Curtains is an underrated Canadian flick directed by Richard Ciupka. Ciupka's name isn't plastered on horror memorabilia to purchase wholesale but a resurgence of interest for Curtains has grown increasingly over the years. You won't find Richard's name during the film's opening credits - in the place of director you'll see the name Jonathan Stryker, a character within the story. This was done to avoid putting Ciupka's name on the film...for what reason I do not know. Part of the team that helped create Curtains is UK-born producer Peter Simpson of Prom Night 1 & 2 fame and the classically trained Canadian pianist and composer Paul Zaza; praised within the community as the man responsible for scoring Prom Night 1-4 and 1981's My Bloody Valentine. This talented team was met with difficulty, however, as the film saw 3 years of re-shoots and re-casting after filming began in 1980. As a result of so many set-backs, Curtains was finally released in March of 1983.
The story opens with two characters: famous method actress Samantha Sherwood and well known director Jonathan Stryker. As a powerhouse couple, Stryker creates a film called Audra about an unstable woman with a vindictive personality towards men. His intentions are to cast his lover, Sherwood, as the lead role but after seeing her mock performance he proposes the idea of performing background research in a mental institution. After a violent but believable performance the two convince the staff at the institution to commit Samantha; allowing her full access to the grounds and to personally witness the mental deficiencies of the patients. Meanwhile Stryker holds an audition for the role of Audra without Samantha knowing - extending the offer to a small group of girls to audition at his mansion. Angered immensely, Samantha escapes from the asylum and confronts Jonathan at his home; joining the troupe of actresses that are all competing for the same role. In addition, a young actress who was sent an invitation did not arrive but was murdered instead. Six women, along with Stryker, must live in a tense household over the course of a few days while strange events plague the atmosphere.
Actor John Vernon portrays the character of Jonathan Stryker in this suspenseful tale. His resume is filled to the brim with 50 year's of television appearances and film roles - two of which that I can recall is an episode of Tales from the Crypt in 1992 and the 1976 western starring Clint Eastwood, The Outlaw Josey Wales. Samantha Eggar also plays a role in this film as...you guessed it...Samantha Sherwood. I drew a connection to her after her appearance in David Cronenberg's horror classic The Brood. Without debate the strong suit of Curtains lies in this decision; casting the two strongest thespians as the lead roles. The other cast involved is acceptable, too, and those are strong words when you mention this around the word "Slasher."
Zaza's composition for the musical score is brilliant because it utilizes the sound of a classic piano. Many films from the 1980's relied more on an experimental and synth-based medium which remains a distinguishable feature from the decade. It's refreshing to hear Zaza's rendition during this period because I believe it works in conjunction with the set design. While on that topic, Stryker's mansion houses a basement that features old theater props and equipment. The creators of the film accentuated this by adding manikins that intensify each scene. How many of you who have shared similar feelings while walking through unlit rooms in a theatre? If this is something you've experienced then getting on-board with this idea is effortless. Naturally these segments that I mention occur at the tale-end of Curtains but working to obtain this goal transitions smoothly without any major plot hiccups. Unlike the previous film that I reviewed, The Prey, Curtains paces itself correctly without incessant time-wasting techniques and pointless footage.
The killer bears the mask of an elderly crone; definitely not the most original concept to hide the face of the killer by using a mask ***insert Halloween reference here*** but the inclusion of this didn't come across as a cheap knock-off. It would be outrageous to think that fans of Halloween require notification before a masked visage is adopted into a film post 1978 so the fact that Curtains embraces a familiar approach shouldn't be seen as a rip-off. Besides, the premises differ greatly so any quarreling among horror fans should remain null.
I enjoyed Curtains - it incorporates chilling surroundings with a well- thought-out screenplay that help boost the film above the droves of Slasher films that litter the '80's. If casual fans still appreciate early Slasher titles, they may enjoy it too.