"One of the freshest entries in the horror genre for years."

Shower curtains are among those everyday things that scare children and survivors of trauma, like dark cupboards, cellar steps and the space under the bed. They need to be checked cautiously to make sure they don't conceal threats. Most people, getting older, lose that awareness as they lose their sense of magical possibility in the world, as they cleave to the mundane. Danni (Danni Smith) has been moving her life in that direction recently, and is proud of it. She's given up the job that was crushing her to focus on a new career in charity activism. She's moved off her uncle's couch and found a flat to rent. She's getting organised, doing practical things to make the space her own, like putting up a nice cheerful shower curtain. Only the shower curtains keep disappearing.

Is somebody breaking into her flat? She worries, as anybody would. She'd probably worry more if anyone had told her that the last occupant killed himself (something the audience witnesses at the start of the film). Her obsessive but essentially well-meaning colleague Tim (Tim Lueke) agrees to help her find out what's going on. But when she sets up hidden cameras, what they reveal is stranger than anything she imagined.

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Every now an again a film comes along that does something genuinely original. Curtain in many ways resembles Being John Malkovich - the high concept premise rooted in mundane surroundings, the absurdist comedy, the existential horror lying just under the surface, the dark reflections on human nature - but its narrative is entirely distinct. Importantly, it has strong internal logic with which to carry this through, and the two leads give very down to earth performances (with the possible exception of Tim's sales pitch about saving whales) which keep us believing in them. This also enables us to feel frightened - both of the shower curtain phenomenon itself and of the people who turn out to be associated with it. There are moments in this film that are seriously scary, and the more so because its absurdist qualities mean we really don't know what to expect.

Inventively shot in a way that makes effective use of small locations rather than being constrained by them, Curtain switches its visual style abruptly as we lurch between the day to day and the bizarre. There's some brilliant sound work which also helps to shift the tone and ratchet up the tension. Elements of the technical work loop around as the narrative does to create a sense of symmetry even in this disjointed space and make for a satisfying epilogue.

Viewers who are put off by quirky plots should stay away, but if you like occult mysteries, unhinged adversaries and surprises, this is for you. It's one of the freshest entries in the horror genre for years and a film you won't forget in a hurry - even if you wish you could every time you go to the bathroom.

Reviewed on: 03 Mar 2016
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Curtain packshot
Where does the mysterious interdimensional portal behind the shower curtain in Danni's new apartment lead?

Director: Jaron Henrie-McCrea

Writer: Jaron Henrie-McCrea, Carys Edwards

Starring: Danni Smith, Tim Lueke, Martin Monahan, Rick Zahn, Preston Lawrence

Year: 2015

Runtime: 74 minutes

Country: US


Frightfest 2015

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