MASTERS OF HORROR SEASON ONE, EPISODE EIGHT: JOHN CARPENTER’S CIGARETTE BURNS-United States-2005
Directed by John Carpenter
I assume that a lot of you read Written in Blood because, first and foremost, you love movies; especially horror movies. I will expand upon that assumption by saying that there are those of you out there who love movies so much that not only do you collect and watch movies, but that you also collect movie memorabilia of various degrees. Along with the hundreds of DVD’s and Blu-rays that I own, I also have some posters; as well as a Planet Terror Cherry Darling action figure still in the original package. My pride and joy is a beautiful ceramic Godzilla statue depicting the lizard king (sorry Jim Morrison, but the Big G will always be the original) from Godzilla vs. Biollante. But enough about all that; this is one of those times where I start with one story to tell you another story. John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns is about the high price of movie collecting and I’m not talking about paying double on eBay for an authentic Iron Man helmet.
Norman Reedus (Mimic, The Walking Dead) is Kirby, a rare films dealer hired by the wealthy Bellinger (Udo Kier, Blade, Suspiria) to find a print of an ultra-rare film called “La Fin Absolue du Monde”, or “The Absolute End of the World”. Upon its premiere, the film set off a homicidal riot and was later believed to be destroyed. Bellinger is convinced that a print of the film exists and shows Kirby proof in the form of the Willowy Being, a humanoid creature that may or may not be an angel. The Being tells Kirby that if the film were truly destroyed then he would know about it. Up to his ass in debt to his late girlfriend’s father, Kirby accepts the job. The closer he gets to the truth, the more he begins to see ‘cigarette burns’ a slang term for the mark on a film that indicates that it will soon be time to change reels. The ‘burns’ are used here to indicate when there will be a shift in the tone of the film and the results of Kirby’s search for “La Fin Absolue Du Monde”. With that, seeing as how I take pride in keep my reviews as spoiler-free as possible, there’s not much else I can tell you about the plot of Cigarette Burns.
This is the second time in the past three years that I’ve watched Cigarette Burns. The first time I had yet to begin writing and therefore took a casual approach to the episode. But, even after watching it with more scrutiny the second time around; I found that I had to sit for a while to be able to collect my feelings about it. It reminds me of a friend of mine who told me that when he went to see Pulp Fiction, he sat in his car in the theater parking lot for twenty minutes pondering on whether he liked the film before finally deciding that he did like it. I understand him now; it took me twenty minutes to determine that I liked Cigarette Burns. It’s the best episode (so far) of Masters of Horror. Norman Reedus carries the film with a charm that I personally don’t think a more well-known actor could have accomplished. Those of you who only know the guy as Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead I would highly recommend to see this episode. There’s a lot more to the guy than a red neck and a crossbow.
Cigarette Burns has an identical plot to Roman Polanski’s thriller The Ninth Gate. One of the main differences being that it is a film and not a book that Kirby is hired to find. The other is that at over two hours I couldn’t wait for The Ninth Gate to end. At the end of 58 minutes, Cigarette Burns left me wanting more.
The newspaper columnist lives in a secluded house in Carthage, New York. John Carpenter, who directed the movie, was born in Carthage, New York.
- John Carpenter (burningambulance.com)
- John Carpenter in Review: In the Mouth of Madness (1994) (houseofgeekery.com)
- Masters of Horror Season One, Episode Two: Dreams in the Witch House (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- Masters of Horror Season One, Episode Three: Dance of the Dead (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- [From the Ashes] October Horror Part III: John Carpenter Edition (fromtheashesrpg.blogspot.com)
- Masters of Horror Season One, Episode Five: Chocolate (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- Masters of Horror Season One, Episode One: Incident on and Off a Mountain Road (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- Masters of Horror Season One, Episode Six: Homecoming (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- Masters of Horror Season One, Episode Seven: Deer Woman (jmountswritteninblood.com)
- Masters of Horror Season One, Episode Four: Jenifer (jmountswritteninblood.com)