Monday, June 29, 2009

Curtains (Richard Ciupka, 1983)

There are those in the acting world who like to amplify their profession's importance by utilizing words like "craft" and "method" when describing what they do for living to easily impressed lollygaggers. However, as most people know by now, acting is simply memorization, enunciation, and a whole lot of make belief; everything else is just unnecessary globs of thick gravy pored over a gelatinous mire of self-importance. Now, the realm of advanced acting and the lowly slasher flick may seem at odds with one another (serious thespians and masked killers rarely attend the same social functions). But somehow they cross paths in the wintery Curtains, a little known Canadian horror gem from the early 1980s. Theories about the title's meaning will no doubt dance through a great number of heads early-on, as it is an unusual moniker for a horror film. I figured it was about the obvious, a psychotic nutcase who wraps up his or her victims in clumps of unfitted window coverings after they've murdered them (the killer's parents own a drapery shop on the outskirts of Wawa). Then I had this strange idea that the film was about female genitalia. Of course, I was wrong on all accounts (well, to be fair, my second theory is sort of on the money, as the film does have a slight vaginal flavour at times), the word "curtains" is a euphemism for death and also pertains to the end of a theatrical play. In other words, it's the perfect name for this particular endeavour, which involves Jonathan Stryker, a pompous director played by John Vernon (Savage Streets), auditioning five actresses for the lead in his latest film at his palatial home out in the wilds of Northern Ontario.

The film in question is called Audra (a melodrama about a demented woman presumably named Audra) and was expected to star Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) a veteran actress of stage and screen. It's obvious she's not gonna be the star because Stryker has left her to languish in a mental asylum (she committed herself for research purposes), and has begun looking for other actresses to fill the prestigious role (yeah, he's a bit of a dick).

Things get a little prickly for the sleazy director when the scorned actress escapes and shows up at the audition with a huge "what the fuck" expression on her face. How will the director contend with six actresses from varied backgrounds at an isolated house in the middle of somewhere? I'm no expert, but I think someone is gonna get stabbed, or worse, prodded violently with a sharp object.

The first half of the film involves Samatha Eggar's stay at the psychiatric hospital (a place where strait-jackets and lobotomies are still on the menu). Leggy, sophisticated, slightly English (the clop of her high heels on the crude Canadian concrete sent a clear message to the hoards of unworthy suitors who dared to look at her with horny intentions), Miss Eggar does a tremendous job at portraying an over privileged actress thrust into an undignified situation.

The middle focuses on a seventh actress who doesn't quite make to the audition. Sporting a football jersey (#88) and a mane of freshly combed hair, Deborah Burgess dreams about finding creepy dolls at the side of the road, enjoys acting out rape fantasies with her boyfriend, taking bubble bathes that expose her well-shaped knees, and is the first to see the dreaded mask of the killer. Which, I must say, is one of the most unpleasant looking masks I've seen worn for killing and stalking purposes. Everything after this takes place at the house in the woods.

The six actresses are getting a feel for one another (you know, exchanging pleasantries and making subtle threats), when all of the sudden, the director asks Christie Burns, the youngest out of the six, if she brought her skates. This question seemed odd, but I didn't really pay much attention to it. That is until Burns herself asks, "Has anyone seen my skates?" That's when I knew something was up. Donning a white toque and carrying a boombox, Lesleh Donaldson stumbles through the snowy forest on her way to do some skating on a frozen pond. Thus, the stage is set for one of the most memorable encounters in slasher movie history.

The sound of a crow cawing, Burton Cummings' "You Saved My Soul," and blades on ice are all were hear until the music stops and a doll with outstretched arms is found buried in the snow. What happens next is pretty sweet. I think the mask (with its wrinkled skin and flowing locks of blonde hair), the grunting sound that accompanied each slicing motion, and the fact the killer is wielding a scythe (a menacing looking weapon) are the main reasons this scene so great. Also, the pristine setting, the sunny skies, and well executed direction are a factor as well.

It's hard to top the brilliance of the ice skating sequence, but Curtains diligently soldiers on. With the exception of Miss Eggars, most of the actresses playing the other actresses are Toronto born, and the one that stood out for me was Lynne Griffin. Best known as the gal whose spent most of Black Christmas in the attic wrapped plastic (and as Bob's girlfriend in Strange Brew), the charming actress plays Patti O'Conner, the so-called "funny one" of the group, and gave the film an unexpected frothiness with her nervous wisecracks and a strange Queen Street West style edge when it came to dealing with intimidating Jonathan Stryker.

In addition, the nightie-based legginess of the elegant Linda Thorson (The Avengers) when she discovers a severed head in her toilet and the extended stalking sequence in the prop house are also worth singling out.

video uploaded by kentgraovac


  1. I have to admit, I DID think "Beef Curtains"...but hey, I haven't had breakfast yet AND I'm a big, big fan of Fiona Flaps.

    I've heard of this elusive Canadian slasher picture before from the boys at Kindertrauma...and correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't you used to have that pic of the beautiful, large mouthed Lesleh Donaldson and her doll on your sidebar?

    Speaking of Lesleh and that really is something...looks to me like she could fit 2 to 5, 1 inch (25 mm) thick, 3 in (76 mm) in diameter standard hockey pucks in that pulchritudinous portion of her alimentary canal. MEOW! Color me impressed.

    And speaking of your sidebar...I had a feeling Divine would be popping up after your last review...and how 'bout those Fun Fun gals...more like, Yum-Yum if you ask me.

  2. Hey Yum-Yum. Great post. I always love when you cover movies I've never seen before. This is one I've never even heard of. Hope your week has started off well. Cheers!

