21 July 2006 | Quinoa1984
it works because of Carpenter's faith- and tricks- with the material
Cigarette Burns is one of the more entertainingly shocking little horror films I've seen in a while. It's only an hour long, but it still kind of sits well in that area between a short film and a 'real' feature-length film. If anything a story like this could be made into a slightly longer film (whether it would be better or give more chances for fright I don't know). But for TV it's pretty amazing stuff, mostly as it builds and builds in the climax. What was interesting too was watching the DVD extras and seeing Carpenter's own view on some of the film's clichéd sayings about how 'film can change you', which even he admits is BS. To him, the whole Le Fin Absolue du Monde part of the story could be anything supernatural (and its practically a retread of similar material from In the Mouth of Madness) or anything that keeps the plot moving along. It's a MacGuffin that does have a need to actually be seen by the audience- if not the audience's in the film then us watching at home- but when it is it's genuinely creative in an ironic way.
Norman Reedus proves he can act with a good script and defined character as a theater owner and rare-film buff who meets up with a spooky collector (Udo Kier as usual quite creepy and darkly funny in equal measure) who wants him to track down the obscure French film titled The Absolute End of the World, which only screened once to a violent crowd. But right off the bat things don't seem right as Kier's character keeps a living 'Angel' from the film's production with its wings clipped off. As Reedus goes deeper into the search, he then starts to realize its effect as it stirs up old rotten memories into his consciousness. Carpenter deals with the dialog scenes really quite well, and it's refreshing to see him direct more realistic scenes here and there as opposed to his recent films where style and flash trumps the words. And there really can't be enough said about Gregory Nicotero's make-up, which is there at best to totally supply Carpenter with what he needs to work off his visual scares.
And towards the end, as Kier finally gets a print of the film in his possession, it really is some of the more freaky, bloody, and unexpected scenes in a Carpenter work I've seen since the Thing just for sheer visceral impact. Without giving away too much, it does kind of border on the obvious of what might occur with some of the characters. But the way the actors pull it off corresponds well with how the 'MacGuffin' is finally shown, as a rip-off on pretentious violent art-film tripe that had me grinning as I cringed. Cigarette Burns is a successful little pot-boiler that probably might work better for Carpenter fans and those who find 'cult films' fascinating as the subject matter.