A burnt-out nurse moves into a new apartment in search of a simpler life. But when things begin to disappear through a strange portal in her bathroom wall, she discovers a gateway to the unknown that brings unimaginable horror to her life.
Curtain received its Utah premiere at this year’s Filmquest in Sandy, Utah. The film has since been renamed to the yawningly bland and ineffective The Gateway. Why marketing people, why? *shakes fists in the air*
A young woman named Danni (played by Danni Smith) moves into her small New York City apartment – attempting to get her life back in order following an unexplained exodus from her job as a nurse. She’s left behind her Uncle Gus – who raised her following the death of her mother. Danni works as an activist for a “Save the Whales” type organization. She befriends fellow activist Tim (Tim Lueke) and together, they embark on a journey of discovery – when Danni’s shower curtains begin to disappear into her bathroom wall, sucked in through what appears to be a hole in the very basic white tile… but where are they going? To get things started, Danny and Tim provide their contact information on a “test” curtain, and when they receive a call that it was found somewhere else – their investigation is truly underway.
It’s got a pseudo-‘80s quality to it (helped along by the totally awesome synth score by Adam Skerritt). And for my avid readers of 2, you’ll know that I am a die-hard fan for all things ‘80s. So there’s a nostalgic feel to it. It’s simple, intimate and surprisingly goofy. I wouldn’t define it as a horror-comedy (it’s awfully dark), but the injection of humorous lines and looks and moments – give it an extra oomph and an air of genuineness. Much of that humor can be credited to the script (should have been nominated for an award at Filmquest) and the clever editing. More than once, a question in the tail end of one scene, would be answered in the very beginning of the next. I adore tricks like that, and Curtain consistently pulls it off with quality.
The above use of “simple” – that is until the climax. I get what’s going on, but one big reveal (I have been known to be a bit slow sometimes) slid right by me… at least initially. But some of the other “confusing” stuff eludes me. And while it’s clear that some of the confusion was intended, I definitely wanted further explanation on the details.
Danni Smith as Danni (she was nominated for Best Lead Actress in a Feature at Filmquest) looks like she could be the younger sister of The Walking Dead’s Sarah Wayne Callies. Danni (the character) is guarded and anti-social. Danni (the actress) provides plenty of sympathy for her character. While we never get a complete explanation of why she left nursing (a scene with a former co-worker is uncomfortable and awkward), we forgive her for whatever it was. We respect the character for breaking out of whatever bonds she has been in, and for moving out of her beloved Uncle Gus’ home (a great supporting turn from Rick Zahn) to rediscover her purpose in life. It’s Danni’s heated and/or tender moments with Gus which provide Danni (the actress) with her richest moments on-screen. The donut/beer exchange is a standout for both actors.
As Tim, the dopey optimist artist and immediate buddy to Danni, Tim Lueke has a sort of Napoleon Dynamite feel. He’s no ladies’ man, but he means well, and he cares. Lueke’s best moment finds him and Danni sharing Chinese takeout. She’s on her bed, he’s on her apartment floor. They’ve begun their research into the curtain’s travels. He takes a moment to fantasize and theorize about where the curtains end up – some magical place where the whales are safe and he and Danni have a bright and happy future. He eventually returns to reality and Danni’s blank gaze. We’ll see more of his visions for a “happily ever after” – in his sketchbook. Tim (the actor and the character) is endearing, awkward and genuine.
As Willy, Gregory Konow steals the show. His performance as the guy who finds the “marked” curtain and subsequently contacts our heroes, is jittery, funny, frightening and over-the-top while still feeling believable. Willy is a wacky character who truly deserves his own film. And incidentally, the first phone conversation between Tim & Danni and an over-the-phone Willy (the dialogue) is inspired.
The creature effects (mostly practical) look like something out of Bob Keen’s effects shop (the man behind the make-up of Hellraiser). It’s all convincing and scary – and clearly done with hand-made love.
There are also lots of introductions for seemingly minor or useless details, which end up coming back into play. As with any film, that’s always a tough thing to pull off. Far too many times, these moments of foreshadowing are hit too hard by the filmmakers, and become something which we’re waiting to see pay off. It’s all done well here, and I never felt spoon-fed.
But with that – I would have liked a tad bit more explanation. As I mentioned above, I wanted some extra clue-ins. This has to be one of the most subjective pieces to any film – how much do you want to know and how much can be left unsaid – in order to please the majority of your audience? In this particular case, what goes on between the curtain’s entry-point and its eventual exit-point (a somewhat bland final resting place for the items) would have been fun to explore.
Curtain is clever, well-performed and touts some very cool monster make-up.
It was nominated for two awards (for Smith’s lead performance and for Best Feature Director for Jaron Henrie-McCrea) at Filmquest, but I think nominations for Best Score, Best Feature Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actor in a Feature (Gregory Konow) and possibly Best Picture would have been in order.
Curtain (aka The Gateway) is currently available on various VOD outlets.