CURFEW is a 1989 New World Pictures joint, a kinda sleazy, kinda odd home invasion thriller that I never heard of until Vinegar Syndrome recently released it on blu-ray. In the dream-like opening scene, a guy named Bobby Joe Perkins (John Putch, JAWS 3-D, MACH 2) excitedly cuts a piece of cake for a not-very-enthusiastic-looking young woman. Suddenly a menacing man appears at the door – it’s his brother Ray Don (Wendell Wellman, SUDDEN IMPACT), who storms in and attacks the young woman, over Bobby Joe’s protests.
Then all the sudden the Perkins brothers are in prison together. Then all the sudden they’re out of prison together. At times the editing of this movie is incoherent, but there are other times when it’s got a good momentum to it. They stop to talk to some ranchers, cut to the ranchers already dead and the brothers wearing their clothes. Some of it works.
The brothers seem to feel they are innocent of the crime that they were imprisoned for (even though I think the cake scene meant they did it?) and are on a mission of violent revenge against the people involved in convicting them. They go to the office of a psychiatrist (Guy Remsen, THE PLAYER) who testified against them and force him to watch them do a quasi-therapy session. They also find the judge (Douglas Robinson, Alice) who falls victim to a one-liner I think Freddy Krueger would appreciate: yelling “Order in the court!” before bashing his head in with a gavel.
But their primary target is the district attorney who prosecuted them, Walter Davenport (Frank Miller, not the director of THE SPIRIT, but some guy who played “Parole Board Chairman,” RICOCHET) and the heroine of the movie is his teenage daughter Stephanie, played by Kyle Richards, who I know as Lindsey Wallace in the original HALLOWEEN and in HALLOWEEN KILLS. (She was also in EATEN ALIVE and THE CAR and now is apparently known as a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills.)
Before the shit goes down we see some of Stephanie’s troubles as a burgeoning young adult. People who know her still think of her as recently being a child, but she’s managed to score a date with the popular and more grown up looking quarterback (maybe Peter Nelson, THE LAST STARFIGHTER?). A huge deal is made about the time of her curfew, with dad emphasizing it and mom (Jean Brooks) giving a wink-wink that it doesn’t need to be enforced. I’m not sure what this is all about though because she ends up coming home early. I guess if she had stayed out as late as the curfew allowed she might not have been held hostage? I don’t get why it’s significant enough to be the title.
She does that trick where she changes into the slightly racier outfit she prefers after she leaves the house, then she walks by the soon-to-be-murdered judge on his porch and he slut shames her. First he’s friendly, asking if she wants a beverage, then he asks, “Can I offer you a pair of pants?” Fuck you, your honor.
While out with her friends they also run afoul of a local cop named Sam who hangs out in a diner trying to avoid work. They pull a prank where they fake a wound using ketchup and then run off after he calls for help. This is a weird and stupid practical joke to pull and its narrative purpose is to create a “Boy Who Cried Wolf” kind of scenario where Sam later doesn’t believe Stephanie when she’s trying to get help, and then can’t get others to believe him once he understands it’s real.
What’s fun about this Sam character is that he’s played by Christopher Knight, best known as Peter Brady from The Brady Bunch. He has a mustache and wears sunglasses to try to act cool but it’s not the movie trying to overcompensate, it’s the character. He’s kind of a precursor to Dewey in the SCREAM movies – a dorky yokel who people laugh at but who tries to rise to the occasion when there actually is one.
Stephanie’s date is just trying to do her, which she’s not ready for, so she goes home. She actually pulls a smart move to get him to driver her home – she mentions her parents being out for the night. But once she gets there he realizes he’s not invited in. (This is also setup for him later to show up and be terrorized.)
The Perkins brothers of course manage to capture the whole family, tie them up in the basement, threaten them with electrocution, etc. Ray does most of the tormenting while Bobby Joe sits around watching Porky Pig cartoons and stuff. To the extreme discomfort of her parents, Stephanie uses her blossoming womanhood as a weapon of self defense: she makes pretend advances at Bobby Joe to play him against his brother. Later she manages to get untied and do a little violence. It’s not the most thrilling of thrillers, but it does have some pay off.
I liked seeing Richards get to play the heroine. I feel a little bad for her though because the big hair and denim skirt that were appropriate for the time look pretty ridiculous today! Maybe that will change in some future year. You never know.
What’s kind of crazy is that this is the directorial debut of Gary Winick, whose later movies include 13 GOING ON 30, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, BRIDE WARS and LETTERS TO JULIET. Actually I haven’t seen any of those – maybe they’re sleazier than they sound. Writer Kevin Richardson went on to pen that Sean Penn movie THE ASSASSINATION OF RICHARD NIXON and create the TV show The Defenders starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell.
A more impressive credit to me is that Wellman, who plays the more dangerous of the brothers, wrote FIREFOX! He’s interviewed on the Vinegar Syndrome disc and says that while acting in SUDDEN IMPACT he helped out Clint with on-set rewrites, and was repaid with a two picture deal. (I must’ve misunderstood something though, because SUDDEN IMPACT came out the year after FIREFOX.)
FIREFOX is not Clint’s best, and CURFEW is no FIREFOX. But it’s okay.