The first two short films in this series released together were Stuart Gordon's Dreams in the Witch House and John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns, and along with Argento's Jenifer they make up the best of the series thus far. Cigarette Burns is seemingly made with a competition in mind, as Carpenter turns up the volume of his installment, and makes a truly fun little horror flick.
The concept surrounds a search for the most intense movie ever made called Le Fin Absolute du Monde which has a fabled past of turning the audience of its only screening into a murderous, blood-thirsty mob. It is apt and amusing that Carpenter explores the idea of extreme cinema, as this is a genre that he has worked in for most of his career. The idea that a film, or really any piece of art, could get inside one's head and twist one's psyche into a murderous frenzy brings about questions as to whether or not the film has a mystical, otherworldly quality to it, or if it is done by human beings, what must one do in order to achieve that effect. Aside from some great violence and gore effects, it is the curiosity of the content of Le Fin Absolute du Monde that makes Cigarette Burns a worthwhile watch. I kept thinking long after the movie was over, of what I could do to achieve that sort of reaction if I were to make a movie with that intent. Would it have a story? Would it just be random images flashing across the screen? How could it be made without having the same result as something like Beyond the Wall of Sleep where the reaction is more annoyance than fear? John Carpenter apparently asked the same questions as well, because while Cigarette Burns has a relatively intriguing Ninth Gate quality to its story, it is the idea of Le Fin Absolute du Monde that he focuses the bulk of his concentration on.
It may not be the best of the series, but Cigarette Burns is a great little diversion that most of the other films that have come out after have failed to live up to.