mask from
"Terror Train"), but it's not a bad little film in its own right. It
has a good set-up. Six young actresses are gathered together in an
isolated house to compete for the same theatrical role (of an insane
woman). As it turns out the treacherous director (John Vernon) had
previously given the part to an older actress (Samantha Egger) who had
gone so far as to fake her way into a mental institution to research
the role and ended up being left there by the director. Soon the
competitors start disappearing one-by-one. But is it the director, the
bitter older actress, or has one the younger would-be thespians been
driven over the edge by the competition? The movies falls apart a
little in the middle (apparently there were directorial problems-- the
director on record, "Johnathon Stryker", has the same name as the
character in the movie, and, according to this website, they also had
to replace a lead actress). The ending is good, however, and pretty
surprising--and it definitely has some very spooky scenes.
This is one of the rare slasher movies that is more interested in creating a strong atmosphere and developing the characters than in showing 101 ways to carve up annoying, brain dead teenagers. If you're the proud owner of the "Sleepaway Camp" box set you might want to pass on this one, but if you like horror movies that are well-crafted and actually a little bit scary, this is worth a look
Curtains heralded the directorial debut of Richard Ciupka, a cinematographer
that had worked on various cult-movies throughout the seventies and was the
main camera operator on the excellent gialli, Blood Relatives from 1982.
Peter and Richard Simpson, the Canada-based team responsible for Prom Night
were the producers, marking their second joint venture into the kingdom of
slash and explaining the healthy budget and strong casting decisions. It's
no secret that it suffered a nightmare production that was riddled with
problems, which began when lead actress Celine Lamez refused to play a
full-frontal nude scene a fair way into the shoot. She was consequently
fired and blacklisted from working in Canadian motion pictures for four
years. Linda Thornson replaced her, but obviously all the parts that had
already been filmed had to be re-shot with the replacement, costing more
money and putting a dampener on the set's general atmosphere. After that,
things just spiralled further downhill, resulting in various script changes
and complaints from the financers that were unsatisfied with Ciupka's work
as director. (That came as a big surprise when I found out; I thought he did
a superb job!) A lot of scenes ended up on the cutting room floor, which
explains the studio stills showing screen-shots that never appeared in the
final print when it was finally released after being shelved for three
years. I'm fairly sure that some of the conspicuous plot holes that can be
found throughout the runtime are most definitely resolved on a roll of film
that's stashed away somewhere in a Canadian office, waiting for someone to
uncover and re-edit it into a 'director's cut'. Those sorts of on-set
complications usually and quite understandably completely ruin most efforts
that are unfortunate enough to be plagued by them. Just look at Steve
Miner's Texas Rangers. As a filmmaker, Miner usually always manages to
deliver the goods, but after one too many accidents involving careless
horsemen and an uninspired crew, it reportedly created an atmosphere of
laziness'. The film was first rumoured to be unreleasable', before it
slipped out silently some months later and bombed like a dysfunctional
torpedo. Despite all that worked against it, Curtains is still one of my
favourite genre-pieces from the early eighties. Ciupka directs with an
exquisite style and confidence, and Paul Zaza's superb score creates a
relentlessly foreboding environment that has rarely been matched to such a
The story resolves around a mysterious director that is trying to produce a film, which he feels soulfully passionate towards. Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon)'s lover and lead actress, the well-respected Samantha Sherwood (Sam Eggar), bought him the rights to the movie, in return for the lead role. She was hoping to play the central character, Audra, whom is an infamously psychotic and eccentric woman. Like the best Method actors, Sherwood discovers that research is the essential key to performance, so she fakes insanity to have herself sectioned into an asylum, so that she can become emotionally closer to the persona that she wishes to portray. Stryker visits her constantly at first, but as time goes by, he becomes concerned that the actress is looking a little too convincing and perhaps she really has gone doolally. So what does he decide to do, tell the doctor that it was all a farce and save the woman from impending delusion? Of course not, instead he just abandons her to rot with the rest of the whacko in the institute, and decides on a casting weekend at his remote New England mansion to find a new Audra! Hmmm, I'm betting that someone's going to have to pay dearly for that endeavour, don't you agree? The auditions consist of six actresses spending forty-eight hours away from civilization and undergoing vigorous dramatic examinations. Stryker himself sums the tests up perfectly, making himself sound like a military instructor, when he says, `The next two days will be unlike anything that you've ever seen before.' All the women have their own unique talents, and they're all attractive and unattached, proving that the crafty mogul has truly got his head screwed on correctly! When they all meet up over dinner for the first time, they discuss what lengths they'd travel in order to win - what would surely be - the role of their careers. The mood is decided when one budding thespian says that she'd ...kill for the part'. The atmosphere gets all the more tense when Sherwood turns up unannounced and looks as if she's going to do just that! As sure as night becomes day, a masked killer makes an appearance and begins working his way through the cast-list one at a time, leading me to believe that he's auditioning for the crown of most creative slasher movie massacre inflictor! As is the thread with the multitude of genre entries from this point in the cycle, we have to decide whom we think is under that impressively creepy mask...
