Directed by: Richard Cupka
Starring: Samantha Eggar, John Vernon
Unless you are a true hardcore slasher film fan you may not have heard of Curtains, a 1983 film from the producer of Prom Night. The film is in many ways a mess, but a great mess. Behind the scenes battles and reshoots after the film had already closed production make the final product thematically muddy but even with its problems Curtains is still one of the coolest cult classics of the 80’s.
Samantha is a true method actress. To prepare for a new leading film role she gets herself committed to an institution. Her director/slash lover is the only person that knows that she’s not really crazy but is instead researching a role. The problem is while she’s locked up he decides to recast the role. During what must be called a unique casting session Samantha has escaped from the institution to set things right. Of course the six actresses that the director was considering begin to die in horrific ways. The classic mystery tropes are in place; whodunit?
Watching this movie offers a mixed bag of high art attempts and low brow genre formula. There are even some teen horror elements that don’t make sense for a film featuring all adults. The movie simply rises above the flaws like a phoenix rising from the ashes though. Richard Cupka made a move from cinematographer to director with this film and he attempted to bring all of his tricks as a camera guy to the show. The result is a film that wants to be more than just another slasher, and in many scenes it is. The film was made in the 80’s but it has a more lavish feel, like a Giallo from the late 60’s with great color and interesting camera work. The problem was that the film’s producer Peter Simpson was looking for another successful slasher in the vein of his previous film Prom Night; not an art piece. Simpson actually directed additional scenes for the film after production was complete. The result is actually quite entertaining. The thematic flaws can pretty much all be attributed to the additional scenes but so can some of the most iconic murder scenes, so it almost balances out.
Often a killer is made by his/her mask. Michael Myers and Jason Voorhees both proved that the mask makes the man. In Curtains the creepy old lady mask stands up to the hockey mask and zombie Shatner mask without question. The slo-mo ice skating kill is just freaky. Curtains isn’t the most terrifying of slashers but when this movie is on it’s REALLY ON. The acting is adequately over the top, the visuals are unique compared to most slashers of the era, and that damn mask is just disturbing. Curtains is an underappreciated cult classic of the 80’s that deserves attention from fans of the era and the genre and knowing the story behind the making of the movie just makes watching it all the more fascinating.
The 2K transfer of Curtains features gorgeous colors and high detail, especially for a film that’s this old. There’s plenty of film grain here and there but that’s to be expected and honestly it just makes the film feel more of the era. Black levels are even fairly solid from beginning to end. If you’re wondering why genre fans love Synapse films so much all you have to do is take a look at how beautiful this film looks on Blu-ray and you’ll totally understand.
There are two options for audio and overall they both sound great. Synapse has crafted a new 5.1 DTS mix but also rendered the original mono mix for HD if you want to experience the film the way it was originally released. The 5.1 mix of course offers the most dynamic and rich sound but both mixes are crisp and clean with the dialogue always easily understood throughout. There aren’t any real whooshes or any of the immersive elements you may expect from modern surround presentations but this film is 30 years old so none of that stuff should be present on this disc. The score does shift forward and back in the mix when the scenes call for it though and that’s pretty great.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The single disc release of Curtains comes packaged in a standard Blu-ray slim case with great retro cover art. Honestly for such a cool cult classic the presentation is just a little bland though. What’s truly special on this disc along with the movie is the 35 minute documentary that follows the making of the film. There’s great information in this little featurette for fans of the film and for new viewers alike, good stuff. Cupka: A Filmmaker in Transition is a documentary filmed during the making of Curtains focusing on the director, a great time capsule and a Blu-ray exclusive. There’s even a full audio commentary with two of the film’s stars recounting the making of the movie. Commentaries on cult classics are so tough to get so this is a real gem. Finally there’s an alienate audio track that features interviews with the film’s producer and one of the stars, again just a nice add for fans of the film. The supplements are rounded off with a theatrical trailer. There’s so much more here than fans of these films are accustomed to getting; it’s gold mine.
Curtains is far from the best of the 80’s slasher films but it stands out as one of the most unique entries in the genre and just the freaky ice skating scene alone makes it a must for fans.