Customer Reviews: Masters of Horror - John Carpenter - Cigarette Burns
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on March 14, 2007
This is actually the very first work from John Carpenter since "The Thing" to scare me at all. I was eleven when "The Thing" blew me away with its gore, violence, and creepy horror, but ever since then it seemed as though his films were getting more and more cheesy. Even "In the Mouth of Madness" which I enjoyed for its Lovecraft-style themes and mood was more surreal than scary. "Cigarette Burns" is both surreal and scary, with dark underlying religious tones. There is the running undercurrent during the story of the fear of the unknown, or the unearthed secret and/or creation that should remain hidden for the sake of all mankind. Themes that are undeniably Lovecraft. I actually did not have a problem with the acting at all, I was simply too enthralled with the mystery and eventual horrifying climax to even notice. The heart of the mystery is incredibly original and thought-provoking, the journey absolutely worth taking. With so many bad horror films coming out these days it is incredibly refreshing to see a true Master of Horror show these young twerps just how it should be done. Even if it is just a short film. Excellent.
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on February 22, 2006
Masters of Horror is, at best, an uneven series, but this one is definitely a standout. It's similar to Carpenter's "In the Mouth of Madness," but with a lot more scares and some really nasty violence. It may not have worked so well if it were a full-length movie, but for a one-hour episode, it's brilliant. I gotta say, the series as a whole is a little disappointing, as some of them aren't horror at all, but comedies or political satires with some gore thrown in, which doesn't make them bad, necessarily, they're just not "horror" like the title would suggest. The good news is that Cigarette Burns is a real horror show, and it's the best thing John Carpenter's done in at least a decade. CHECK IT OUT!!
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An entertaining and fairly compelling story by first time writers Drew McWeeny (aka the movie/DVD reviewer known as "Moriarty" on the "Ain't It Cool" web site) and Scott Swan is brought home by veteran horror director John Carpenter. All horror fans will likely find something here to enjoy, though it will be especially fun for "film geek" types who obsessively follow favorite directors and can recount the names and plots of the most obscure movies faster than they can remember the names of certain cousins.

Admittedly, two or three things could have been done better in this quickly-filmed production (for example, it should have been more of a slow, dramatic reveal when we learn that a film critic has filled reams and reams of paper with one endless review of the mysterious, infamous horror movie everyone is searching for), but overall the story unfolds well, measured and methodical when it needs to be and weird and crazy when those things are needed.

I also liked the nice balance been artiness and good old storytelling craftsmanship in the final piece. "Cigarette Burns" keeps things mysterious and, well, artful by not over-explaining every little question that naturally occurs to the viewer, but it explains enough and keeps the narrative "normal" enough that, despite the mysteries and unanswered questions at the conclusion, we still feel like we were given a satisfying, coherent story. Just be warned that ultimately it's a blood-soaked satisfying, coherent story you'll be getting.

And if the creepy, gory main feature isn't enough for you, this modestly priced DVD also gives you a generous set of extras. I especially enjoyed the two DVD commentaries, one by the director and one by the writers. Taken together, the commentaries give viewers a detailed and comprehensive look at the dynamic, energetic collaborative process between the writers, actors, and director that resulted in this edgy little horror film.

So, in the end, I'd give the actual short film (it clocks in at a shade under an hour) a solid three stars, and the generous DVD package as a whole a well-earned five stars. That averages out to the four-star rating I'm giving the whole thing overall. And that should be more than enough incentive to pony up the few bucks they're asking for this surprisingly entertaining DVD offering.
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HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICEon October 25, 2006
One of the more criticized episodes of Showtime's Masters of Horror series, John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns is better than you've heard. The man behind Halloween, the Thing, etc., is in fine form here as down and out film expert Kirby (Norman Reedus) is hired by an enigmatic rare film lover (genre stalwart Udo Kier) to find a film that upon it's only showing caused the audience to go insane and kill each other. As his journey unfolds, Kirby learns the secrets behind the film's production, and the demonic truth that lay underneath the celluloid. Considering Carpenter's recent body of work, Cigarette Burns is a nice change of pace. Most of the criticisms of of Cigarette Burns arise from Reedus' performance, and while he may not be the best leading man, he's not as terrible as what's been described in previous reviews. The makeup and gore effects are top notch as usual, and for most of it's running time, Cigarette Burns is one of the better entries in the Masters of Horror series. All in all, Cigarette Burns is better than it's been given credit for, and is definitely worth checking out for Carpenter lovers and horror afficiondos alike.
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on May 30, 2007
Carpenter dons his old school hat and delivers here. The story here is interesting and fits perfectly into the 1 hour format. Excellent gore scenes! Some genuinely creepy moments, and if I weren't so jaded, I may have actually been scared.