Curtains certainly has more than its fair share of noteworthy moments. The awe-inspiring second killing, which can best be described as skate and slash', ranks alongside The Prowler's late night swim' as two of the best from the genre's peak period. Christie (Lesleh Donaldson) sets out early in the morning, skates in hand, to practise her forte in the bright snow-laden woodland. She finds a fitting pool of ice and places her beat-box down, before treating us to a corny eighties love song and some visually credible skills that were indeed polished enough to rival those of acclaimed Olympic-twosome, Torvil and Dean! After a good couple of minutes watching her whiz around in circles, her performance is cut short, when the tape that she was listening too is mysteriously stopped. (It was a shame cos that cheesy old ballad was actually quite catchy!) She looks over to where the stereo is placed, but sees no one, so heads over to get a closer look. On inspection she discovers a bizarre and spooky-looking doll buried under the snow beside the radio. As she cleans the frost away from its woe-be-tired face, we see the first shots of the mysterious killer as he begins skating towards the hapless female from a distance. Christie looks up to catch the assailant charging in her direction, which is shot in superb slo-mo and backed with some perfectly orchestrated work from Paul Zaza. She soon realises that this uninvited guest doesn't have her best intentions at heart, when he raises a scythe above his head and decapitates the dolly that she was clenching in her hands! After an apprehensive pursuit through the snow-coated trees and an unexpected jump-scare, lets just say, that the world has one less season ticket holder to the local ice rink! It truly is a brilliant experience watching the superbly deranged psychopath in the old-hag mask skate up in slow-framed shots, while the victim struggles to make sense of the situation. The tension was literally impeccable and Donaldson's decent performance as the petrified youngster made it all the more realistic, somehow. You'll be hard-pushed to find a more memorable sequence anywhere in slasher cinema. It's genuinely terrifying.
The final chase was equally as suspenseful, utilising a superb use of lighting and claustrophobic trappings to create a fitting final to a competent offering. The prop-room location gives Ciupka a chance to shine as he makes the most of his previous experience, chucking in tonnes of striking moments. These include, flashing lights revealing the killer hiding in the back of a beaten up Mini, then disappearing when the camera returns, and the quick cuts through shots of strung up mannequins (and even a corpse), which are accompanied by the dieing screams of an unfortunate female. The patent credibility allows this to stand alone as privileged to possessing its own unique environment that separates it from the rest of its production-line counterparts. It's hard to describe, but Curtains has a matchless ambience that remains unparalleled, even today. It's hard to maintain whether it's down to the constant haunting shots of spacious corridors ending in spooky bright lights, the above-average editing or Zaza's terrific score, but one thing is for certain, it's definitely huge on atmosphere all the way through. Even the weaker points of the feature aren't all that bad, although admittedly, the artsy ballet scene and the rape sequence were overlong, somewhat random and fundamentally inexplicable.
