Movie Reviews 221 – Curtains (1983)

CurtainsWhat kind of personal gain could entice an otherwise peaceful, law abiding citizen to become a (literal) cutthroat serial murderer? Money? Sex? Drugs? How about the leading role in a play? The yearning for fame on the stage has been a movie premise since it was immortalized in the original silent-era The Phantom of the Opera with Lon Chaney, albeit in that case it was not personal fame, but rather favoring one particular artist and just clearing the way for her.

Curtains, another fine Canexploitation film from the 80’s, not only revisits that premise but also happens to have a freaky mask wearing antagonist.

Seasoned stage actress Samantha Sherwood (Samantha Eggar) wants the lead role in Audra, a play about a psychotic woman. So desperate is she to play the part that she concocts a plan with her friend the director Stryker (John Vernon), to fake insanity so that she can spend time in an real asylum.

But Stryker has plans of his own. He instead puts out a casting call for the part while she languishes in the nut house and soon a handful of beautiful young hopefuls arrive at the reclusive mansion where Stryker wants to assess all the girls over a few days. Even before the last of the girls arrive one of the hopefuls is killed and just as Stryker begins his auditions he is surprised to she that Samantha has managed to escape and intends to retain her promised leading role even if she has to compete with the others.

Thus begins the expected cycle of women meeting grisly and gruesome ends one at a time as we, the audience, try to figure out which is the killer. The story is spiced up with casting couch antics, hot tub frolicking, a weird creepy doll that seems to be everywhere and a memorable ghastly looking hag rubber mask that is not only worn by the killer but is also an innocent prop in other scenes.

Is it one of the jealous girls, Samantha being the obvious leading suspect? Stryker’s weird cabana boy helper? Or is it Stryker himself who set up the audition and has already shown he can’t be trusted?

Aside from the confounding the lack of clarity on that damned doll this is a good, if not great, cheesy thriller. The scenes featuring the masked killer are alone worth the watch, and both Vernon and Eggar are at their maddening best. Let the play begin!


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