STUDIO: Anchor Bay
MSRP: $16.99
- Commentaries
- Interviews
- Featurettes


“It’s In the Mouth of Madness meets The Ring!”


Norman Reedus, Udo Kier

Dammit, I wish I could remember the name of that movie…


Film enthusiast Kirby Sweetman (Reedus) operates a struggling art-house theater (the title Cigarette Burns is a slightly esoteric reference to the reel change indicators for projectionists). His reputation for locating rare film prints has brought him to the attention of eccentric and wealthy collector Mr. Ballinger (Kier) who is intent on finding a notorious movie called La Fin Absolue du Monde – aka, The Absolute End of the World (there’s a drinking game in there: do a shot every time someone mentions La Fin Absolue du Monde — you’ll be crocked by the halfway mark and dead of alcohol poisoning before the end credits). The film reportedly caused madness and violence among the sole audience to ever view it, but although rumors claimed that the only print was then destroyed, Ballinger possesses questionable “proof” that it still exists. Professional curiosity and a desire to be liberated from considerable debt send Kirby in search of this celluloid Holy Grail, despite the nightmarish visions of his dead fiancée that increase the warmer the trail gets.

…I’m sure it’ll come to me…


While the Masters of Horror series was an overall disappointment, Carpenter’s contribution was among the standouts – at the very least, it’s certainly one of the highlights of his post-They Live directing filmography.

Cigarette Burns has a fantastic premise from writers Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan – the idea that someone created a monstrous film of such biblical proportions it causes outright chaos. But like many great ideas it starts to stumble over uneven terrain as it draws nearer to the end –obvious time and budgetary restraints send the film pinballing off scenes of expository dialogue as it dashes to its climax, a sensation compounded by the rather uncomplicated ultimate completion of Kirby’s quest. It’s one of the few Masters of Horror episodes that could have benefited from a feature length, as well as a different leading man — Reedus makes a convincing burnout but just doesn’t come across as a particularly likeable cat (and he appears to have eaten the version of himself from Blade II).

Carpenter’s most effective work during his career has been through suspense and suggestion, but much like seeing the cursed videotape footage in The Ring, the clunky “money shot” revelation here could never match what we’ve generated in our imaginations as a film so terrifying it causes feverish, ferocious insanity – though we only get a few glimpses of La Fin Absolue du Monde, not enough is crafted by our mind’s eye. Still, Cigarette Burns takes an inventive look at obsessive nature and love of film, and has a pervading and unsettling atmosphere, plenty of freaky imagery and a fair share of shocks. And one sensationally, gratuitously gruesome decapitation. Nice to have you back, Mr. Carpenter.

…It’s like it’s right there in front of me. I know it was something foreign, but catchy. I wish someone would remind me.


The anamorphic widescreen and Dolby 5.1 audio are excellent (the film’s music is provided by Carpenter offspring Cody, who seems to have learned his dad’s method of scoring: plonk through few notes on the synthesizer and repeat them ad infinitum), but the supplements are where Anchor Bay really makes the DVD a worthy purchase.

The main featurettes are “Celluloid Apocalypse”, an extended interview Carpenter talking about his years behind the camera, and “Working with a Master”, which collects talent like Sam Neill and Keith David (no Kurt Russell, sadly) to salute the man and his influential contributions to the genre. Carpenter is still wonderfully crotchety and modest, and on his solo commentary track he’s characteristically dry and anecdotal as he chats about (and bemoans the limitations of) the production. McWeeny and Swan’s commentary is more buoyant, discussing their first produced script with evident elation. There’s also a brief (ifsomewhat redundant) interview with Reedus, a quick “making of” montage, a photo gallery, a text bio of Carpenter, and trailers for eight other Masters of Horror episodes, all wrapped in box art that assails my eyes. Basically, a lot of treats for an hour-long made-for-cable horror film.

8 out of 10

The bloody end!