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John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns

Film Four Stars

I've been up since 7:30am this morning, and it's the start of a long afternoon and evening, already I'm tired and I doubt I'll see Dawn.

Here we are on the start of the second day and once again the cinema is heaving (that's a technical Scottish term meaning very busy). In the row ahead of me sits an older gentleman, he's tall and skinny, his face looks slightly aged and he's wearing a black T shirt with some horror movie slogan across it. His hair is thick and flows down his shoulders and back in varying shades of grey. I'm looking at Mr John Carpenter.

Now that would be a great moment, but unfortunately it's not. However it's a nice thought and starts the showing off to a nice start, we're in the presence of a true Master, a Master of Horror.

Adele arrives and gives another great introduction. Apparently we were going to be seeing the Takashi Miike segment of the series, but it couldn't be obtained from Bravo. They were scared. Unfortunately there's been updates to the schedule with films in the wrong airports around the world, everyone accepts it happily, although if only we had known then what we knew at the end of the day...

JohnCarpenter.jpgI'm a Carpenter fan, and if you're a fan of Horror then I think it's fair to say there's a huge percentage chance you're a fan too. What I was interested in was if he could pull off a film to a modern audience as all my favourite Carpenter films are films with extremes of horror, frights and eighties cheese, all weaving together superbly without making it a joke or a splatter fest.

The film started dark, and stays that way. Quickly we're introduced to a some serious creepiness with the appearance of Udo Kier who is deliciously unhinged, brimming with style and a certain madness, and the meeting of the main character from the film Le Fin Absolue Du Monde.

Now I don't go over plots when I'm reviewing a film, everyone and their dog does that and it's not why you're reading a review. However I'll do it for festival films because the chances are you might not see them. Just be thankful two thirds of the review aren't going over the plot. From IMDB:

Movie programmer Kirby Sweetman (Norman Reedus) goes on a search for the holy grail of cinema, Le Fin Absolue Du Monde, for an eccentric collector (Udo Kier) offering a handsome paycheck.

The entire film carries a creeping level of dread that Carpenter slowly raises, and it works. The whole film just oozes Carpenter, and it was obvious that he hadn't lost his touch at all. He manages to affect the entire audience, you could hear it through the film, he actually managed to make us scared of seeing a film that only exists in the story...for some of us we ended up wondering if this could well be true.

Along with that are delivered the funnier moments, and often in the extreme horror moments, topped off with a little cheese for effect. The audience laughed a few times in the film, particularly with the Chinese gentleman decides to engage the main character. However a lot of this is nervous laughter, and amongst the laughs and sniggers you could hear the groans of unease.

It's these extreme moments of horror that make you wonder if the laughter is an attempt to pass these scenes through the American censors, particularly on television.

Carpenter has been extremely clever with this story, and by taking something that the audience feel so safe in doing, namely watching a film in the controlled environment of the cinema, detached from the events on screen, and turning that into the vehicle of the horror he gets right into the psyche of the audience. Suddenly we're uneasy with the very fact that we're watching a film, and then perhaps watching that film.

He also addresses a morbid fascination fear that appears in our society today with the broadcasting of beheadings and deaths on the Internet. This moment is perhaps the strongest for being quite a graphic scene, but also for making a personal connection with an audience who can't help but think of recent world events.

He's been very clever and quite manipulative, and it works well even to the closing frame. I did find the ending slightly unsatisfying, but the entire package is pure Carpenter. It's superb fun, unnerving and containts some great horror moments.

IMDB Film Details
IMDB Film Details for the Masters of Horror series
Dead by Dawn



I saw this, on the Showtime movie channel for the series Masters of Horror a few months ago.

Most of the episodes of the series were, alright, nothing spectacular, but this one, by John Carpenter, to put it frankly, freaked me the hell out. hehe

You're right that it just, reeks of Carpenter's touch, right down to the background music. I won't spoil it here, but when we found out what the, special film, he is hired to find is actually about and why it has the affect it does on people, I found the thought of it downright a little disturbing, a feeling of almost, ethically repulsed, that really stuck with me for a while after it (Cigarette Burns) was over too.

I think this was by far the best episode of Masters of Horror, and in itself a truly creepy short film.

Damn, I totally forgot to mention the music, thanks for that xpgeek. It's classic JC too.

Yup, I had the same feelings. Very spooky film, and that feeling just grows and grows. It's actually amazing how you just don't want to see it, and hope you don't, yet it's the film within the film! It's not real! Good, a fellow JC fan.

(Blogging live from the Filmhouse foyer)

Actually, if I remember correctly, John Carpenter's son Cody did the music for Cigarette Burns. Like father, like son!

We did a John Carpenter retrospective on our last podcast, the man is definitely a legend!

- Sean



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