Thursday, 15 September 2011

#28 Zombies & Cigarettes: The Art of the 15 Minute Apocalypse

I am having an extremely mental week this week, so blog-writing duty has been handed over to our special guest blogger, Camiele White, writing about the short film Zombies & Cigarettes:

There have been many books written on the subject, many a hackneyed film portraying the event.  However, almost every single article on the impending zombie apocalypse neglects the most important aspect of survival:  time.  Think about it:  when you’re in a pinch, running for your life from mindless brain-hungry undead groupies, are you gonna want to try to remember every single step of the Zombie Survival Handbook, or are you gonna want a source that sums it up in 20 words or fewer?  ‘Nuff said.

In Rafa Martinez’s Zombies & Cigarettes, we get all the gory, delicious brain munching of Zombiegeddon; however, where even the master of mental mastication, George A. Romero, fails, Martinez succeeds…getting to the point as quickly as possible.  Not only are we plopped right in the social microcosm of a shopping mall in Spain (a location ripe for the fall and eventual regeneration of civilisation), we get all the violence, hubris, and character development necessary to ensure that even the casual viewer can get an idea of how vital speed is to survival.

While the idea of having the end of the world swirl around you like the fibres of cotton candy around a paper cone is intriguing unto itself, it’s the cleverness with which Martinez manages to focus on the fragility of time that impresses me.  I wouldn’t say that it’s a direct commentary on the plight of a society wound up in its insecurities; however, it does make a very interesting point about the preciousness of time, the lack of attention paid to the intricacies of life around you.  In as much time as it takes our hapless, lovesick hero to knock over a crate of passion fruit perfume, the world around him falls into absolute chaos:  a woman falls from the second floor of the mall right onto her face, suddenly there’s a barrage of machine gun fire, a man in a chicken suit --it’s absolute ANARCHY!

As much as any film about the end of the world tackles the question of humanity’s insignificance, Zombies & Cigarettes hits you right in the gut.  You’ve not only got to deal with the terror of eminent innard munching, you’ve got to figure out a way to survive and repopulate the world as you know it.  The subtle brilliance of setting the zombie apocalypse in the confines of a shopping mall is worth praise.  I imagine the person who created the mall saw his child making a shoebox diorama of the world and thought, “Yes.”  It’s with this same wide-eyed observation that Rafa Martinez must’ve conceived of this 15 minute gem. 

The mall:  a toxic, poignant portrait of the scope of humanity as a whole.  It illustrates the obsessive excess of society, the desire to have everything at your fingertips, grazing around a concrete mountain like robotic sheep.  And just like sheep, these people playing their part in the human carnival are moved and swayed by the bright colours and capitalistic chaos...and so comes the eventual downfall.  The zombies attack, feast, and infest, causing those too weak to get away to become swept up in another tragic collective of the mindless, hungry for the flesh of others, eager to gnaw on the minds of the delirious. 

As is the case in most zombie flicks, there’s always a contingent of eager few who will stop at nothing to survive.  These, too, are a representation of the varying types of personality in society:  the feisty sweetheart, the arsehole muscleman, the pudgy best friend, and, of course, the reluctant hero.  As is expected, the sweetheart and the hero make it to the end, ready to take on the mindless and free the flock.  Then as soon as humanity seems little more than an epigraph on Earth’s slate-coloured tombstone, the doors open to a confusing scene:  smiles, cheers, and cerveza for everyone. 

To measure the freak and folly of human nature with 15 minutes of madness is not only well-played, it’s just damn smart.  Rafa Martinez stumbled upon something truly genuine when he set out to make this campy horror flick.  Original?  Far from it.  However, Zombies & Cigarettes has got to be the most informative and honest to goodness zombie flick I’ve seen in the last five years.  I mean, the epic behaviour of being one slip away from your demise only to find out you’ve already missed the invasion is just too good to pass up.

If you’re a horror fundamentalist (I admit, I’m prone to wax philosophical about the imagery of the original When a Stranger Calls), this film may pass you by.  However, even the most die-hard horror fan wants a reprieve from the depth of 70s horror, even if it is for just 15 minutes.  Martinez’s short film is the perfect morsel wading through the slodge of new millennium horror flicks.  I tip my hat to the man and can’t wait to see more of what he has to offer.

Camiele White suffers from too much film information.  In order to remedy her psychosis she’s decided to write about it.  Right now, she’s trying something a bit different and writes about Theatrical Costumes.  If you want to engage in a little conversation (at your own risk) she can be reached at cmlewhite at gmail [dot] com.


  1. Thank you very much for your words.

    Rafa Martínez

  2. De nada, Rafa. Me encanta este peli. No puedo esperar para mirar a mas de sus obras, tio. :)