The plot is mentioned in other reviews-- sorta reminds me of Polanski's THE NINTH GATE (wouldn't it be nice to get Polanski aboard for an episode?). An rich eccentric, freaky film collector hires some bozo to track down the reel to a legendary film that was screened once and caused the audiance to go berzerka and slaughter each other. The rest is for you to find out and enjoy.

The dialouge is appropriate and the directing,cinematgraphy is great-- I don't care what the mainstream reviewers say. If you are a horror fan and enjoy the old Carpenter films-- you will dig this bad boy.
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on June 18, 2006
John Carpenter, Tobe Hooper, Dario Argento, Joe Dante, Don Coscarelli, Takashi Miike. These are some of the powerhouse names in horror that were enlisted to direct episodes of "Masters of Horror", a 13-episode series that debuted last fall on the Showtime network. Comparisons to other TV horror anthologies such as Tales from the Crypt, Twilight Zone and Friday the 13th were inevitably made but "Masters" decidedly differs from those in several aspects as there is no host, no commercials and little trace of humor/camp. No, Masters of Horror is a no holds barred hardcore horror anthology that gives full creative freedom to its directors, many of them names that have been known to not pull any punches whatsoever.

What I particularly like about the show is that there is no guiding voice, or TV producer, telling the director how things should be. Each episode has the director's own personal stamp on it, to give us the feeling that "This is not a masters of horror episode, it's a Dario Argento movie, or a Takashi Miike movie, etc." The result of this creative freedom and unique concept is an anthology where every episode feels uniquely distinct from one another.

"Cigarette Burns" is directed by none other than John Carpenter, arguably the most famous of the directors involved and a man who needs little introduction to fans of the genre. Carpenter has directed over a dozen timeless horror and horror/sci-fi hybrid classics such as "Halloween", "The Thing", "The Fog", "Escape From New York" and the list goes on and on. In his contribution to the series Carpenter explores themes of obsession, addiction and personal vindication.

Kirby Sweetman is a movie programmer swimming in debt who is hired by a creepy collector (played in typical subdued fashion by Udo Kier) to find the sole existing film print of the super-rare "Le fin absolue du monde", a film allegedly shown only once some 30 years ago and rumored to have driven its audience into a murderous rampage before the theater mysteriously erupted into flames. Sweetman's obsessive search leads him to New York, Paris and finally Vancouver and during his search Sweetman (who has many demons in his past) comes to the realization that the film's infamous reputation is well-deserved.

I had high hopes for this particular episode in light of being a huge Carpenter and also due to the interesting plot synopsis. My expectations were somewhat fulfilled. "Cigarette Burns" suffers from a bit of an identity crisis: it's a bit low on the "horror" quotient, feeling more like a private investigation show with paranormal elements thrown in that recall the x-files. It's not like most of Carpenter's work, although there are definitely resemblances to "In the mouth of Madness". The acting is subpar for the most part and that's usually something to be expected in TV productions however when it's the central character who is the main offender it's a tougher pill to swallow. That Wahlberg brother look-alike is a truly awful actor!

Still, "Cigarette Burns" does keep us on our toes with an aura of mystique and intrigue as well as satisfying our appetite when it finally shows us clips of this infamous film that drives people to madness. There are also about a handful of eye-poppingly disturbing gore scenes throughout. "Cigarette Burns" is bleak, nihilistic and definitely worth a look.
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on January 21, 2007
It might have been the fact that I watched it at 4 am with my little sister, but I actually close my eyes during the end because the gore was just too much. I must have gotten really into it, but I haven't had a movie make me feel that way since I was real little. It really scared me. I was even able to watch Saw 3 without looking away, so something about this was different.

That's the point of a horror movie though, so I guess I'm glad I wasn't numb to the gore like most people because gore is so over-used in films these days.

Anyway, it was almost like The Ring meets Event Horizon. The only thing that took away from the film was the "gollum" guy. It made the movie seem less real. It was unecessary.

