Smoking Kills - Short Film Review

Updated: Mar 30

★★★★

Written & Directed by: #HarryPages

Starring: #ChrisMills, #AliceMulholland, #TomOBrien, #EllieDay

Short Film Review by Taryll Baker

Still of Chris Mills in Smoking Kills

A lacklustre smoker makes the startling discovery that each cigarette that he consumes ends up brutally killing somebody close to him, leading to a nightmare of guilt and addiction as he struggles to quit the habit that won't let him go so willingly.


You know, sometimes a story only needs to be small. A small concept inspired by something as little as the “smoking kills” print on the side of a cigarette packet. How many times have we seen those words in our existence? It’s essentially an image we see nearly every day even if we don’t smoke ourselves. For writer and director Harry Pages, those two words sparked an idea. What if smoking a cigarette didn’t gradually kill the user, but instead, instantly killed whoever was nearby at the ignition of the lighter hitting the white tip? Smoking Kills is a fantastic psychological horror that takes this concept and drops it into the conscience of the unnamed man (Chris Mills) in the film.


Working as both an educational piece as well as being a thrilling and brilliant short film, Smoking Kills throws out gore and jump scares for a more grounded, mentally trying experience for the character. The man is introduced as someone with a smoking habit, something he’s clearly trying to quit. As he sparks up his first cigarette, we hear a thud. And then another, and another, and another, until he realises after a few more that his addiction may just be the cause of strange and unexpected deaths around him. Using only sound and music as a storytelling device — as well as the visual of course — the lack of dialogue emphasises the weird, somewhat jarring impact of the thuds as people drop to the floor with every puff of smoke he takes. Given there being no spoken words, the director places focus on the actors’ faces, and their performances are fittingly understated for the material.


In terms of story content, the thread is thin and solely set on this one man’s experience with smoking, his understanding of the situation and then his attempt to quit for good… and then the final moments offer up a surprising shift for him, and the cut to black is a satisfying one. The quirky music by Oscar Lockey brings an eeriness to the film; there’s a touch of roughness within the instrumentation and a somewhat “sciencey” influence to it. Whether that’s intentional or not, it gives the story a certain funky flavour that just works.


Smoking Kills brings forward the issue of addiction while entertaining viewers with an exaggerated but grounded story that places attention on the importance of rehabilitation and consequence. The performances are respectfully restrained and the focus on visual storytelling is superb. This is recommended viewing.


Watch the entire film Smoking Kills below.

- #TaryllBaker