Five years before landing the role of Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead, Norman Reedus played a man on the hunt for an evil film in Cigarette Burns. While it wasn't until he picked up the crossbow to become arguably the most popular character on The Walking Dead that Reedus became a household name, he's actually been acting in Hollywood since the late 1990s. His most well-known role prior to Daryl Dixon was Murphy MacManus in The Boondock Saints, although he also appeared in films like Blade 2 and Pandorum.
When it comes to notoriety within the horror genre though, Reedus' greatest role outside of The Walking Dead is no doubt his lead part in John Carpenter's Cigarette Burns. Although technically an episode of the Masters of Horror anthology series, Cigarette Burns essentially functions as a standalone Carpenter film, and first aired December 16, 2005 on Showtime.
While Carpenter's last directorial project was 2010's The Ward, starring Amber Heard, most fans would argue that Cigarette Burns is much more deserving of being the legendary director's final work. Focusing as it does on a film so disturbing it drives the viewer to madness, Cigarette Burns works as a sort of companion piece to 1995 Carpenter film In the Mouth of Madness, which concerned a book capable of doing the same thing.
Norman Reedus Plays Kirby Sweetman in Cigarette Burns
Cigarette Burns protagonist Kirby Sweetman (Reedus), begins the film in a bad spot, to say the least. A recovering drug addict, Kirby operates an independent movie theater that's close to going out of business, thanks to a mountain of debt he owes his father-in-law. Said father-in-law is unlikely to give Kirby a break, as both men are emotionally shattered by Kirby's wife's suicide, which her father blames him for. In need of quick cash, Kirby agrees to use his connections to procure a copy of La Fin Absolue du Monde for a creepy but wealthy film collector (Udo Keir).
La Fin Absolue du Monde (The Absolute End of the World), is a film of almost mythical proportions, and Kirby is hesitant to believe a copy even exists. During the film's premiere, the audience completely lost their minds and turned murderous, leading to a torrent of blood and violence. Kirby is eventually able to locate a copy of La Fin Absolue du Monde, but along the way, he begins having disturbing hallucinations, and slowly starts to lose his grip on sanity. It's eventually implied that the film was produced in some way by Satan himself, featuring as it does the desecration of an actual angel.
Everything leads up to a fateful screening of the film at the house of Keir's character, Mr. Bellinger, who ends up being compelled by what he's seen to thread his own intestines into a film projector. Kirby and his father-in-law also have a final confrontation there, with Kirby violently murdering him, then shooting himself. Satisfied, the angel - who Bellinger had been holding captive - arrives to retrieve the film reel. Cigarette Burns is a masterful tale of psychological horror, which also happens to contain some of the most disturbing imagery of Carpenter's career. The cornerstone of the whole enterprise is Norman Reedus' lead performance, and it's not surprising he went on to bigger things.