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Cigarette Burns (2005)--From the series "Masters of Horror"

The Masters of Horror series that has aired on Showtime and been released on DVD has given some of horror’s best writers/directors the chance to show what they can do. John Carpenter’s chapter in the series, “Cigarette Burns” shows that he can do a lot.

The film is reminiscent of Carpenter’s “In the Mouth of Madness” but this time it isn’t a book that opens a door into a H.P. Lovecraft apocalypse, rather it is a film that drives people into homicidal insanity.

Theater owner and “finder of rare films” Kirby Sweetman (Norman Reedus) is hired by Mr. Bellinger (Udo Kier) an eccentric millionaire and collector of rare film prints to find the only existing copy of “Le Fin Absolue du Monde” (The Absolute End of the World). The story goes that the only time this film was screened for an audience, 30 years before, the whole crowd went crazy and started killing each other and burned down the cinema. The only print was supposedly lost.

Mr. Bellinger believes it is not lost and his proof is in the form of a living angel whose wings were cut off in the film. Bellinger offers Kirby enough money to save his theater from bankruptcy in return for finding the print.

Norman Reedus does a great job portraying the surprisingly amoral Kirby Sweetman, who doesn’t question Bellinger about the angel he keeps chained in a room behind his office, he just asks for more money to do the job. As the film progresses Carpenter builds tension for the audience as he reveals more about Kirby’s past and how that past is brought out by searching for the film.

This episode of the series would have been better as a feature length film, the one hour limit imposed by the series does make some parts of it feel rushed. Despite the somewhat rushed search, Carpenter still builds tension and suspense masterfully, as we see Kirby’s character follow the trail to its inevitable conclusion; watching “Le Fin Absolue du Monde”.

There is a lot jammed into this hour long feature. Udo Kier does a fantastic job as the creepy millionaire collector and Carpenter doesn’t skimp on the gore either, with several shocking scenes that stick in the viewer’s mind. The “Masters of Horror” series is called that for a reason and John Carpenter’s “Cigarette Burns” shows that he has earned the right to the title of a Master of Horror.


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