Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Review: Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns

John Carpenter directs the 8th episode from the Masters of Horror series, Cigarette Burns. A reference to cue marks in a film reel in case you didn't know. You tend to have high hopes when Carpenter is attached to anything horror, and fortunately in this case he does not disappoint. The episode concerns the finding and viewing of one of the most infamous movies of all time. La Fin Absolue du Monde (Translated: The Absolute End of the World). Legend has it that anyone who watches the movie goes mad and becomes enraged with the desire to kill. Others or themselves. The insane don't discriminate. Sounds like a fun time over some popcorn.
                                                See much sun creepy guy.

The episode follows movie aficionado Kirby (Norman Reedus) on his quest to find the mythical movie for the rich and spectacularly eccentric rare movie collector Mr. Bellinger (Udo Kier). Eccentric in the way that has you chain up what looks to be a wingless angel in your house and claim it is a prop from the film.Yeah, that kind of eccentric. Kirby is deep in debt to his late wife's father and in order to keep his struggling movie theater afloat he requests 200,000 from Mr. Bellinger to find the lost print. He is very skeptical about the movie, but he soon learns that he is in for more than he could have ever imagined. He begins having strange visions of his late wife and seeing cigarette burns randomly. Or he took too much DMT. Either or. It's revealed that his wife and him were junkies at one point and she committed suicide for some reason. A damaged survivor from a screening who is writing a 10,000 page (there's just too much to say) review gives him a recording of an interview he did with the director regarding the movie. Things only start getting stranger and bloodier for Kirby. It seems strange (or maybe not so strange) that nobody wants him to find the movie and these baddies attempt to stop him by whatever means necessary. He blacks out and some people end up very dead. He finally does find the last surviving print with the help of the late directors wife Katja. Hell, she wasn't to get rid of the cursed thing. Can you blame her? He delivers it as promised to our crazy friend Mr. Bellinger. The rare movie buff and apparently the weird butler make the unfortunate choice to ignore the talk of death and view the bizarre film. At the behest of Mr. Bellinger, Kirby returns to his house and sees the aftermath and carnage of his ill advised venture into movie madness. In the end it all culminates into more brutal deaths, surreal visions of the dead wifey, and an interesting ending involving the pale and strange wingless being we see earlier in the episode.

          Kirby sees a cigarette burn while listening to some smooth jams.

John Carpenter directs the episode well enough and I quite like what he did with this episode. The theme of watching or reading something that will make you insane is very lovecraftian and had previously surfaced in his brilliant film "In the Mouth of Madness". He captures such madness from his characters and many scenes have an eerie surrealism vibe going on. Is it a dream? Your not quite sure what's going on until the end, and even then you can't be sure. All this while still throwing in some nice gore and bloodletting. this episode is more creepy than bloody, but there is a particularity nice beheading scene in the last third of the film. I have to applaud Mr.Carpenter for combining all of those feats very well.

                         Kaspar gets up close and personal with Kirby

I must say Norman Reedus's performance as Kirby was just ok for me. I loved him Boondock Saint's, but here the acting is just mediocre and somewhat bland. I know he can do better though. Fortunately it takes nothing away from the story or my interest thereof. The lovely Gwynyth Walsh as the infamous director's wife was pretty good. Not too much screen time though so I can't say too much. The two standouts for me were the over the top Udo Kier as Mr. Bellinger and Taras Kostyuk as the psycho director Kaspar. Udo Kier is basically awesome in almost anything he does and his accent only adds to his lovable eccentricities and odd persona. Here he plays very well wit the material and has and underlying tone of creepiness. His death scene is just pretty funny as well. Then you have Taras Kostyuk. The (german?) weirdo, s&m maybe, psychopath director of in the moment death and extreme images. He too has a love for La Fin Absolue du Monde, and even has some stills from the movie which he shows Kirby after filming a brutal death of his own. Even though he is only on screen for a short time he makes the best of it and delivers some good lines and exudes a strong on screen presence.

                                    Kirby is looking a little out of it.

All in all I thought the episode was very solid. One of my favorites from the series. It was definitely an interesting premise I must say. Angel mutilation, a movie that drives you insane, and throw in a little human guilt. It surprisingly all works very well together and kept me captivated throughout. I highly recommend to horror fans of all creeds. 4/5 skulls

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