I don’t know what you expect me to love, Gentle Reader, but I don’t presume to be able to read your mind. Some of you ask me to watch certain movies because you know I will hate them and you think it’s funny when I bitch (it is); others of you genuinely want to see me carefully dissect and study your suggestions rather than angrily eviscerate them. I’ve been accused of both only liking highbrow movies, and conversely, of only watching movies in which people’s eyeballs fall out of their heads. One thing this site is short on, though, is articles in praise of slasher movies. So perhaps those would be the ones nobody would expect me to love.
One of my favorite well-made slasher movies of all time is the 1983 Canadian slasher Curtains. It’s one of the few slashers I enjoy for its quality rather than for its audacious but endearing ineptness. Curtains is the story of a misogynistic director who invites several actresses to his house for personal auditions for his awesome new movie. One of the women, or the director, or perhaps his assistant, decides to narrow the applicant pool permanently.
There’s a scene everyone remembers which features ice skating and a Burton Cummings song, “You Saved My Soul.” There’s also a super tense chase scene in a dark garage full of movie props, at least two women who are probably batshit insane, a creepy doll, a soul-destroying mask and a decapitated head which may or may not be floating in a toilet. It is criminally insane that this movie is so hard to find and purchase.
Overshadowing the violence in my memory, however, is the non-lethal cruelty which some of the characters inflict upon others. The director (John Vernon) promises the part to his favorite leading lady (Samantha Eggar), provided she is willing to be pretend to be crazy and allow herself to be committed to a nuthouse. For research, ya know? Only he doesn’t bother to check her back out and she actually starts to go insane. When she breaks out, she finds him at his mansion with a bunch of younger women who look just like her. His auditions, both horizontal and vertical, are exploitative to the max as well. Then there is the relational aggression among the actresses. After dealing with such lovely treatment from certain other females from at least third grade until, oh, 10:10 AM yesterday, I’m not sure stabbing sounds so bad.
Forming a symmetrical frame around the story is two different actresses’ stints in asylums. As the movie ends with the delusional killer putting on a stage show for what she believes to be a regular audience, but which is in fact a room full of drooling inmates, I find myself wondering every time whether the whole movie might not have taken place in her head. This theory is lent credence by the inclusion of “You Saved My Soul” in a dream had by a character who dies before making it to the audition and long before the ice skating scene. There’s no hint of supernatural activity here, so why else would one woman dream about a song that later provides the soundtrack to another woman’s death? The beauty of Curtains having been made in 1983 is that we’re not burdened with a definite twist that makes us question our own sanity and observational powers, but from a viewpoint of having first seen the movie around 2009, I see a twist even when it’s probably not there. But that’s what you probably expect me to think.