Another bonus is the good work from the cast, which is filled with actors that have more undiscovered talent than any kind of reputation or A-list credibility. John Vernon makes a competent - if a little theatrical lead, earning kudos for expelling any pleads for sympathy, while Eggar does a good job as the essential red herring (or is she?). But it's Lynne Griffin that really steals the show more than anyone else does. The dynamic little Canadian actress gets the chance to make up for her disappointingly brief role in Black Christmas, in which she spent most of her screen-time playing a corpse in the attic, with a bag over her head (no fair!) Here, she gives a fantastic portrayal, switching between emotions of anxiety, fear, insecurity and anger, even taking the time to include a stand up comedy routine seriously! I've already mentioned the tremendous use of music, but it's also worth noting the final piece that plays over the end credits. It's a beautifully composed melody that makes the most of the talented musicianship that was on offer.
The flaws are all mostly due to the problematic production. Even though we're unable to tell exactly how much the shoot was affected by the unfortunate occurrences, Ciupka having to use a pseudonym when the film was released proves that it certainly wasn't a rose garden. Some of the characters are far too under developed and one or two of them even remain nameless. It's impossible to pick your choice for surviving girl, because not one of the actresses was on screen long enough to display their individual characteristics, which also had a devastating affect on the mystery. It is a surprise when the killer is revealed, but to be honest, it could have been absolutely anybody, we're not offered any real clues or motives. What's really needed is a total rehash of the picture from the raw footage or the dailies' - so to speak, so that we can get a true look at how it really should have been. Anchor Bay has worked wonders with movies like Maniac, Terror Train and Dawn of the Mummy, putting them to DVD with commentaries and decent extras. It'd be nice if they could raise similar interests to get this flick redeveloped with a commentary explaining exactly what's missing and why. Unfortunately, it's doubtful that anyone would bother funding such an exercise for an effort that wasn't all that successful in the first place. What we're left with, is a half-finished print that still manages to kick up one hell of a storm. Turn the lights down low and prepare to enjoy this decent offering with some of the most plausible directive decisions since Halloween first surfaced in 78. The evident brilliance easily outshines the few not so good moments and that one aforementioned murder alone, redeems the often budget-friendly asking price. I say give this one a go, it certainly gets my vote and is probably a good contender for the all time slasher top-ten.
A little while ago, a local theatre was playing Curtains as a midnight
feature, after unearthing a 35mm reel of it. I didn't understand why
this movie had become so rare, but it's a common fate of most
independent Canadian movies from the seventies and eighties. This
movie's story of how it came to be is a sad, bruised one, with missing
scenes and crew disputes, and it makes me happy to see other people
loving the movie these days.
Slasher film enthusiasts may be let down by this film's pacing, as it certainly takes its time to get to the violence, and when it's there, it's not particularly gory. But most people will appreciate the film's tactic of keeping you on edge with some extremely tense scenes and twists throughout. What I personally loved about the movie was how it let you get to know each of the women who would later become victims, making them interesting, likable characters whom you actually don't want to die. Most horror movies of this era chucked in annoying, well-endowed victims with stereotypes for personalities and you just waited for them to die. Such is not the case here. The actors are excellent, and many people dote on Samantha Eggar for her role in Curtains. She deserves every bit of praise.
Along with the slasher plot, there's also an underlying theme about the perils of Hollywood, how showbusiness leaves you behind as you get older, and despair for some to be a part of it. The music is well-done and very effective, particularly the beautiful ending theme.
Overall, the movie is creative and under-appreciated, but unfortunately missing explanations for certain pieces of the plot and character development. I'm hoping that sometime during my lifetime this movie is remastered on DVD with all its missing scenes and actor commentary, and there certainly are thousands of people who want the same. This movie needs a wider release; if you don't love it for what it is, you'll at least be entranced by something in it.
