As kooky premises go, a haunted shower curtain–or rather a mysterious vortex hidden behind bathroom tiles that sucks shower curtains into it–is among the most bizarre imaginable. Enter Curtain, a strange, scary, funny and surprisingly sweet offering from director/co-writer Jaron Henrie-McCrea. The film clocks in at less than 80 minutes; ambitious for a regular movie but downright mad when it comes to horror. McCrea clearly feels he doesn’t need too much time to make his point, and boy is he right.
Curtain’s heroine is Danni (Danni Smith, making her feature debut), a nurse taking some time out of her chosen career after getting burned out on hospice work. Looking for some independence from her overbearing but kindly uncle, Danni moves into a dingy New York studio, in which, she discovers, the previous occupant passed away (we learn this in the film’s punchy cold open, which is both mental and completely horrifying).
After discovering that her shower curtains are getting sucked into a mysterious portal, she’s encouraged to fight back by her colleague Tim (Tim Lueke), a do-gooder activist who clearly holds a candle for her, and the two set out to Scooby Doo the shit out of the situation. Cue adorably childish diagrams, a sinister cult, the strangest trip to New Jersey since The Situation came to town and a surprising amount of laughs, scares and poignancy along the way.
Movies like this don’t come around very often and, when they do, they usually emerge to little fanfare. Curtain screened on the last day of Frightfest to a packed house full of curious punters. It’s unlikely anybody expected to like it so much, but it’s very charming in its own weird, haphazard sort of way. The visual effects are terrific, lending a trippy, surrealist vibe to the curtains themselves, particularly when they get sucked through the tiles.
Adam Skerritt’s hip, electro (of course) score hums along nicely throughout, without undercutting the surprising amount of tension that arises purely from the idea of certain death as a result of refusing not to hang up shower curtains. McCrea keeps the camera tight on his actors, ensuring a palpable sense of danger, particularly when they’re trying to devise a plan to figure out where the shower curtains are actually going.
The humour is irreverent and well-judged, Tim’s enthusiasm juxtaposed against Danni’s stubbornly cynical attitude. Of the place the curtains are ending up, he muses “I’d like to think it’s nice wherever it is”, her sidelong glance suggesting she’d rather he be elsewhere if only she didn’t need his help. The romance between the two is hinted at, never forced or even fully realised, and they have a nice, natural rapport that lends itself well to the mad material.
Newcomers Smith and Lueke, both using their own names, are fantastic as the two leads, with Danni’s uncle providing ample support in a small, yet sweet, role as her long-suffering uncle. In a movie where hanging curtains is deemed the most dangerous activity imaginable, it’s testament to the strength of the writing, directing and performances that we don’t want to see these characters fall victim to whatever is on the other side of the bathroom wall.
Without giving too much away, the monsters that lurk inside the portal are very well-realised and nicely nasty. Curtain is similar in tone to the sadly short-lived horror-comedy TV series Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil, with the threat constant and real but the laughs coming just as thick and fast as the scares. It’s a delicate balance, one more seasoned film-makers often struggle with, but McCrea takes to the challenge with eloquence and skill, making a name for himself as one to watch in future.
Curtain is certainly not a movie that could be accused of being predictable, or derivative. It carves out its own nutty little path, ratchets up the weirdness and eventually kind of makes sense of its own premise. The loopy denouement is charming and poignant in an odd sort of way, but it’s also resolutely dark. This is no joke, these curtains mean business.
WICKED RATING: 7/10
Director(s): Jaron Henrie-McCrea
Writer(s): Jaron Henrie-McCrea, Carys Edwards
Stars: Danni Smith, Tim Lueke, Martin Monahan, Rick Zahn
Studio/ Production Co: Jash Pictures
Length: 74 minutes