Wednesday, May 21, 2008
A Frank Review of "Masters of Horror: Cigarette Burns"
The Hollywood Pitch: Johnny Depp's character from "The Ninth Gate" tracking down the videotape from "The Ring" through the underground distribution network of "8mm." You might be saying to yourself, "didn't all of those films fail to deliver?" Well yes, whatever horror that may have been intended in Polanksi's film was overwhelmed by quirkiness and a weak final act, and yes, the another was a David Fincher knock-off as directed by the man responsible for Bat-nipples. I suppose the Naomi Watts starmaking vehicle worked out alright, if J-horror retreads are you thing. So if one in three obvious sources didn't work, what can we expect from a second pass by John Carpenter? See, if you're asking yourself that, you may have a shot at enjoying this tale.
Norman Reedus plays a recovering junkie film-buff hired by Udo Kier to find a rare 70's film that incites people to violence at its every rare showing. To prove the depravity of the work, Kier shows a cast member he's "acquired," an angel in chains with its wings chopped off. Kier is Kier, so exult before his haminess. Reedus looks less like the handsome vigilante from "The Boondock Saints" and more like post-boxing but pre-plastic surgery Micky Rourke, but I suppose that's all to the good of the character type. Reedus is still mourning his fellow-junkie-turned-suicide wife, a major plot point to which a motivation is never ascribed. Not unlike that bit about the angel, the acquisition of which seeming like a more interesting tale. That's actually the main fault of the script: lots of details left undivulged, replaced with an excess of repetitive exposition regarding matters the viewer could have just as easily assumed.
When the movie works, it's building up the elusive evil-on-film through descriptions from its surviving viewers/participants. Where it fails is, well, everywhere else. As I said, you've seen this movie before, and nothing much is added here. For instance, there's the filming of a snuff movie straight out of Hostel, which proves the near final gateway to acquiring the film. The problem being, if the filmmakers have so little regard for human life, why haven't they taken possession of the sought-after celluloid? Best not to think about it too much, as that's just another plot hole in one rough stretch of road.
How does it all end? You know already? Will you be disappointed? You know that too? Will you at least reach that end in a fraction of the time as the referenced material? Indeed, so it isn't all bad. For instance, when was the last time you saw death-by-movie-projector? Just be sure to pop in the disc with diminished expectations, and let the not entirely unpleasant familiarity wash over you. This is especially true for the gorehounds, as there's a surprising level of violence for a direct-to-Showtime affair.
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