Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Curtains (1983)

Reviewed By: Billy

We have a little philosophy here at Tower Farm: the more taglines on the box, the better the movie. One tagline suggests a tight, well-focused marketing campaign. Two suggest a movie that didn’t quite work at the box office, and is being taken in a new direction for home video. But once you hit that magical number three, you know you’re in for a beautiful mess; clearly the guy designing the artwork didn’t understand the movie…and neither did the intern writing the back summary…and sure as hell not the people who actually made the damn thing.

My friends, I’m honored to present you with the three little gems gracing the Curtains box:

1. …the ultimate nightmare.
2. Behind every curtain, someone is waiting…someone is watching.
3. Six beautiful girls, trying to get ahead…when the curtains fall, five will be dead.

Now, to be fair, there is a consistency here; it’s not often that every tagline on a box includes an ellipsis. But it’s pretty obvious that of the three people who wrote those, only one had actually seen the movie. And even he wasn’t watching that closely…because trust us, 80’s perms and shoulder pads do not equal beautiful. Curtains, by the way, is one of those movies that lures you with its awesome box cover; it’s a VHS masterwork. There’s a scary doll coming out of a pair of red velvet curtains, which are hanging from an old woman’s face. Like the taglines, we’ve got three different images here, cobbled together like a grade-school magazine collage – again, a strong indication that there was some behind-the-scenes head scratching.

The plot reads like the best porno never made: A hairy old director brings six women to his house to audition for his latest movie. His audition, by the way, consists of the women opening each other’s blouses and seducing each other while wearing an old hag mask. The movie he’s making is called Audra, which you’ll know because every character mentions the name “Audra” in every line of dialogue – to the point that you’ll get confused and actually start wondering which character is named Audra. Meanwhile, someone’s in the work shed out back sharpening up a scythe, which the killer then uses while chasing one of the girls on ice skates.

I'll give that a second to sink in.

Anyway, throw in a head in a toilet …one of the worst stand-up comedy routines you’ve ever witnessed…and some very disturbing puppet play, and you’ve got a disaster on par with the Hindenburg. And sadly, we haven’t even gotten to the insane asylum scenes, where crazy ladies freely roam the halls giggling and tickling each other, the faux-rape scene, in which a blonde character that will disappear three minutes after being introduced indulges in a creepy rape fantasy with her boyfriend, or that doll from the box cover, which pops up in three or four scenes but seemingly has nothing to do with anything happening on screen. You see, Curtains is the cinema equivalent of that second-grade writing exercise where one kid starts a story, then passes it to another kid who writes a few more sentences, and then it gets passed on again. The fact that the credited director is Jonathan Stryker – the director character in the movie – is a pretty good tip-off that five or six people were hammering away at this thing, each under the impression they were working in a different genre.

If the plot and direction are all over the place, well, just wait until you see the acting. First of all, it’s another philosophy at Tower Farm that you can’t go wrong with a hammy British lead. There’s really nothing better than an over-emotive Brit uttering lines like “You don’t understand anything about women…or love…or me.” Especially when that Brit is Samantha Eggar. Eggar is a top draw here; looking like Joan Collins after a long, rough night of deep-sea fishing, she gives an acting performance equivalent to the pyrotechnic display at a Metallica concert – it’s flashy, it’s big, and no matter how annoying it is, you can’t stop watching it because everything else around it is so annoying, too. John Vernon plays Jonathan Stryker – the character, not the actual director…we think – like the best of the generic "Columbo" villains. You know right from the start he’s a sleazeball, an idea helped along by the fact that his face looks like that of a melting wax figure.

The only other performance worth mentioning is that of Lynne Griffin, who’s best known as the girl-in-the-dry-cleaning-bag from Black Christmas. Griffin plays a stand-up comic who’s auditioning for the lead role in Stryker’s movie. That Griffin’s character would ever even be considered for a serious dramatic role requires a suspension of disbelief even greater than when the hag-masked killer is doing triple axles in a long black robe. Her sexually laden one-liners, intended to be sharp and sarcastic, come off more along the lines of the white trash mother trying to fit in with her daughter’s friends. Then again, maybe it’s not all her fault – what actress could possibly sell scintillating dialogue including “The casting Jacuzzi is like the casting couch…only wetter” with any real dignity?

But, as usually happens with the best (worst) movies, everything comes together in a Perfect Storm of horror cinema. A nonsensical plot…ridiculous characters…and even more ridiculous killings…culminating in one of the greatest (most ludicrous) “killer-unmaskings” since the giant man-hands turned out to be Betsy Palmer’s. And so, Tower Farm proudly recommends Curtains – a three-tagline blockbuster that could have only been made in the glorious VHS-era. If this is ever released on DVD – in one of those special digitally re-mastered two-disc editions – run for the hills. This movie is best viewed on a glitchy, fuzzy print with a slightly-out-of-sync soundtrack. And about halfway through the movie, when you suddenly realize that nothing is making any sense, just remember…three taglines = triple the entertainment!



  1. "If this is ever released on DVD – in one of those special digitally re-mastered two-disc editions – run for the hills. This movie is best viewed on a glitchy, fuzzy print with a slightly-out-of-sync soundtrack."

    I wish I could, but I lent my VHS copy to a friend of mine and their damn VCR at the tape!

  2. I ordered this one a few days ago having not seen it since I was a kid. All I remember about it is that scary mask and that dream(?) sequence in the rain involving a doll.