Masters of Horror – John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns

Masters of Horror John Carpenter‘s Cigarette Burns

In 2005 I thought Showtime’s series Masters of Horror was about the coolest idea ever. Allowing icons of the horror film world to create hour-long movies every week free from network interference (though Showtime did end up declining to air Takashi Miike’s Imprint) was something I was enthusiastically in favor of. I ended up watching the first four episodes and then stopping. One thing is a lot of horror icons don’t age particularly well. Regardless of what you think of The Ward (I kind of liked it), there’s no question that John Carpenter isn’t operating at peak performance anymore. Cigarette Burns has an intriguing premise though, written by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan (both, at the time, contributors to Ain’t It Cool News under the names Moriarty and Obi-Swan). There’s nothing startling original about someone seeking out an artifact that everyone warns him against only to find it and learn that he should have heeded the warnings. The idea of merging that story with cinephilia is an interesting one though since most of the people watching are presumably cinephiles (who else would seek out a director-centered anthology series?).

Norman Reedus (from The Boondock Saints and The Walking Dead) plays Kirby, a theater programmer. He also makes money by tracking down rare prints for wealthy collectors. One such collector is a man named Bellinger (horror icon Udo Kier), who seeking the rarest print of all: a film called La Fin Absolue du Monde (The Absolute End of the World). It only screened once and the audience erupted in murderous violence. It was supposedly destroyed but Bellinger insists there is a print out there. Kirby, deep in debt to his late girlfriend’s father, takes the job. Intrigue and violence ensure. The execution is somewhat lacking. For starters, it’s never very scary. There is a scene involving a European collector and amateur film-maker that is very off-putting. A healthy amount of gore occurs later in the movie but nothing really gave me chills. Some of La Fin Absolue du Monde is shown onscreen and it’s not quite the unknowable horror show that it’s built up to be. The Ward may not have been as great as the films of Carpenter’s heyday, but at least it marked a return to making movies that are exciting. Cigarette Burns just kind of plods along until it’s over.

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