Wednesday, April 27, 2011

CURTAINS (1983) - all the world's a stage, and we are merely confused

Here's the trailer for an early postmodern mindbender of a slasher.

Dean Wormer was a control freak, and rightfully so. The university ideal is founded upon principles of higher learning and advancements in academic fields, and this ideal is best carried through with an organized fist. However, when you have a student body that signs up for a singular long term goal (a piece of paper they can show to potential employers), supplemented with many short term goals (getting drunk and getting laid), these ideals can go flying out of the window, like a partially dismembered mannequin crashing through a frat house window. It’s rather fitting that Wormer would quit his scholastic position at Faber and become a film director, joining the ranks of the some of the biggest control freaks in history. Besides, trying to convey the wonder of knowledge for its own sake to Bluto Blutarsky must be a futile lesson in frustration.

Here Wormer (played by John Vernon as himself under the alias “Jonathan Stryker”) is looking to cast Samantha Eggar for his new film “Audra”, which, it would seem, is about an insane, creepy looking old lady that brandishes weapons. However, she tries to stab him with scissors and gets tossed in the nuthouse. This would seemingly put the kibosh on that particular bit of casting, but, alas, no. Apparently, the whole thing was faked in order to get Samantha through the funny farm gates, as research for the role of a marble deficient leading lady. I guess it’s one of those method deals.

Well, the academy does tend to swoon over teeth gnashing hysterics, particularly when it is carried out while playing a crazy person (or, say, a retard with no limbs). The plan goes as conceived, what with Eggar fitted for her kook tux and tossed into an institute of mental cleansing. The hospital T.V. happens to be showing a Samantha Eggar movie, and it is at this point my reflex-o-meter is starting to cave in from stress. Like her new funny farm roommates, my fragile noodle is wearing thin.

Lovely Lynne Griffin, of Black Christmas fame, is an aspiring actress ready to go off and audition for the film lead along with five other young ladies. We only learn this because Lynne interjects tidbits of exposition into her amateur stand-up comedy act, like the following joke: "I wanna get in pictures so badly I screwed the photo mat guy!". He he, that’s pretty funny! No seriously, it is. Well, I thought so.

Samantha Eggar is not too pleased with this, as one would imagine, since she had already been promised the part as soon as her mental hygiene improved. That asshole Dean Wormer must have set her up to get her out of the way. However, Samantha manages to escape the funny farm, and is now burning pictures of all the actresses, inferring a plot of revenge. We aren't directly told any of this, but rather, have to piece it together from a disembodied conversation. I’m glad the voice over person took time out from their busy lives to sorta let us know what the shit is going on.

Thankfully we’re on to more familiar territory, what with some blonde (wearing the always welcome football jersey and panties combo) being stalked in her house. The perp wearing pantyhose on his head assaults the poor girl and...oh wait, it's her boyfriend. Apparently, she's one of the actresses up for the part, and she’s role-playing the various scenes with him. Must be one of those bimbo slasher workshop deals. Another actress is driving through the rain, trying to get to Stryker's house for the audition, when she notices a big scary doll along the side of the road (the same doll that was in the blonde girl’s bedroom). The doll grabs her, and somehow her parked car speeds up and runs her over...oh shit, it was all a dream, a figment of the blonde girl’s imagination. Cinema sure is a conniving sort. Well, no matter. She gets stabbed for real, finally, by someone wearing that creepy Audra mask.

We finally head to Stryker’s house, where the girls are having dinner. One of them says "I'd kill for this part", and another proclaims "I'd fuck for it." Lynne says "I might blow him", and Stryker coolly saunters in, chiming "that shouldn't be necessary". Samantha shows up unceremoniously, complaining privately to Stryker about not receiving the role. You’d think she’d be pissed to high heaven, but I guess Wormer has that snake oil charm that can make people overlook nefarious acts of backstabbing treachery.

One of the girls decides to go out and figure skate at the nearby frozen pond the next morning. She brings her boom box with her to pump out some Canadian soft rock, spurring her competitive juices. She then comes across that same doll, now buried in the snow. As if this wasn’t creepy enough, the masked Audra killer comes skating along with a scythe, in slow motion no less, cutting off the doll’s head and slicing the girl in the process. She stumbles into the woods, only to get unceremoniously decapitated.

Our clever killer leaves a note for Stryker, appearing to be written by the ice skater girl, saying she left because she couldn't handle the pressure. Sam stills wants the part, so she does an audition wearing that hideous mask. One of the actresses stumbles upon the ice skating girl's head sitting there in the toilet (classic). Dean Wormer doesn't believe her after he checks the toilet bowl for severed heads and comes up empty, but nevertheless screws her as a comforting gesture. We then get another girl murdered while she does some goofy interpretive dance (my interpretation is that it sucks). Our killer then shoots Stryker and his new found sweetheart, and they fall out of a second story window and end up impaled on some glass, putting Wormer’s ass on permanent double secret.

One of the girls tries to get to her car, but the damn thing doesn’t start. She then notices the assistant with a knife in his back floating in the outdoor sauna. She flees to the comforts of Stryker's cluttered studio (with a big yellow dead-end sign) hoping to find car parts and/or automatic weapons. This studio is an excellent place to be chased and murdered by a maniac, what with its flashing billboards and lynched mannequins and such. Well, that leaves Lynne and Samantha in the house, and Samantha gladly updates the plot over a bottle of champagne. Unsurprisingly, Eggar is the killer, as she admits to shooting Stryker and the girl, and well...Oh wait! Lynne killed everybody! She’s so sweet and funny though! Well, somewhat funny. I’ve seen worse. No matter; she stabs Samantha and, in an unsurprising but worthy ending, ends up back at the funny farm, where she can perform the part of Audra to her heart’s content.

apparently had major production problems, and the director took the pseudonym of Jonathan Stryker (in lieu of the more common Alan Smithee moniker) as one last bit of defiant self-reflexivity. Whatever the hell is name is, he hath crafted a cinematic hall of mirrors, admittedly held together by glue. The device of using a curtain pull transition in some scenes helps to egg the viewer on. Is this scene showing a character creating a performance, or an actor creating a character? Didn’t the real actresses have to audition for roles that entailed playing characters that were auditioning for roles? If you start out in a nut house in order to get a part, and fail to get it, or end up in the nut house after attempting to get a part, aren’t you still unemployed and in a strait-jacket? I guess the moral of the story is that the nature of “reality” is like sand that slips through our fingers. Just be happy you’re even at the beach at all, even with those asshole beach cops and annoying surfer poseurs running around, calling each other “bro”. On second thought, it's probably better to just stay home. Assholes.

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