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Oct 16, 2022

We apply our Protestant work ethic to our jobs as semi-Christian film critics whose task this week is to investigate the religious themes of John Carpenter’s brilliant CIGARETTE BURNS, an hour-long piece Carpenter created for the MASTERS OF HORROR anthology TV series in the mid-2000s. In the film, struggling independent movie theater owner Kirby (Norman Reedus) is tasked by an eccentric film collector to track down LA FIN ABSOLUE DU MONDE. This film-within-a-film is the most rare, dark and transgressive piece of media ever made — it depicts the torture and dismemberment of a real angel. To desecrate something so holy is the ultimate sin, and to capture such a sin on film is to create a moving image so powerful that even simply pursuing a copy of the film causes Kirby to suffer terrifying hallucinations. Anyone who actually watches LA FIN rarely survives, but if Kirby can retrieve the only copy of the film, he’ll make enough money to pay off all of his earthly debts. John Carpenter builds this story about a Faustian bargain to an absolutely terrifying payoff. CIGARETTE BURNS is both a love letter to transgressive cinema and an inventive remix of Christian cosmology, so obviously it’s one of our pet favorite films and something we’ve been looking forward to covering during our month-long look at Christian horror. We discuss spiritual trauma, our personal experiences being deflowered by shock cinema, and “the coming attractions of the soul”.

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