Monday, October 20, 2008
#97: John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns
Directed by John Carpenter
Written by Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan
First aired November 2005
In searching around this month for Horror movies I'd never seen, I stumbled upon a batch of really good reviews for an hour-long episode of the Showtime "Masters of Horror" TV series. This particular program, entitled Cigarette Burns was directed by one time Horror god John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing). Since I'd pretty much seen everything he had directed, good or bad, I figured it was worth a shot.
The plot was appealing, considering my own quest, for both this month and this project:
Udo "I Play Bad Guys" Kier plays Bellinger, a movie collector who specializes in horrifying images. Bellinger seeks the help of Kirby (the shitty Boondock Saints' Norman Reedus), a movie theater owner who helps collectors like Bellinger find high priced obscurities like movies, movie props, posters and more.
Bellinger's quest is to find the sole existing copy of a movie called La Fin Absolute du Monde, which had screened only one time and apparently had the power to drive the audience into a violent, murderous rage. Bellinger claims to be dying, and that his only wish is to view La Fin Absolute du Monde before he dies. For such a rare, infamous movie, it's kind of funny that Bellinger offers such a low price for its acquisition. By the time Kirby doubles the price, you'll be hard pressed to not think of Dr. Evil scheming for "One million dollars!"
Unfortunately, this is the least of the issues with this short film. I guess I should be fair, because for a television series with a low budget, Carpenter does manage to accomplish a lot here, especially considering that he shot Cigarette Burns in only 10 days. There's some great gore, especially a beheading, that will make even the most jaded Horror fan curl their toes.
One of the downfalls of the "movie" is the fact that the story is a bit too ambitious for how little time Carpenter is allowed to tell it. It takes place in three different countries and at least five cities (it all looks like Canada), as if this journey takes a bit of effort, and yet there's no time spent in any location. After making a few brief phone calls and a couple of visits, Kirby pinpoints the rather obvious location of the movie and walks away with it as if he was the only person to ever have the audacity to just ask for the thing. The ending also feels rushed, with characters making some idiotic choices even for people who may have supposedly "gone mad."
Carpenter does do a good job in showing only brief bits of the infamous movie, making it look effectively disturbing enough to have a power over those who watch it. For a short so heavy in exposition-via-dialogue, Cigarette Burns maintains an effective level of tension. As a Horror movie, it still winds up being a bit simplistic (Carpenter dissects the thing so brutally in the commentary that you almost wonder if he even likes the results).
For more on John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns:
- Movie information at IMDB and Wikipedia.
- Buy the DVD.
The Cigarette Burns trailer: