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  Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns Movie Madness
Year: 2005
Director: John Carpenter
Stars: Norman Reedus, Udo Kier, Zara Taylor, Julius Chapple, Gary Hetherington, Chris Gauthier, Christopher Redman, Brad Kelly, Taras Kostyuk, Gwynyth Walsh, Christopher Britton, Douglas Arthurs, Colin Foo
Genre: Horror, TV SeriesBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kirby Sweetman (Norman Reedus) runs a small cinema which doesn't receive too many customers, so to add to his finances he also searches out rare films for the collectors' market. Tonight he has a new client, Mr Ballinger (Udo Kier), and when he arrives at his mansion Ballinger makes it plain what he's looking for: a film believed lost, La Fin Absolue du Monde. This work has a reputation amongst the few who have heard of it, because at its only screening at a festival of fantasy and horror films decades ago, it sparked a violent riot in the audience and the print was thought destroyed. Kirby tells his client that there's almost no chance of rediscovering it, but Ballinger has an artefact from the film: some sort of angel whose wings he has removed that he keeps chained up. The being was part of the film, and if it no longer existed then neither would the being, so an intrigued Kirby takes Ballinger up on his offer - but at what cost?

There are those who believe that films have a certain power over people, not just to make them laugh, cry or bored, but to make them depraved and turn to violence as well. There's no proof of this, but the idea is such a potent one that it refuses to go away, so it's an obvious choice for horror film subject matter that is well utilised here in this episode of Masters of Horror, the master in question here being John Carpenter who, as usual, puts his name above the title. The script was written by Drew McWeeney and Scott Swan, resembling the plot of Ramsey Campbell's 1989 novel Ancient Images which concerned a demonic Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi horror, but the snatches of footage we see of La Fin Absolue du Monde look more like a sixties art film.

The storyline takes the form of a detective yarn, with Kirby visiting characters from around the world to track down his quarry. His inquries reveal that almost everyone connected to the film is dead, but nevertheless he still finds leads in Paris, where he has a nasty encounter with snuff film makers, and Vancouver, where he finds the auteur's wife still alive. Obviously the cans of film are uncovered, but Kirby has been experiencing strange visions since accepting the mission and it's almost as if the film is exerting a strange influence over him by exploiting his tragic past. Neatly presented, Cigarette Burns has some nice performances, most notably a very amusing Kier, all of which build up the suspense about what exactly will happen when the film is screened. Some memorably grotesque images assist in this effect, too, and overall the episode is a success, even if the ending is no match for the reputation the fictional film has amassed. Music by Cody Carpenter, much in the style of his father.

[Anchor Bay's DVD has a wealth of extras, including two commentaries, documentaries, deleted scenes, interviews and more.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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John Carpenter  (1948 - )

Skillful American writer-director of supense movies, often in the science fiction or horror genres. Comedy Dark Star and thriller Assault on Precinct 13 were low budget favourites, but mega-hit Halloween kick-started the slasher boom and Carpenter never looked back.

The Fog, Escape from New York, The Thing, the underrated Christine, Big Trouble in Little China, They Live and Prince of Darkness all gained cult standing, but his movies from the nineties onwards have been disappointing: Escape from L.A., Vampires and Ghosts of Mars all sound better than they really are, although The Ward was a fair attempt at a return, if not widely seen. Has a habit of putting his name in the title. In 2018, after branching off into music, he returned to produce another Halloween sequel. He should direct a western sometime.

 
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