Cigarette Burns (2005)

Starring Norman Reedus, Udo Kier, Gary Hetherington, Chris Britton, Zara Taylor, Chris Gauthier, Douglas Arthurs, Colin Foo, Gwynyth Walsh, Christopher Redman, Julius Chapple

Directed by John Carpenter

Expectations: Moderate. I’ll admit it, I am excited to see this. John Carpenter and me go way back.


John Carpenter is a special director to me. During my film snob period, John Carpenter was one of the few genre filmmakers able to cut through my bullshit. His confidence and grasp on storytelling was powerful enough to impress despite the issues a teenage film snob might have. Films like Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, They Live, Big Trouble in Little China. Christ, the man knows how to get the job done and make it fun as hell. So going into this episode of Masters of Horror, I hoped that Carpenter would coming out firing on all cylinders.

Cigarette Burns is a film about films, one of the hardest types of films to pull off successfully. This is because as a self-aware film, it brings itself into our world and out of the realm of fantasy. Our touchstones are their touchstones. Carpenter is quick to establish that this is still fantasy though, when he reveals a pale-skinned, inhuman freak chained to a wall in the house of a billionaire. The rich man wants our hero (Norman Reedus) to hunt down a print of a rare film only ever shown once. When screened for the festival audience, the people went into a murderous frenzy, creating a cinematic myth for the ages. The man chained to the wall isn’t as key as you might think, but the early revelation about him changes the experience of watching Cigarette Burns and, at least for me, separates the film from our world. A parallel universe, perhaps.

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