Canada / 1983

“Will I be this way when I am dead?” asks the old woman all skin and bones, and John Vernon is there as the ringmaster to this circus of trick poodles all vying for the same treat and says that, yes, this is what your dead face will look like but it’s your truest self now, the nucleus of your being waiting to be born after your perfect Samantha Eggar cheekbones been shed away like so much human dust. CURTAINS is one of the smartest slashers to have risen during the subgenre’s Golden Age and it’s a wonder that this Canuck chiller isn’t spoken of more frequently or in the glowing terms that it deserves. The film is a meditation on not just the vagaries of aging and accepting that we’ve already seen the back of our personal glories but on the very concept of “acting” itself, on what drives us to assume another’s identity and become someone else whether it’s in front of the unblinking eye of the camera or a lover, on the diminishing returns of satisfaction that can be reaped from our efforts when we need to crawl over a growing pile of broken backs to get what it is we want. That the movie contains some of the most deliberately paced and fiendishly executed suspense setpieces feels like a bonus award for the viewer when really it’s just an honor to be nominated. We eventually discover the true identity of the masked killer, but when we see that haggard wraith wielding its scythe as it glides across the ice in torturous slow-motion, in that moment we know the figure for her truest self. She is Lady Death, and she is gliding towards us all.

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