I guess that "Curtains" is slightly better than the average slasher
flick, mainly because they have a MacGuffin*. Otherwise, it has the
sorts of things that one would expect in such a movie: nudity,
screaming, etc. Usually, I wouldn't expect to see John Vernon in a
horror film - especially after "Animal House" - but he has one of the
more interesting roles that I've seen in this genre, approximately as
cold as the roles with which he's most often associated.
So, if you're looking for a mildly better slasher flick, this might be just the one. Granted, you can tell that the one woman isn't a real skater and that the other woman isn't a real dancer, but everything else makes up for that. An OK film. Also starring Samantha Eggar.
*In case you've never heard of it, a MacGuffin is a red herring, something that throws you off. You'll realize what it is as the movie progresses.
Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) is a veteran actress who very much
wants the title role in her director / lover Jonathan Stryker's (John
Vernon) new film "Audra". So much so that she's willing to feign
insanity to get herself committed to a mental institution for first
hand experience. Unfortunately for her, her surroundings do seem to get
to her, and Stryker gives up on her. He invites six young ladies to his
remote estate to audition for the part. Well, Samantha gets wind of
this, and is able to escape and get back to Strykers' pad. There's also
a killer on the premises, as well, one wearing a memorably hideous old
Considering how troubled this production was, it's a miracle that it ended up being as coherent as it is, and that it's actually pretty damn entertaining. It's a solid Canadian slasher that takes full advantage of atmospheric environments; there aren't enough slashers set in the winter in this fans' humble opinion. It's rather low on gore, but *does* feature one fun severed head gag. It's got some pretty interesting moments that let us know that just racking up the body count is not the primary concern of writer Robert Guza Jr. or director Richard Ciupka (who ended up using the fictional name Jonathan Stryker as a pseudonym). The scene where Stryker puts the mask on Samantha and demands that she "seduce" him without words comes to mind. The music by Paul Zaza (composer for the original versions of "Prom Night" and "My Bloody Valentine") is very effective.
The film also creates some very engaging characters such as stand-up comic and aspiring actress Patti O'Connor (lovely Lynne Griffin of the original "Black Christmas"). Vernon is fun as the pompous director and Eggar is just great in her part. Also among the auditioning thespians are Linda Thorson, Anne Ditchburn, Sandee Currie ("Terror Train"), and Lesleh Donaldson ("Happy Birthday to Me", "Cries in the Night", "Deadly Eyes"). It's also a treat to see actors Michael Wincott ("The Crow") and Maury Chaykin ("Dances with Wolves") in early roles for them.
There are some mighty fine moments involving a doll left in a road, and an extended chase sequence set inside a storage space full of props and costumes, but the main thing that would give "Curtains" a reputation is the incredible ice skating set piece, which this viewer saw on TV many years ago; it burned its way into his brain long before he ever knew the name of the film.
Very well directed and featuring appropriate scene transitions, this is one entry into the slasher genre that its dedicated fans *should* check out.
Eight out of 10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Because of the success of John Carpenter's 1978 classic 'Halloween' the
next decade would be forever inspired and cashing in on the success of
the slasher picture. And thus we have 1983's little known 'Curtains'
Stars Samantha Eggar, John Vernon are our two leads as she plays aging
actress Samantha Sherwood , who perhaps once was a star and great is no
more and is still hungry for a career , he plays Director Jonathan
Stryker. A cruel, tough and demanding director who will stop at nothing
for perfection from his cast.
We meet both characters at the opening shot of the film, which instantly pulls you in but turns out to be nothing but a red herring. You see, Samantha desperately wants the role of the mad 'Audra' in Stryker's new project and goes so far to convince that she's the one, she has herself committed to an insane asylum. But Stryker does the unthinkable as he leaves her there to rot and brings six other potential woman for a casting session at his secluded wooded home. When Samantha learns of this, she escapes (I might add with the help of a friend who's face we never see) determined to pay Stryker back and get the role in her hands. So as the woman arrive at Stryker's so does Samantha. Then they are all snowed in and one by one they are getting killed off. Someone wants the part bad. Is it Samantha determined and ready to pay Stryker back? Is it Stryker himself? Or is one of the other actresses wanting her chance at fame? Who is the killer in the old hag mask? The answer may surprise you as there seems to be many potential suspects as well as victims lurking around...
