Horror Movie Review: Curtains (1983)

The mess of production and re-shoots that spanned three years is evident throughout Curtains. It doesn’t feel like a complete movie, instead a mix of scenes pasted together making for a disjointed watch. It’s a mess but it is surprisingly compelling.

The movie gets off to a slow start as we’re introduced to Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar), an actress who is being committed to an asylum by director, Jonathan Stryker (John Vernon). The pair are faking her mental instability though seeing her incarceration as preparation for a big role in a film playing the character ‘Audra’.

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It’s a risky plan, one that backfires on Samantha when Stryker abandons her inside. He then invites a group of younger, aspiring actresses to his mansion to audition for the role of Audra. Samantha is incensed and manages to escape the asylum, heading for Stryker’s mansion with revenge on her mind.

The group of would-be actresses all gather at the mansion as Stryker puts them through his paces (he’s a git as you would expect) with most failing to reach his high standards. The group, hardly used to his style of direction struggle but his demands are the least of their problems.

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There is a killer on the loose, one that wears a hag mask and is relentless in their pursuit of killing off the young girls. Is it part of Stryker’s plan to find out which actress is best for the role? Is it one of the girls trying to kill off the competition? Or is it Samantha taking her revenge?

The reveal at the end is solid but as the film plays dirty in its build, it can hardly be called a great twist. It’s hard to say you didn’t see it coming if the movie used trickery to hide the killer’s identity.

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Curtains can be compelling to watch, thanks to much of the surreal style of filming (the ice-skating scene is great). The slasher scenes are well put together and while it lacks scares it has moments of tension. The problems lie in just how erratic and disjointed it is. You’re constantly knocked out of the film as it jumps from one scene to another. The cast, most of them, work as hard as they can within the limitations but most are boring, characterless fodder for the killer. They do the required amount of screaming and deliver hysterical reactions when necessary.

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The cult following that surrounds Curtains today is hardly warranted even if it does entertain at times. The poor editing and stitched together feel stops it being heralded as a classic slasher but many will get mileage out of it.

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  • Carl Fisher

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