Curtain (2015)

Review first published (in a different form) by Sight and Sound

Director Jaron Henrie-McCrea has a bit of a thing for Alfred Hitchcock. His 2012 feature debut was called Pervertigo, and his follow-up Curtain (aka The Gateway) uses a New York apartment’s bathroom – and more specifically its shower, that key location for horror ever since Hitch’s Psycho – as the launchpad for some bizarro multidimensional madness.

After the strange death of its former occupant, ex-nurse Danni (Danni Smith) moves in, hoping for some independence from her uncle (Rick Zahn) and maybe some distance from a past mental breakdown – only to discover, once she has started cleaning up the place, that the bathroom has a habit of eating any shower curtain she puts up. This mystery will take Dani and her whale-obsessed colleague Tim (Tim Lueke) on a journey, via different routes, to a hidden portal in the woods of New Jersey where their nightmares – but perhaps also their wildest dreams – will be monstrously realised.

A self-consciously low-budget affair, with Dani’s domestic redecoration matching Henri-McCrea’s DIY approach to filmmaking and special effects, Curtain has the feel of a calling card (“Who knows what doors this curtain thing is going to open up,” as Tim declares.) But it’s also endlessly inventive and ambitious, blending the lo-fi creature effects (and 80s sensibilities) of Basket Case with the high-concept oddity of Being John Malkovich. Charming and weird enough to get away with its rough edges, it can along the way seem a bit meandering, especially in its focus on Tim’s Save the Whales fixation, but in the end every (narrative) hook on this Curtain fits neatly into place.

Anton Bitel