Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Synapse Films - CURTAINS on Blu-ray ""

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Synapse Films - CURTAINS on Blu-ray

CURTAINS (1983; Richard Ciupka)
One of the things I love about the dwindling DVD and Blu-ray market is that it has energized a lot of niche labels such as Synapse and others to dig deeper into the depths of genre obscurities to pull out some very interesting films in all sorts of genres. These companies have become archaeologists of sorts and when they are able to uncover these curiosities and dust them off for the world to see it is a pretty glorious thing indeed. CURTAINS is a little horror film from 1983 that had been nearly lost until this release (it was issued on VHS and a crappy DVD but nothing significant). 
The cover alone is pretty creepy and begs the question ,"What exactly is this movie?!". Well, it is ostensibly kind of a horror version of SHOCK CORRIDOR. Okay, the SHOCK CORRIDOR part is towards the beginning and then it becomes more of a disturbing slasher movie by way of a "Hollywood" tale. The great Samantha Eggar plays an actress who really wants to bring the proper amount of believable insanity to a role she's currently working on with her director (John Vernon). To help with said task, she they put on a little show to get her properly committed to an insane asylum. This ain't now ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST kinda place either. Lots of pretty much non-functional looney ladies. Samantha Eggar also starred in one of my favorite films, THE BROOD (which would make an interesting double with this film). She seems to do well with mentally disturbed characters. She has this manic temperament that she seems to be able to call upon to wildly shift her moods within a scene. Works great here. 
John Vernon plays a director called Stryker (what a great name and he looks just like John Milius here) who is determined to get his passion project (a movie called AUDRA) off the ground. He invites a group of actresses up to his estate to determine who will be cast in the lead role. The whole thing feels very Agatha Christie...and it is, but a lot bloodier and much much more unnerving. It also has this little girl doll that puts THE CONJURING to shame. Unnerving as hell as is the face of a certain killer in the movie. It makes me feel like a lot of horror films today don't seem to have taken the time to develop scary faces. A scary face can be as effective and valuable to the fear quotient of a film as anything. When a film establishes a face/character like this, it really makes for something memorable. CURTAINS also has an interesting pacing/cadence to it. It's something of a slow burn for a slasher, but as I said there are some whodunit aspects to it structurally as well. All in all though, the pacing is interesting in that it kind of keeps you on edge with some of it's meanderings. Also, there's something to the fact that the film is based around a group of women who've come to audition for a role in a film. There's this theatricality to a good portion of the scenes but it seems to fit somehow. THE BROOD comparison continues with a scene where Eggar and John Vernon go head to head in an acting exercise. It very much reminded me of some of the scenes she had with Olivier Reed at his new age therapy center.

Special Features:
"Ciupka: A Filmmaker in Transition" (15 mins)
A bit of a vanity vintage featurette that documents director Ciupka on set in his role as a Director of Photography and runs through his resume, including work with Louis Malle on ATLANTIC CITY. The piece follows him into the production CURTAINS and through it, going from his role as DOP, to director and all the new responsibilities that entails. 

--"The Ultimate Nightmare: The Making of Curtains" (36 mins)
Features Richard Ciupka, Lesleh Donaldson
They touch on the problems and arduous ness of the production process on CURTAINS right out of the gate. It's actually a bit refreshing to hear people speak honestly about how tough making a movie can be. I'm sure there are occasionally movie shoots that go off with few difficulties but for the most part, getting a movie done can be difficult and sometimes extremely difficult. Amidst the usual "this is how I became involved with the project" lines of questioning, there are also lots of candid stories about making CURTAINS that aren't totally complimentary. 

For more info on this and other Synapse Films titles, check out their site:

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