DIRECTOR Jaron Henrie-McCrea WRITER Carys Edwards; Jaron Henrie-McCrea STARS Danni Smith; Tim Lueke; Martin Monahan DIGITAL 7 March

CurtainThe humble shower curtain holds a rather iconic place in horror cinema. Its presence in one of the most shocking and undeniably influential moments in all of cinema helped to create tension and a sense of vulnerability; a thin layer separating normality from chaos and carnage, a veil between life and death. Since Psycho (1960), countless horror films have featured scenes in which shower curtains are whipped back to reveal murderous marauders poised to thrust sharp implements into the naked flesh of the unfortunate showerer. In Jaron Henrie-McCrea’s low-budget, oddball delight, the presence, or to be more precise, the disappearance of the shower curtain once again serves as a harbinger of foreboding doom. But in a very different way indeed…

Despite, or perhaps because of its low budget and cramped, limited locations, Curtain is imaginatively shot and quirkily stylish. An impishly violent prologue sets the scene and immediately establishes intrigue before the story begins proper. Needing a change of pace, burnt-out former nurse Danni moves into a recently vacated apartment, but not long afterwards, she discovers her shower curtains have a nasty habit of disappearing. With the aid of her friend, she soon discovers her bathroom stands upon the gateway to a hell dimension.

The screenplay gradually reveals unexpected richness when it begins to toy with the audience’s perception of Danni. We know she is recovering from stressful experiences working as a nurse and her self-imposed isolation is as much a bid for independence and an attempt to claw back some of her life, as it is her needing time out to recover. Are the terrors in her bathroom all in her head, or is her apartment really beset by visitors from a hell dimension?

As events proceed at a brisk pace, the sense of a highly intriguing mythology is established. What makes it so intriguing is that it is left, perhaps deliberately, unexplored. We’re fed snippets of tantalising information and catch glimpses of toothy horrors, but are ultimately excluded from knowing exactly what the portal is, where it comes from and why it’s there. The discovery of where it leads poses many more questions which remain unanswered, but not necessarily to the detriment of the film.

Curtain gleefully embraces its more absurd moments, of which there are many, but it isn’t afraid to take itself seriously when it needs to. The fluidity of its tone never works against proceedings though, as the compelling central mystery, the two likeable leads and their onscreen chemistry, and an overall gonzo sense of humour ensure Curtain is a disarmingly compelling and bizarro genre gem.

Posted by James Gracey

James is the author of Dario Argento (Kamera Books) and a monograph on The Company of Wolves (Devil’s Advocates). He contributes to Diabolique, and has also written for Paracinema, Film Ireland, Eye for Film, Little White Lies and The Quietus.