  3. You had me at Linda Thorson.

    Wait, that was at the end. Never mind :-)

    I do love a good slasher movie. Much better than today's torture-pr0n flix like Saw.

  4. Oh, I adore this movie. It's so good. You just can't go wrong with Samantha Eggar and Lynne Griffin trying to out-act each other.

  5. I remember seeing this one on cable back in the day, and that poster and the killer's mask always stuck with me. I also seem to remember the director character sleeping with one of the actresses and then leaving her crying on a bed, hugging her knees with her sideboobs exposed and her long straight hair hung over her face.

    I was 14, and I have a photographic memory for scenes like that I saw at that tender age. Tender, that is, from all the wanking.

    Of course it *was* Showtime/Cinemax in the 80s, so I might have the movies confused. I never forget a side-boob, though.

  6. Mr. Canacorn: Note to self: An unfiltered Google search for the expression "fiona flaps" is not in your best interest.

    I love Kindertrama! Pink layout, demented children; good stuff.

    I'm not 100% sure, but I think Curtains first came to my attention via Final Girl and her smallish tribute to the women who wore sports jerseys as pajamas in 80s horror movies.

    I gotta say, your sidebar awareness is topnotch (TOP-freaking-NOTCH). And, yes, Lesleh Donaldson's gaping maw and her doll were a fixture in my sidebar not so long ago. She proudly represented the horror genre before the lovely Suzanne Synder took over.

    "Pulchritudinous." I hope you don't mind, but I'm using this bad boy.

    Aren't Fun Fun great? Although, that video is kinda messed up; even by Fun Fun standards. I mean... yeah.

    Keith: Thanks, Keith. I don't know why this flick isn't more well known.

    Darius Whiteplume: Linda Thorson is a leggy, Toronto-born angel.

    Curtains is a Merchant/Ivory production compared to the so-called torture-porn of today.

    Billy: Cool. I'm glad that you mentioned Lynne Griffin; she is terrific in this and in Black Christmas.

    The Vicar of VHS: Hmmm, I mentioned Deborah Burgess' well-shaped knees, but they're obviously not the same knees you're referring to. So I wonder, whose knees were they? Anyway, I admire people who have a gift for remembering side-boobs of days gone by. Because, alas, I have no such gift.

  7. Yum-Yum, when you say "your best interest" you really mean yours and certainly not mine, right?

    I totally remember that FG post...Lord knows, I love me a woman in a sports jersey...throw in a pair of white athletic socks and you're cooking with gas...But truth be told, my heart really belongs to the female form sausaged in spandex and layered in leg warmers...the brighter and more off kilter the colors the better.

    Looks like Suzanne is representing Horror with a pic from NIGHT OF THE CREEPS...right? I looked her up on IMDB and noticed she was in a 1987 film called PRETTYKILL that one IMDB user describes as:

    "A detective tries to track down a serial killer who is murdering prostitutes while at the same time having to deal with his girlfriend's mental problems, which are gradually deteriorating into a split personality." is beautiful isn't it? Not only do I love the thesaurus but I'm a big fan of alliteration as well.

    Sorry my comments have been so time to blog with the Petit d'homme trumping computer time...but I have to get it out somewhere.

  8. There is a little "Meet Linda Thorson" film the BBC did to introduce her for The Avengers. They make it sound like she grew up with lumberjacks :-) Typical prejudice against Canadians :-)

    Trying to talk the wife into another Toronto trip. We might stay by what I call the "Resident Evil 2 building." (Queen St, IIRC)

  9. You always find a way to make something I'd almost erased from my head relevant again.

    I saw this in Detroit at the movies. I was the only viewer on a Monday afternoon, so I can assure you that it got a theatrical release.

    Eggar is/was always good.

  10. Mr. Cancorn: Mine, I think. Either way, your interest doesn't need protecting (I've been to the Bride of Awesomeness).

    Sausaged in spandex, eh? I'll keep that in that mind, as I have tons of pics that stand gingerly under that particular umbrella of perviness.

    Yeah, yeah, Night of the Creeps (on DVD in October). I don't why I assume every knows Suzanne was in that movie (she basically makes a cameo).

    She also played two characters on Seinfeld: a cute Nazi ("She's a Nazi, George! A Nazi!") and Poppie's daughter -- you know, the one who wouldn't eat pie.

    No problem, man. But to be fair, a large chunk of it was quoted text.

    Darius Whiteplume: Funny, I just watched something called "Meet Linda Thorson" on You Tube. *swoon*

    You really must like Milla Jovovich if you call Toronto's City Hall the "Resident Evil 2 building." :D

    IIRC means "If I Recall/Remember Correctly" ...I'm pretty slow when it comes to internet speak. Anyway, yeah, it's on Queen Street; the Sheraton Centre being across the street.

    Phantom of Pulp: Thanks. I guess making the irrelevant seem relevant is my forte.

  11. You have IIRC correct. I try not to use many of those, but feel I must keep in step with today's youth :-)

    I believe we were watching the ice skaters, and then looked up. The wife said something close to "holy shit! The Umbrella Corporation!"

    That is a cool end of town. We went to a bar there, forget the name. Black Bear maybe? They had some non-meaty items for us to snack on with our (my) Molsons. Then things got blurry... :-)

    Happy Canada Day, BTW.

  12. Happy Canada Day and Happy 4th of July!

  13. Love this movie! Samantha Eggar and John Vernon are awesome together, and and you gotta love how Cummings was milking the hell out of "Saved My Soul" in movies between this and "Melanie"

  14. The "ice skating" scene freaked me out.

  15. Hey Yum!!! I love this flick! I cannot find it to rent though :(. The ice skating scene is soo fuckin great!

  16. Hey, Randy!

    The ice skating scene rules so hard. I watch it every now and then on YouTube.