What sets Curtains apart from other middle-of-the-road slasher flicks, however, is a single scene. Talk to anyone who's seen this film and undoubtedly they'll mention "the ice skating scene". Sure, you could delve into the plot a bit and come up with the theory that Curtains actually has something to say about the way the shelf life of an actress ends around 40, the way women in Hollywood are inevitably replaced by a newer, younger model...but this is a horror movie and Feminist Film Theory 101 don't bring the scary. Or should I say, it could, but in an entirely different fashion.
Thanks to the glory of The Internet, the infamous ice skating scene is online for the world to enjoy. Its power is weakened a bit by the fact that the clip is completely out of context, but here it is. Spoilers obviously abound.
So many elements fall into line perfectly in that sequence, and in my opinion it's simply one of the most stylish and effective kill scenes in any slasher film. The tight framing adds a sense of urgency, the ultra-bright daylight is unexpected and unsettling, and the slow-motion is used to maximum effect. I've seen far too many horror films that use slo-mo arbitrarily, rendering sequences silly and useless. Here, the slowness of the chase only adds to the terror by imbuing the scene with a surreal, dream-like quality- as does the sound, which doesn't quite seem to match up with reality. And the killer grunting as the scythe swings again and again? Horrifying.
Then, of course, there are the visuals...the humongous doll buried in the snow and that fucking mask. If anything, the scene solidifies that whole Curtains-as-Feminist Film Theory 101 thesis I mentioned earlier: the black-clad old hag seeks vengeance against her young, beautiful, pink-clad, ice-skating replacement (Lesleh Donaldson)...I mean, what's an aging actress to do? If I were Dakota Fanning, I'd cut a wide swath around Susan Sarandon.
I'm such a sucker for good horror that sometimes an effective scene can redeem an entire film. Curtains isn't a terrible film, certainly- if anything, its biggest crime is mediocrity. The rest of the film, though at times suspenseful and scary, simply fails to live up to the promise of the ice skating scene. Overall, I'd still recommend this film to slasher fans- it most definitely deserves a spot in the subgenre pantheon.
While it's still awaiting a DVD release, you can generally find the VHS on the cheap here and there (I would just like to point out again for the record that I have Tori Spelling's copy of Curtains. I heart Tori Spelling...she was in Co-Ed Call Girl AND she has great taste in horror movies!), you can see the entire film (broken up into 10-minute increments) beginning here. Undoubtedly, it's not the best way to watch a scary movie, but then again you're probably a big cheapskate.
But I still love you.