John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns

What if there was a film out there that was so destructively evil that it had the power to end the world? (And no it’s not The Master Of Disguise). John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns explores this in grisly, eerie fashion for one of the many varied and interesting horror features produced by Showtime’s limited Masters Of Horror run.

Norman Reedus plays a moody private investigator with a dark past hired by Udo Kier’s sinister rare film collector to track down and bring him ‘La Fin Absolut du Monde’, a fabled piece of celluloid that is apparently so disturbing to watch it sends audiences into homicidal mania and subsequently causes the end of all things. Cool, huh? It’s wicked great with two creepy central performances from Norman and Udo who just ooze cult charisma and fit well into Carpenter’s spooky palette.

I particularly enjoyed the skin crawling appearance of a ‘willowy being’ (Christopher Redman) who is supposedly some sort of celestial creature that was tortured to bring about some of the film’s cursed imagery. Reedus’s character is given a ne’er do well aura and practically radiates bad luck as we see ongoing flashbacks to a tragic relationship and sense that he’s headed purely in the wrong karmic direction in looking for this film. Kier has demented fun as the weirdo film aficionado and if you think you’ve seen everything just wait for the sight of him feeding his own bloody intestines through a film projector with a satisfied smile on his face. Yeesh. You won’t find this brought up when discussing Carpenter’s usual stuff because it’s technically a TV episode but it is feature length and does have his trademark dark suspense and macabre inventiveness all over it, and is great fun. Oh and pay attention to what the titular cigarette burns refers to because it’ll come in handy for movie trivia at the pub.

-Nate Hill

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