Overall it was original and genuinely creepy.
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VINE VOICEon May 16, 2007
As far as Masters of Horror goes, no one is contesting that John Carpenter belongs in the list. Considering that the man behind The Thing is responsible for this installment of the flawed Showtime series, one would expect the episode to ripple with Carpenter's trademark creeping terror, a lush lust for the shadows that make bedrooms, basements, and movie theatres so creepy to begin with.

If that's what you're expecting, you won't be disappointed. Not that much, anyway.

I'll forgive the guy for essentially rehashing a plot that he already did so well (and so bizarrely) with In the Mouth of Madness. There's a movie somewhere out there entitled "Le Fin Absolue du Monde," a grisly flick that's so disturbing that, at its premiere, most of the audience went insane and started killing each other. Mr. Bellinger (Udo Kier as an unapologetically evil arcane film buff) wants to see this urban legend of a film before he dies, and he enlists in his search Kirby Sweetman, a tortured movie-house director who happens to be good at tracking down these sorts of things.

During his quest for the vile movie, Kirby encounters snuff film auteurs, chained and de-winged angels, and flashbacks to his own unsettling past, all accompanied by "cigarette burns," strange glowing circles that, in the movie world, indicate a reel change. There's disturbing (very disturbing) violence, dead-ends, and even a deranged movie critic, one of the film's original viewers, a survivor of the premiere who has spent the rest of his life writing a review that fills dozens and dozens of towering cardboard boxes (Carpenter's smug mockery of his detractors, perhaps?).

It's not surprising that Carpenter has done quite well what he's already done well before, but it is surprising that he would cast Norman Reedus as the lead, Kirby Sweetman. I have listened to those who would defend his performance in this film, but the plain facts are that the man does an absolutely horrendous job. In half of his scenes he wanders about with the dazed expressionlessness of a man who has woken up thirty seconds ago to find a film crew in his house. The rest of the time he appears mildly drunk and seems annoyed by the fact that he has to do some more "acting." I don't get why this guy wasn't fired after the first day.

Nevertheless, in spite of Reedus's incompetence, this short horror segment still works, which says a lot for Mr. Carpenter, et. al. Shudder at the gore, scratch your head at the conclusion, and laugh at Norman's attempts to emote; "Cigarette Burns" may not drive you mad, but it will keep you entertained.
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on August 17, 2014
Carpenter's Cigarette Burns is a satire on the effect that horror movies have on audiences and critics. The spell woven by the movie within the movie, Le Fin Absolue du Monde, suggests the real-life spell woven by horror movies such as Carpenter's own Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. What began as a low-budget tradition confined to drive-in's and grindhouse theatres has now become a million-dollar industry complete with horror festivals, horror groupies, and horror collectors.

Carpenter is right to observe that this addiction to horror is silly and maybe a little bit scary.

If you enjoy John Carpenter movies, or if you know your horror movies, you will enjoy this little shocker. But I'm sorry to say that, on the level of execution, Cigarette Burns has its flaws. The graphic violence is too violent. Norman Reedus, of The Walking Dead, gives a leaden, bland performance. The final fight between Reedus's character and his dead girlfriend's father is perfunctory and anticlimactic. The angel character's exact purpose in the story is unclear. Grainy, poorly matched stock footage of Paris at night makes everything look more low-budget than it needs to.

If you can overlook these flaws, however, you will find much to enjoy. Udo Kier steals the show with his performance as a hell-bent horror connoisseur. Chris Britton as a deranged horror critic and Gwynth Walsh as Bakovic's wife turn in inspired performances as well. Carpenter's son Cody contributed a spooky electronic soundtrack much in the style of his old man's music. And there's lots and lots of information about old movies and film lore that is, sadly, already vanishing from the new, digital age of moviemaking. (You'll learn what "cigarette burns" really are, among many other things.)
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on April 13, 2006
Thank God someone decided to call JC to direct something worthwhile and nothing like his last few "efforts". This story, like all the rest of the shorts in this series, actually has you gripped from the start and continues to do so right to the bloody ending. And it has to be said that this could be the nastiest outing we've had from Carpenter for years. Check out the beheading scene!! Udo Keir is just perfect too for his role, but isn't he always superb?

The greatest thing about this dvd are the special features, in particular the John Carpenter interview. In fact it's worth buying this dvd just for that!!! If you have always been a lover of the great man, you may not be after this. Boy does he explode at the idiot interviewer. Though I can't blame him. Go buy it!!
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