Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns Review
Written by: thegoldensimatar
I can clearly remember the day in Blockbuster when I was in the second grade and I saw a VHS tape of a film called Halloween. I didn't know what it was about and didn't get a chance to read much about it so when it came on TV in October I thought it was a Disney Halloween movie...to put it simply I got a shock when I turned to it and saw Michael choking one of the girls to death, CHANNEL CHANGE. Years later I find myself hearing of a video game based off some 1982 film called THE THING, this got enough of my interest to rent the movie and I got nightmares for a full week. Ever since then, John Carpenter has remained one of my favorite horror directors.
Cigarette Burns is Carpenter's entry to the Masters of Horror series created by Mick Garris and what a great entry. There maybe a spoiler or two, so if you have not see the film, stop reading now, get it and watch it. Burns tells the story of a guy named Kirby played by Norman Reedus -Blade 2- who owns a theater and is very good at hunting down rare movies. He is hired by film lover named Ballinger, played by the ever creepy Udo Kier, to hunt down the Holy Grail of rare finds. Le Absolute Fin Du Monde or The Absolute End of the World. The film was shown once at a festival and it apparently drove the audience to insanity, leading to a slaughter and apparently the government destroyed all prints, but of course they didn't. As Kirby gets closer to the Holy Grail of rare movies, he begins to see 'cigarette burns' -which are those circles you see in the corner of some older films- out of the blue followed by a usual horrible event.
John Carpenter hasn't made a film since 2001's Ghost of Mars, which I have to say I enjoy and consider a pretty decent film. Carpenter comes back full force with this movie and once we see one of stars of LAFDM there starts a constant state of dread that is key to any horror movie and gives you a jolt the first scare comes. When the first burn appeared on the screen, it was the first time in a while that a movie made me jump off the couch. They pop in unexpectidly and when they do only nasty -and blood drenched- stuff can come after. Now after saying that, I should mention that Burns is not a 'look to see what is gonna pop outta the dark' film, it is a very suspenseful movie and with only about 60 minutes film, Carpenter does an excellent job at creating a 100% creepy and suspenseful movie within that short running time.
Drew McWeeny's and Scott Swan's screenplay is top notch. It delves into the world of rare film collecting and the power of cinema. Probably my favorite scene in the whole movie is when Kirby goes to find a man who reviewed LAFDM and interviewed the director. Inside the man's home are piles and piles of paper from the floor to the ceiling which turn out to be the real review this guy has been working on for years saying that no amount of words can really make someone understand it. But, it is what he says about we the audience put our trust in the filmmaker, that we put trust in them as we sit in the dark as the movie rolls before our eyes. Safe in knowledge the film cannot hurt us, but the director of LAFDM shattered that trust and made the audience turn against each other in a bloodbath.
Burns is also a bloody film when there is blood. It isn't gallons upon gallons of the red stuff, but there is enough to satifsy any gorehound out there. But probably the most disgusting scene is where after Ballinger sees the movie he goes crazy and opening up his stomach, starts feeding his intestines into the projector. That just gave me the heebie jeebies. The effects are done by the masters at KNB and they are top notch as always. Definatly the guys to hire if you are making a makeup heavy film.
Acting is also very good. Udo Kier is creepy as always in his horror roles with a wide range of emotion. There is a childish or I should say unhuman glee in his face as he throws ice cubes at LAFDM's actor who is also apparently an angel. This one scene didn't give me the shakes as it did just creep me out that someone could be so inhuman to chain someone up. Norman Reedus, whom I have only seen in Blade 2, did a great job as Kirby as he goes from a man struggling to keep his theater alive and out of the hands of his dead wife's -or girlfriend, I was never really clear- father to a semi-violent obbessive man trying to get his hands on the print.
John Carpenter's movies are known for thier memorible scores, such as Halloween and Escape from New York. The score in this movie is done by Carpenter's son Cody and I wasn't that impressed. Carpenter's films are usually known for thier distintive aggressive, unrelenting tempo and sound. I am not saying that Cody Carpenter's score was bad, I am saying I didn't hear enough of it and from what I did hear it sounded like any generic music from a horror movie and didn't really stand out from the pack.
Overall, Cigarette Burns is a must have for all John Carpenter fans and definatly shows that Carpenter has not lost any of his talent as a filmmaker.