Saturday, April 29, 2006
Masters of Horror - Cigarette Burns (2005)
This film is part of Showtime's Masters of Horror collection and is directed by John Carpenter, and Cigarette Burns is probably one of the best in the series.
A struggling theater manager (Norman Reedus, who played one of the brothers in Boondock Saints) is hired by wealthy Mr. Ballinger (Udo Kier) to track down the print of an infamous film called La Fin Absolue du Monde (The Absolute End of the World). It seems this film was only screened once, which resulted in a bloodbath at the festival where it first played.
Mr. Ballinger is a collector of rare films and various "props" from these films, and is obsessed with finding the only print of this film. The theater owner, Kirby Sweetman, agrees to find the film for a fee of $200,000. This is how much he owes the theater owner, who also happens to be his dead girlfriend's father. In flashbacks, we see that Kirby's girlfriend Annie committed suicide. He is still haunted by her death and Annie's father blames Kirby for her death.
Kirby is a discerning theater manager, and only screens rare and fine films such as Argento's Deep Red (which I was delighted to see up on the marquee as Profundo Rosso) He is soon obsessed with finding such a rare film as La Fin Absolue du Monde. He tracks down people who have seen the film or know about the film. Most of them are obsessed with the film and yet others are secretive about it, that is, unless they are dead. All people who have come in contact with it have been profoundly changed, such is the power of the film.
**CAUTION - SPOILERS AHEAD**
As Kirby gets closer to it, he begins to see things, specifically a circle with images of his dead wife in them. These circles are "cigarette burns," which indicate a reel change in a movie. He eventually begins seeing other images, images that are directly from the film. He learns that the film shows a divine being, an angel, being sacrificed. He is told that the act is so intimate and brutal that it changes everyone who is connected to or watches the film.
He finally tracks down the director's wife, Katja. She speaks of the power it has over people, and how her husband tried to kill her and then committed suicide after watching the film one too many times. Katja gives Kirby the film, telling him she wished it was never made.
Kirby delivers the film to Mr. Ballinger, who watches it with champagne until he eviscerates himself and loads his intestines into the projector. His butler also watches the film, and cuts up his body before stabbing himself in both his eyes. Kirby ends up watching the film as well...
This was a thoroughly disturbing and unsettling movie. I wasn't sure how the 1 hour time constraint would suit Carpenter, but he handled it expertly. I liked how Carpenter tackled the idea that films really do have the power to change us. Though many deny it, films can have a profound impact on the audience or certain individuals.
I haven't seen any other installments of the Masters of Horror, but I do hear that Carpenter's Cigarette Burns is the best in the series. This film will haunt me for a while.
Order it from Amazon!