The Walking Dead is an immensely popular--and immensely addictive--television program. Unfortunately for viewers, the show is currently in the midst of a 2-month hiatus. Luckily, however, the cast of The Walking Dead have some pretty extensive resumes that are worth exploring in the meantime. Particularly unique is that of Norman Reedus, who seems to have earned his role as the atypical, antisocial, and apparently asexual redneck Daryl Dixon by taking on a series of rather...unusual roles prior to joining the cast of The Walking Dead. One such unusual role came via his performance as Kirby Sweetman in "Cigarette Burns," the eighth episode of the Showtime series Masters of Horror.
"Cigarette Burns"--directed by John Carpenter, of Halloween and The Thing fame--follows Kirby as he is hired by the villainous Mr. Bellinger to track down a rare film that is rumored to incite terrible violence in any person who should view it. Desperately in need of money to pay a debt and retain ownership of his theater, Kirby ignores the many dire warnings of the permanent psychological damage inherent in the pursuit of the film and takes the job.
Originally airing in 2005, "Cigarette Burns" is difficult to effectively introduce by any general synopsis. The feel throughout the entire first scene is largely unremarkable, and the premise of a film buff on the hunt for a rare movie is not exactly the most exciting plot ever to rock cinema. Granted, Mr. Bellinger is clearly at least a little bit evil, and Kirby is obviously uncomfortable within Bellinger's lair of collector's items, but there's not much in the beginning that doesn't feel vaguely generic. Then, very suddenly and about seven minutes in, a certain character makes a certain entrance that will certainly force viewers to sit up straight and seriously consider rewinding.
For his part, Norman Reedus is an almost unfamiliar presence. Yes, he still swears and smokes and wears sunglasses, but he is also slightly bland as he dresses respectably and speaks without an accent and maintains a degree of personal hygiene. It admittedly is interesting to see him wearing a suit and making an attempt at a semi-normal life without zombies or possibly-psychotic missions from God, but Reedus is at his best when Kirby's early determined normalcy in "Cigarette Burns" is replaced by a state of mind that is slightly more...unhinged. He warms to the role as the hour passes on, and his initial blandness is made acceptable in contrast to his descent into madness.
As might be expected of any John Carpenter venture, there is gore aplenty; nevertheless, the greatest violence is of the mind rather than the body, granting a sense of depth and reasoning to the inevitably bloody conclusion. Also, as a fun aside for Walking Dead fans, Reedus is not the only current show contributor to have worked on "Cigarette Burns"; Executive Producer Greg Nicotero handled make-up for this installment of Masters of Horror as well.