Sunday, October 24, 2010

MASTERS OF HORROR: CIGARETTE BURNS (2005)

It is hard not to get excited upon seeing this John Carpenter thing, following such things as VAMPIRES and GHOSTS OF MARS, as it does. CIGARETTE BURNS excites by displaying new reconnections with genre roots, as well as themes left untouched since IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS. So reminiscent is this of that, that it almost functions as a companion piece, a revised volume. And it had Udo Kier, skreeeee~~!@!!
Udo Kier is a serious film enthusiast, one who not only presumably attends conventions, but lays out dollars for prints as well as props. He enlists the help of Norman Reedus (as Kirby,) a guilt-ridden, perhaps-heroin-addicted cineaste, to locate a fabled super-extreme film called LE FIN ABSOLUE DE MONDE (THE ABSOLUTE END OF THE WORLD). At its last screening, it spurred several murders and a riot, and forward motion in this film centers around its deleterious lures. Like I've said about religious horror, even if you don't take "horror as corruptive element" that seriously, it works on a primal level and should absolutely be mined as such.
This is a really visually-rich film. It's great to see Carpenter working on tight schedules with small casts again. I truly feel that it brings out the very best in him. Thematically, this rubs shoulders with the aforementioned MOUTH as well as Lieberman's SATAN'S LITTLE HELPER in terms of an aesthetic conservatism, a worry for the degrading influence of art. And why not? Any fear that may be exploited should be exploited, as far gone as horror as a genre is lately. It's a fantastic genre, so claiming the most fantastic and far-fetched of concerns should not be a super-big deal. Even Carpenter dismisses the "film as a weapon" concept on the extras here, but it has a tremendously long lineage, stretching back from MOUTH and VIDEODROME to Plato and beyond.

There's no fluff or fat. This is a spare story, delivered well by competent actors and well-planned reveals. It's just too bad to hear (from all corners of the Internet) that Carpenter's latest fails to live up to the promise of this shorter effort. No one should fault anyone for having a job (I fail to make HALLOWEENs and PRINCE OF DARKNESSs at my job every day), but people who love film (and, judging by this, Carpenter is one of them) can weep without fear at one of the format's titans going a bit astray. No one would mind if it weren't apparent that he has a LOT more to say. Here's hoping that the next project is an ASSAULT or THEY LIVE-level triumph and not a craven CURSED-esque time-filler. Until then, console yourself with this.

#24 of 31.

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