Written and directed by Harry Pages, Smoking Kills is a short horror film about a smoker who has unwittingly caused a staggering body count in the wake of addiction.
We follow an unnamed man (Chris Mills) who is fighting off a smoking habit. While it is universally known that smoking is harmful to one’s health, in the filmmaker’s undoubtedly grim short film, every time the unnamed man lights a cigarette, a fellow passerby drops to their immediate death. Without directly witnessing the various demises, viewers hear thud after thud as bodies drop dead around the man every time he lights a cigarette. He is forced to confront this frightening new side effect of smoking and naturally feels compelled to quit the bad habit before he gets more blood on his hands.
In the hands of another filmmaker, the zany concept in which cigarettes mercilessly and inexplicably kill innocent folk could have been exploited for amplified gore. But Harry Pages has a more psychologically distressing and disorienting anecdote of addiction in mind. He wisely keeps the perspective contained to the quietly pained protagonist, and the film is all the more harrowing because of it.
“…every time the unnamed man lights a cigarette, a fellow passerby drops to their immediate death.”
Despite being brazenly offbeat and wonderfully absurd, Smoking Kills is still terrifying. It is incisive because of how it conveys the implications smoking has on addicts and people caught in the crosshairs of their addiction (in this case, secondhand smoke). Conceptual parallels aside, the prolific body count and Oscar Lockey’s kooky electronica score are discordant elements that uphold the overarching peculiarity and apprehension of the smoker’s dilemma.
Well-lit and impressively shot, the cinematography from Cody Leigh-Stannard is notably claustrophobic, compiled of unfussy close-ups and low-angle shots that underscore the addict’s dithering face in the midst of an unusual and life-altering predicament. Limited in dialogue, Pages appreciates visual and auditory components that sustain a quirkily solemn tone and an uncanny atmosphere. The performances are purposefully muted, with Chris Mills authentically portraying a man fighting a bad habit but unable to suppress those urges, especially when it alters his reality, both on a literal and mental level.
Writer-director Harry Pages has created an innovative and diverting short film with didactic and visceral bite. Exercising a concept tailor-made for a fleeting nine-minute runtime, this is an alarming tale of addiction that explores the ramifications addicts have on the people close to them and why they should try to break from their addiction to avoid any more unintended consequence. The conclusion, while abrupt, is fittingly cold and detached. Smoking Kills is markedly odd, if inordinately so. Even so, Harry Pages is a filmmaker to keep your eyes on.