FINAL GIRL explores the slasher flicks of the '70s and '80s...and all the other horror movies I feel like talking about, too. This is life on the EDGE, so beware yon spoilers!

Jul 22, 2014

It's CURTAINS for you, pal

For the last 30 years or so, Curtains (1983) has languished in the blackness of Negative Zone, home to all the horror movies lacking a proper release. Fans and curious newbie viewers alike have suffered through beyond subpar-quality versions of the film, found on the internet, bootleg copies, or VHS tapes. Orrrrr on VHS tapes formerly owned by Tori Spelling...and I know I've talked about that plenty of times before, but listen, I'm going to talk about it plenty of times in the future, too, and I'll probably be buried with that thing. But! The important thing here is not all those cruddy versions of the film. The important thing is that no longer must the world endure cruddy copies of Curtains! No more must we squint into the deep dark of the movie as we try to figure out what's going on. No more must we deal with bland colors and middling sound and mushy visuals, for the wonderful wizards at Synapse Films have painstakingly restored Curtains for a DVD/Blu-ray release next week. Y'all, it is a thing of beauty.

Truly, it's a sight to behold. I've seen Curtains several times, but this was like a whole new movie for me. the famous ice skating scene? The killer's ice skates are fuzzy! Who knew? From the glint on the edge of the sickle to the killer's eyes darting back and forth to every nook and cranny on that terrifying mask, all the little details that come shining through on the Blu-ray got me all giddy. I am only a little bit ashamed about that.

Now, here's the thing: gorgeous picture quality doesn't mean that Curtains is a good movie. We can all admit that, can't we? Undoubtedly it's got some pretty high highlights- come on, the aforementioned ice skating scene sits well-deservedly in the genre's Hall Of Fucking Creepy As All Get Out. Lynne Griffin is terrifically charming as comedian-turned-actress Patti (makes you wish she'd been able to stick around longer in Black Christmas...), and if Lesleh Donaldson isn't one of the horror mavens of your heart then I'm not sure what kind of problems you have, frankly.

A movie about six actresses and two guys snowbound in a mansion, should be straightforward and full of tension, but somehow Curtains just plain ain't. It's saddled with a meandering, largely nonsensical plot and characters that are, for the most part, severely underdeveloped. Mmm, make that completely undeveloped- does Laurian even speak? And what the heck is with that Matthew guy? Meanwhile, it's nearly devoid of explicit violence and/or gore- not that bloody mayhem is essential in a good horror movie (often, it's a detriment if you ask me) (GO AHEAD, ASK ME), but for a film that came out during the slasher heyday and features so many of the genre's tropes, it's surprising.

So if it's not good, why is Curtains so beloved? I mean, I love the hell out of it, not even ironically! Why have fans been clamoring for this film forever? I've long tried to figure this out- is it just that a few stellar moments are enough? That's partially it, but I think Lesleh Donaldson is absolutely spot-on when she says "They love it because of the idea of what it could have been." That's a quote from The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of "Curtains", an all-new retrospective included in this release. Lemme tell ya, that documentary is pure gold to a horror nerd as it lifts back the curtains (sorry) on the messy story behind the making of this film.

It's the tale of a director and producer at odds- the former wanted to make an artsy psychological thriller, the latter wanted a straight-up slasher flick- whose differing visions all but tanked the film. Curtains is notoriously disjointed, and you'll learn why that is as everyone interviewed, whether actress or composer, sheds light on the interminable production. They all disparage the film in the end, and they're baffled as to why anyone would enjoy it- pretty hilarious and refreshingly frank, really.

Again, Donaldson perfectly articulates the way fans feel about Curtains- it's not the movie's fault it's so bad- it was doomed nearly from the start! Of course it could have (and should have) been better, but what it gets right, it gets really really right, and now it looks better than ever. Better than it has any right to, probably. But what can I say, it's always been a movie I feel oddly defensive about. Even when I (secretly) agree with those who'd put it down, I find myself wanting to throw a blanket around Curtains's shoulders, pat it on the head, and tell it, "Don't worry, at least you tried."

1 comment:

Blakester said...

I had no idea Maggie Gyllenhaal was in this movie....the perm matches her magenta top so well