Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns

John Carpenter's episode of Masters of Horror is one of the most unnerving episodes of the whole series. It focuses on a young man on a hunt for the Holy Grail of the film world: Le Fin Absolute du Monde. At its one and only screening, the entire audience went insane and murdered one another; the few survivors have become utterly obsessed with the film, and mostly gone into hiding. A collector is determined to see it, particularly since he has reason to believe that a print still exists; Kirby Sweetman is desperate for the money on offer, and so he sets off on a quest that'll change his life.

Cigarette Burns isn't perfect: the amount of build up and hyperbole heaped onto this legendary film would make it something beyond the imagination of most people, so for the episode to even attempt to show a few seconds of it seems like a misstep. Because actually, it starts to become reminiscent of The Ring (the American remake, naturally), right down to the flashes of a ring/cigarette burn that the victims see when their time is drawing short. There's some missing character development, and a particularly large helping of the kind of insider wank that Masters of Horror specialises in -- the odd wink to the knowing viewer is kind of fun, but Cigarette Burns is constantly elbowing us in the ribs and guffawing over its own cleverness -- but none of that manages to completely spoil the fact that this is probably the scariest of the Masters of Horror episodes to date.

No comments: