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Film / Curtains

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"Have you ever wanted something so badly that you'd do ANYTHING for it?"
Patti O'Connor

Curtains is a 1983 Canadian horror film directed by Richard Ciupka (credited as "Jonathan Stryker") and starring Samantha Eggar, John Vernon, Linda Thorson, Lynne Griffin, Anne Ditchburn, Lesleh Donaldson, Sandee Currie, Deborah Burgess, and Maury Chaykin.

A slasher film centered on theater and filmmaking, its plot focuses on a group of actresses targeted by a masked killer at a prestigious director's remote mansion where they are auditioning for a role in a movie.

The film suffered from a very messy production, the result of Creative Differences between Ciupka and producer Peter Simpson. This eventually led to the director quitting production and taking his name off the finished product, leaving Simpson having to finish the shoot. Over the next year or so, numerous rewrites and re-shoots were made, resulting in a choppy, disjointed film.

Despite this, the film has since developed a small cult following.

This film contains examples of:

  • Alone with the Psycho: After the killer murders Tara, Samantha is left alone with Patti, who reveals she killed the other girls to get the role of Audra.
  • Anyone Can Die: The young actresses are murdered in no particular order or fashion, heightening the stakes of who will survive, or if any of them will survive whatsoever.
  • Asshole Victim: Brooke, who is an arrogant veteran actress, who sleeps with Stryker to get the coveted role, and Stryker, who already has pinpointed who he wants to play Audra, invites the other women to his mansion to sleep with them, under the ruse of having them audition for the role. He also abandons Samantha, his longtime partner and friend, in an insane asylum under the guise of her researching for the role of Audra.
  • Becoming the Mask: The final scene has Patti, now committed in mental institution, performing a monologue from Audra to other patients in the mental institution.
  • Bedlam House: The asylum where Samantha is committed by Stryker, and where Patti is committed following the murders.
  • Big Bad: Patti, desperate to break into more dramatic work, is the main killer, while the more obvious suspect Samantha turns out to be the Big Bad Wannabe.
  • Car Fu: Amanda is murdered in her nightmare by being hit by her own car.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies: Samantha's murderous revenge plot against Stryker ends up conflicting with the even more unhinged Patti's own efforts to kill the other contenders for the part in Audra and anyone else who stands in her way, making the former an additional target of the latter.
  • Cool Mask: The grotesque hag mask worn by the killer; it's especially unsettling when they confront Christie during her ice skating practice on the frozen pond.
  • Creepy Doll: One such doll appears during Amanda's nightmare, and later during the ice skating sequence. It even appears on the poster!
  • Decapitation Presentation: After killing Christie, Patti places her severed head in Brooke's toilet to scare her.
  • Decoy Protagonist: Samantha is introduced as the protagonist before the narrative switches to Amanda, an inexperienced actress and one of the hopefuls for the role of Audra, only to be murdered in her apartment by Patti. The film then frequently delights in focusing on each actress, rather than just one of them. By the climax, only Tara, Patti, and Samantha are left, and you can guess which one is the killer.
  • Destination Defenestration: After being shot repeatedly by Samantha, Stryker falls to his death from the fourth-floor window.
  • Downer Ending: All of the actresses except Patti are dead, and Patti herself effectively becomes Audra.
  • Dwindling Party: The actresses become this as the murders progress.
  • Final Girl: Subverted, then averted. Tara, who is sexually active, appears as though she is going to fulfill this role, discovering the bodies of her fellow actresses and fighting off the killer more than once, before Patti brutally murders her with an axe. The climax of the film suggests Samantha is the killer and Patti will survive, only to reveal Patti murdered everyone besides Stryker and Brooke before she then kills Samantha with a kitchen knife.
  • Hope Spot: Tara is chased into the props warehouse by the killer, where they play cat-and-mouse. After incapacitating the killer three times, Tara appears to be in the clear but is soon caught and hacked to death with an axe.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Patti kills Tara by impaling her in the back with an ax. Later, she kills Samantha by impaling her with a kitchen knife.
  • Kill the Cutie: Innocent and mousy ice skater Christie is decapitated by the killer.
  • Malevolent Masked Man: Patti O'Connor slaughters the main characters while hiding their face and identity behind a grotesque hag mask.
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: The majority of the women in this film are shown struggling with the killer and given graphic kill scenes, while Stryker is easily offed by being shot and knocked out of an upstairs window, and Matthew is murdered off-screen by Patti, having a knife driven into his back.
  • Nice Character, Mean Actor: Stryker, behind his respectable exterior, is a shameless sleazebag. Likewise, Patti is all smiles and giggles on the surface, but in reality is a cold-blooded Serial Killer.
  • Nightmare Sequence: Just prior to her audition, Amanda has a dream that while driving to the audition, she is stopped by a large porcelain doll standing in the middle of the road. When she leaves her car to move it, she is run over.
  • Not Me This Time: A two-sided example. At the film's ending, Samantha delivers a Motive Rant to an initially perplexed Patti, revealing that she fatally shot both Stryker and (mistakenly) Brooke in retaliation for the former's betrayal, but that Patti and her remaining friends would be safe from her wrath since she had no quarrel with them. However, Samantha is confused when Patti unexpectedly reveals that all of the others are also dead, before brandishing a butcher knife and stabbing Samantha to death.
  • Off with Her Head!: Christie is decapitated with a sickle.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Parts of the score are re-used from Prom Night (1980). Both films share the same composer, Paul Zaza.
  • Red Herring: The audience is led to believe that Samantha is the killer, having returned to take revenge on Stryker for having abandoned her in an asylum. While she is gunning for Stryker and accidentally shoots one of the other actresses as well, she is not the main antagonist.
  • The Reveal: Patti, unhinged by her obsession with the role of Audra, viciously murders the other actresses in an effort to get the part, before killing Samantha in retaliation for the murder of Stryker, which destroyed any chance she had to play the role.
  • Removing the Rival: In order to ensure she wins the role, Patti decides to murder the other five auditioning actresses.
  • Room Full of Crazy: Not really a room, but the props warehouse where the killer chases Tara is filled to the brim with a collection of mannequins, neon signs, and fake weaponry, all from Stryker's films, making it the perfect place for a cat-and-mouse chase sequence.
  • Sex Signals Death: Averted, then played straight. Amanda and her boyfriend are immediately killed after having sex. While Tara is shown having sex with Matthew in the jacuzzi early in the film, she is the actress who survives the longest. However, Brooke and Stryker are quickly dispatched by a gun-toting Samantha after having sex.
  • Sexual Extortion: Samantha knows that Stryker is only using the other actresses for their bodies and that the whole audition is just a ploy for him to have sex with them. Stryker ultimately sleeps with Christie, which leaves her visibly shaken and causes her to quit the shoot in disgust - but not before being murdered by Patti.
  • Snow Means Death: In the film's most celebrated scene, Christie notices a small hand protruding out of the snow while ice skating at the edge of a pond, and uncovers a porcelain doll. She is then attacked and decapitated by someone (later revealed to be Patti) in a grotesque hag mask.
  • Woman Scorned: Samantha, who is abandoned by Stryker in an asylum, only to escape.