Welcome to the first Cult Corner article on the Grave Discussions website. Continuing off from the podcast segment, the Cult Corner is your express ticket to everything classic in the horror genre! Hosts Barnabas and Samael choose and examine a horror film that has attained some level of status and discuss why, and also if it should rightly be called “cult.” Due to the nature of these die-sections there may be spoilers, but we hope that you, the reader, will give these films a chance if you haven’t seen them before! If you have, please join the discussion and leave your thoughts in the comment section below.
Barnabas: Richard Ciupka’s Curtains is a bit of an oddity in the world of 80s slasher films, embodying the intrigue and menacing close-ups of the giallo and the masked killer gimmick of films like Halloween before it. It’s a bit of a wonder that it never became more popular, but not calling it a cult film would be inaccurate – Curtains is a twisted little film about killer ambition that slinks its way into the underground horror fanbase more often than not, usually in the form of a hag. I will admit that I only just saw Curtains recently – along with Sam – but had seen images of the sickle-wielding killer many times prior, and it piqued my interest. It is, perhaps, the defining feature of this little-known flick and for good reason, because the mask is downright creepy!
Seeing the ice-skating scene for the first time on YouTube beforehand only bolstered my anticipation of this film, and seeing it woven into the nearly 01:30:00 runtime was glorious, especially considering that I was viewing what appeared to be an unedited, unenhanced version of Curtains on Amazon Prime that looked straight out of the old “boob tube” style of TV. In all honesty, it is probably best seen in all of its grainy glory as it makes for the perfect Saturday night horror flick (just imagine you’re stuck in 1985, having to mess with knobs!) and for good reason. The type of shots employed – especially in the drearily picturesque setting of director Jonathan Stryker’s mansion – and the moody score offer a melding of 70s Italian and early 80s American horror that seems perfect for that sort of picture quality.
The film as a whole is relatively average – the killer stands out, and certain scenes are memorable, but the story thinks too highly of itself. The twist ending is a head-scratcher and to think that everything led up to it is a little baffling to me. The end does seem, however, to be a heartfelt dedication to giallo that spins a seemingly innocent character into a killer fueled by a very human desire: stardom. The kills themselves are nothing to write home about, and the characters are far too upper-class to be considered relatable, but Curtains is crafted with enough bloody precision to pass as an enjoyable late-night watch and that’s deserving enough of its underground status. Just don’t take too much stock in the meandering scenes of pretentious dialogue and meaningless sex that sandwich the decent parts of the film.
For what it’s worth, I give this film a 5.5/10.
Samael: An eerie tale of revenge (or so you’d think), Curtains is understandably a cult classic amongst 80s slasher fans. Talented actress Samantha Sherwood is betrayed by director Johnathan Striker and seeks out revenge. Left in an asylum, her part is taken by another actress while she assumed she was staying temporarily to prepare for her role in an upcoming film, Audra. Little did she know, Johnathan had planned to keep her there while he replaced her.
The night of her getting out of the asylum via her close friend, one of the actresses, Amanda, (who is into roleplay sex with a strange mustached man) is murdered by a masked assailant wearing a hag mask, who we are to assume is Samantha. Meanwhile, all the women auditioning for Audra meet at Johnathan’s estate to audition for the role. Samantha shows up uninvited and announces she’s going to partake in the audition. One of the women, Tara, decides to screw the caretaker in the jacuzzi. Also, Johnathan puts the moves on Christie and the screws into her (BADA BING.) Meanwhile, someone is shown sharpening a sickle and sharpening it – presumably, the killer.
So the next day, Christie decides to skate off the shame of sleeping with Johnathan. She is promptly attacked by the hag masked killer wearing ice skates in the infamous scene that Curtains is known for. Eventually, the killer catches her and cuts her throat Pamela Voorhees style after stabbing her in the shoulder area (by the way, how’d they take those damn batteries out and hide so quickly?? The fuck bro?). Wasn’t Christie the ice skater too? She should have been able to flee from the killer with ease. Maybe the element of surprise messed with her head a little. Should have kept trying to juke and run instead of wandering into the woods. What the fuck, 80s slasher movie character logic?
Eventually, Brooke and Johnathan are shot to death by someone in the robe, who one would assume is the same person that killed everyone else, right? Ehhhh. We eventually see Samantha and the comedian, Patti, drinking and discussing Audra, when the twist ending occurs and throws us for a loop.
Overall killer guise: 6/10
Atmosphere: 4/10 (close to none)
Score: 7/10 (nothing stands out, but rather enjoyable. Why no 80s synth?)
Cinematography: 9/10 (honestly felt like an early 70s film)
Gore: 6/10 (nothing special in the effects department. Pretty standard)
Twist: 6/10 (two killers? Kinda-ish.)
Does it deserve the cult status? Absolutely. If you’re a fan of 80s slashers, check this one out. Though, it feels more like a 70s pseudo-Giallo flick. Good acting, cool killer, but average mystery. The killer literally could have been anyone, and it turns out to be the person we probably least expected. P.S. Johnathan is a horn dog scum bag. Hope you enjoyed.