'Curtains' although, began production in 1980 wasn't completed until 1983 where it had a disaster release. Critics hated it, no one really cared to see it. Boy did they miss out. It is said the film was havoc to complete (hence the three year production) Richard Ciupka was signed on to direct but in the middle of filming left due to on going disagreements and feuds with producer Peter Simpson.
It was then Simpson took the director's chair himself (This is why the film's director on the credits has been addressed as the pseudonym of Johnathon Stryker)and the film went on going re-shoots and rewrites, one actress who signed on in the beginning Celine Lomez was fired due to the fact that producer Peter Simpson felt she couldn't act (He stated this in an interview with the website the 'The Terror Trap') it is also rumored she wouldn't do full frontal nudity. Her replacement, Linda Thorsen does however not do any either. The film at one point was even shelved for a year!
So, with all the problems, 'Curtains' eventually was given the standard 80's VHS release, and still hasn't found it's way on DVD, which is such a shame, due to the fact that it needs a release.
So, to break it down, let's talk about the bad first-
The film has POOR character development for some characters (This might be due to the production problems) The pacing is a bit slow, so if you like your films slow well, here you are. But the main problem (And this is for sure the production problems kick in in) is that the film feels like two films in one. Some scenes are pure 80's slasher, some are more artsy, some are dramatic. It's all over the place and never maintains enough balance. The killer is way out in left field and there isn't much motivation for there reasoning.
The good- The music is VERY well done and quite chilling. Two death scenes are pure classic, the famous ice skating scene and the climax prop shed chase, both scenes are done very clever, have surprising jolts and terrifying results. The prop shed scene feels artsy and they both include a very clever and good use of slow motion. The acting, even the smaller roles, are all great, Eggar and Vernon really know what they're doing (Is it possible that Eggar was able to portray her role so well because it was similar to her life? She was an aging actress with a steadily downhill career) Lesleh Donaldson is a delight as well as Lynne Griffin who really makes you laugh and want her to be the 'final girl'
'Curtains' while slasher film, also tells the story of basic Hollywood, after all, the older you get, the more the town abandons you, as the case for Samantha. It's also about what people will do to clime the ladder, after all, the film embarks on one good question once you really think about it, how desperate are you to become famous?
starring: Samantha Eggar, John Vernon, Linda Thorson, Lynne Griffin, Sandee Currie, Lesleh Donaldson, Anne Ditchburn, Deborah Burgess, Michael Wincott.
plot: Popular actress Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) is a regular in director Jonathan Stryker's (John Vernon) films and is very excited about playing the psychotic title character in his new film "Audra". In order to research the part, Samantha has Jon commit her to an asylum, but over time she becomes crazy, and he leaves her there. Soon after, Jonathan invites six talented women to his mansion for a casting call weekend, and Samantha shows up just as a killer in an old-hag mask with a sad-eyed doll begins to kill the competition one by one. Is it Samantha or one of the actresses doing anything for the part.
the good: It isn't news that this film was plagued with production problems. I don't really know what they were all about, but all I know is it messed with the editing but the film was still cool.
The best thing about it is the dream-like atmosphere, a beautiful Victorian mansion in a snowy and foggy setting. It makes way for a great chase-then-kill scene in broad daylight when one of the characters is ice-skating, and the killer can also ice-skate, it looks very creepy and builds great suspense. Another great chase scene is when a girl runs into a dark garage, full of mannequins and film props. It was pretty creepy.
The characters are also very likable. I felt for Samantha, having been in a situation like hers (only she may be a killer, and I was a drummer in a band not an actor). Patti really had the same personality as me, and I also felt for her because some people see me no more than a few laughs. The other actresses are very likable with the small parts they are given. And John Vernon played a great sexist asshole. Also look out for Michael Wincott (the main villain from THE CROW) in a small part as an assistant with the jacuzzi.
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