It is a film where director Richard Ciupka loves taking the opportunity to screw with our perceptions. In the opening scenes, Samantha Eggar is escorted by John Vernon to see a psychiatrist (Calvin Butler) where her initial calmness throughout the interview suddenly breaks into a fit of madness and she has to be restrained in a strait-jacket. John Vernon then asks for a private moment with her whereupon it is suddenly revealed that all of this is a ruse so that she can rehearse for a role (although part of you cannot help but think that this is something that surely takes Method Acting to a lunatic extreme). Later, this is twisted on its head when we hear John Vernon and Samantha Eggar arguing over abandoning her in the asylum but when the door is opened, they claim to merely be rehearsing lines from an old play. Not long into the film, we have what appears to be a standard slasher scene where Deborah Burgess is stalked in her apartment by a figure with a stocking over their head only for this to be revealed to be a boyfriend playing a kinky game.
One of the appealing aspects of Curtains is its meta-fictionality. In following with the title, scene changes are often denoted by curtains falling across the screen. In one of the cuter aspects, the directors credit goes to Jonathan Stryker who is also the director played by John Vernon in the film. (In reality, this is Richard Ciupka, a Belgian director resident in Montreal. Ciupka began as a cinematographer with works that range from class acts like Atlantic City (1981) to the trashy Ilsa, The Tigress of Siberia (1977). He has directed a handful of other works, mostly for French-speaking Canadian tv but nothing else of note).
The film has a better cast than you might assume of the average slasher film. Indeed, this is an actors film more so than it is a slasher film. The film has often been contrived around pieces that allow individual actors to show off and Stryker/Ciupka seems less interested in the slasher elements. These are competently drawn out but none particularly memorable. However, it is amongst its cast that Curtains shines.
These include Samantha Eggar, a British actress who gained a name in the 1960s on stage and in high-profile film roles in The Collector (1965) and Doctor Dolittle (1967). She rediscovered herself in genre cinema in the late 1970s/early 80s most notably David Cronenbergs The Brood (1979) and seems to be having a field day with the role. There is also Linda Thorson who has become regarded fairly much as a snide trivia joke following her disastrous replacement for Diana Rigg in the final season of tvs The Avengers (1962-9). Here in the opening scene too she proves that she is capable of delivering something strong and effective. John Vernon gives a wonderfully bullish performance. In roles ranging from Point Blank (1967) to Dirty Harry (1971) and National Lampoons Animal House (1978) and hundreds of tv guest appearances, Vernon became typecast usually as a despotic petty authority figure. Here his amazingly domineering performance contains some great acting, particularly in the way he gets inside the various actresses there is an amazing scene where he places an old hags mask on Samantha Eggar and demands that she seduce him without using words. This is more to what he delivers here than most of the other supporting roles he had put together. You can also spot the then unknown Michael Wincott and Maury Chaykin in minor roles.
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