Monday, November 15, 2010

Curtains (1983)

Six budding actresses of varying age and skills have been invited to a large manor deep in the woods for a casting session held by Jon Stryker, a renowned director intent on finding the perfect study for the lead role in his next picture. What these girls do not know is that Stryker had already promised the role to Samantha Sherwood, a famed thespian who was so determined to understand her character that with the help of Stryker got herself committed to an insane asylum, as the role is that of a woman gone quite mad. Stryker decides to leave her institutionalized once he loses faith in her ability to adequately portray his heroine. When Sherwood learns of the impending casting call, she escapes and sets her sights on reclaiming the coveted role by any means necessary.

Talk about your classy slasher. There is an air of superiority present throughout Curtains that almost made me feel less than worthy as I downed a few Bud Lights through its runtime. These are not your typical oversexed teenage victims, but rather a man and women of distinction, who admittedly are not above giving up a bit of flesh to get what they desire. Like I said, classy. It's almost a shame that one of them decides to take it up a notch and don a part wizard, part decrepit old woman mask while they cut up the competition. I guess that's what you call "slashing your way to the top."

Curtains was rife with production problems including having to recast a lead role halfway through and therefore reshooting several scenes and a nervous studio demanding significant cuts that ultimately leave a number of holes throughout the story. Most noticeably with the character of Matthew who is barely introduced when the girls first arrive (his reason for being there is never explicitly stated), frolics with one of the ladies in the hot tub and then is never seen or heard from again. This is especially shameful as there are pieces of what could have been a really great film. This is not to say remains of Curtains is without its flaws. There are a few scene shifts that employ what can only be called 'curtain wipe' and in my occasionally humble opinion, John Vernon is woefully miscast as the cold, but subdued director. Not once do we get the hands shaking, wild eyed Vernon that he is so adapt at nor does he ever tell anyone to "Go fuck an iceberg," (kudos to you if you know where that comes from), but seriously, he plays it so cool that a cardboard cut out version of him could have been placed in several scenes without me noticing.

As it stands, Curtains remains an interesting relic of its time and like so many others from the era, exploits the spookiness inherent in both dolls and mannequins despite neither having much of anything to do with the plot. The mannequins especially as one girl seeks shelter inside a prop warehouse that just so happens to store dozens of them; all hanging from the neck with makeshift nooses which seems like an odd and needlessly complicated storage solution.

A little humor never hurts either, especially with two of the hopefuls supposedly being a champion figure skater and dancer who both have scenes that showcase how little skating and dancing experience the actual actresses have. As well, I couldn't help dwelling on the scenes inside the insane asylum. How did the actors cast to play crazy determine how they should act given that our lead was supposed to be researching crazy to act crazy in the production within the production? Probably getting a little too meta here. Moving on...

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