Last year, I wrote an article about a bunch of short horror movies, the bulk of which I hadn’t seen before. Well, this year I did it again, I found a bunch of horror movies all under 30 minutes and subjected myself to their horrors in order to bring them to you wonderful people. So dim the lights, turn up the volume, sit back and prepare to not sleep tonight.
1. Monster (2005)
Director: Jennifer Kent Length: 10 mins
Remade into a feature length movie, The Babadook, in 2014, Monster by Jennifer Kent is essentially the end of The Babadook, so if you’ve seen that you’ll know what to expect here. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching. While Babadook was more about subtle chills and symbolism, Monster pulls no punches with its scares.
A little boy plays around his house ‘killing monsters,’ but the only thing is there really is a monster in the house.
There are jump scares here, which is something that didn’t seem to be in the full length remake, and if they were they weren’t as effective. The film is also more literal than the remake, while it’s never clear what the Babadook creature really is, in Monster, it really is a monster that lives under the stairs. It’s a sinister film that, like all good horror films, makes you ask questions.
2. Vicious (2015)
Director: Oliver Park Length: 12 mins
The directorial debut of actor Oliver Park, a woman returns home to find her front door already open. Foolishly, she ventures inside, grabs a knife, and searches for the intruder, but let’s just say it’s something a knife can’t defend against.
Vicious is another supernatural horror movie filmed in someone’s house but this one stands out from the rest. We all fear that we’ll find our front door open upon returning home, so it hits close to home.
The film builds tension and gives us a feeling of dread, we feel the woman’s fear as it builds and builds. The film uses various techniques to build the fear too, from jump scares to switching to a first-person perspective near the end.
It’s got a great soundtrack that just adds to the horror and overall, it’s a great film to get any horror movie marathon started.
3. One Please (2014)
Director: by Jesse Burks Length: 6 mins
We start off in One Please with a traditional looking family, the wife prepares the food while her husband sits and reads the paper. On the street, their daughter merrily plays jump rope when an ice cream truck pulls up. The girl clearly wants an ice cream, only these ice creams can’t be bought with money…
Starring horror legend Michael Berryman as the ice cream man, One Please is a strange film to say the least. You start off expecting one thing but the film gives you something completely different, and the ending leaves you feeling somewhat unsettled.
A man scrolls through Facebook comments sent to a dead girl on her birthday, but it turns out this guy used to date her and she killed herself after he dumped her. When he unfriends her, however, strange things start happening.
Are these things really happening? Or is this guy just so racked with guilt he’s imagining all this and punishing himself? Beautifully filmed in this guy’s dimly lit house, Alexia does a good job of sending chills down one’s spine.
5. The Cop Cam (2016)
Director: Isaac Rodriguez Length: 2 mins
A new spin on the found footage genre here, The Cop Cam is filmed entirely from the point of view of a police officer’s body camera. Called to a house where there’s clearly been a disturbance, the officer soon discovers who, or what, is behind it.
The fact that it’s filmed entirely from the point of view of the police officer, we see everything through his eyes, which just racks up an overwhelming sense of dread.
At just over two minutes long it’s quite possibly the shortest film on this list, and in my opinion it could have been a minute or two longer, but honestly that’s the only negative I have to say about this film.
6. Pictured (2014)
Director: David F. Sandberg Length: 3 mins
When you watch as many short horror movies as me, you’ll notice that a lot of them are filmed in people’s houses or, more often, apartments’ very few are filmed outside, like in the woods or even just on the street. It’s not hard to see why either: it’s cheap, and you already live there so all you need is a decent camera.
But there’s more to it than that of course. The reason these films are effective is because our home is our haven, you’re supposed to feel safe in your own home, but in these films that’s not the case. Usually someone is breaking in, or something supernatural lives there. This movie differs slightly, however.
A creepy photograph of a girl standing outside a building hangs on the wall, and clearly bothers the woman living there because when she looks at it the girl has moved. When she starts hearing noises and seeing shadows, she notices the girl in the photo has gone.
The eagle-eyed among you may recognise the lead actress, and indeed the apartment it’s filmed in. It’s the same place and person as Lights Out, the short film I wrote about last year that was also adapted into a feature length movie, both of which were directed by David F. Sandberg.
Pictured is really clever, it doesn’t just build up to one big jump scare, but to something genuinely frightening. Also, considering everything that’s happened to this poor woman in this apartment, I’d recommend she moves.
7. Bedfellows (2008)
Director: Drew Daywalt Length: 3 mins
A girl is asleep in her bed when her telephone rings. Who’s calling at this hour? She asks her husband (or maybe boyfriend) to pass her her phone, but he doesn’t react so she leans over and grabs it herself, only to find that it’s her husband (or maybe boyfriend) who’s calling her – so who is that lying beside her?
With its short length, you know Bedfellows is building up towards a big scare, and you won’t be disappointed. This film again falls into the category of something in the house, only this goes one step further by having something in the bed.
8. Don’t Let Them In (2015)
Director: David Lawrence Length: 13 mins
Something a bit longer that we can get our teeth sunk into now, Don’t Let Them In deals with a struggling author obsessed with the urban legend of black-eyed children, creatures that resemble children that have supposedly been seen hitchhiking or begging.
The film starts with a woman being bothered by these creatures asking for a ride before we jump to a big fancy house where our struggling writer is struggling to write. His wife worries that he’s obsessing over the story while he’s more worried about finishing his book. Later that night, there’s a knock at the door.
Who are they? What are they? What do they want? Is the urban legend true? And has the writer’s obsession over the story led them to his house? That’s what one woman wants to know, because she’s also dealt with them in the past.
As you can expect from the title, The Sleepover takes place during a sleepover and focuses on two boys. The host of said sleepover just wants to sleep but his guest, the new kid in town, has other plans, but he doesn’t know about the town’s dark secret.
It’s a well executed film that builds the suspense really well. It’s got a good soundtrack that just adds to the tension, and it’s even funny in places.
Made as a proof-of-concept for a feature film about a town, Derry, living with a supernatural slasher à la Jason, it explores how such a town might have to adapt to live in such a place (albeit for a minute or so).
10. Downstairs (2015)
Director: Lee Boxleitner Length: 18 mins
A security guard on the night shift is warned via post-it note not to go downstairs, but after a series of unusual events, music playing with nobody around, doors opening by themselves, unexplained noises and vile smells, he foolishly ventures downstairs.
Downstairs does a good job of building up a sense of dread in the viewer. It’s apparent that there is something down there but it doesn’t explicitly tell you what it is.
As for the guard, his reaction upon hearing a strange noise is one of the most realistic reactions I’ve seen in a horror movie, and his interaction withtwo artists adds a layer of comedy to the film.
There are chills, there are jump scares, and there’s the ever mounting tension that makes this one of the best short films I’ve seen this year.
11. 3 Versos (2014)
Director: Antonio Yee Length: 13 mins
In this short Spanish horror, a blubbering girl calls up a mysterious masked woman named Margery for help after what appears to be a poltergeist attack. Together, Margery, the girl, her sister and another girl hold a séance complete with Ouija board to contact the spirit.
3 Versos is a supernatural horror that’s genuinely frightening at times, humorous in others, and gives you more twists than M. Night Shyamalan’s filmography combined (okay, maybe that’s an overstatement).
The film also seems to have a running theme regarding masks. Margery is a mysterious masked figured who is later unmasked, and earlier on in the film the characters are watching the 1925 version of Phantom of the Opera, in particular the scene where the phantom is unmasked.
12. Red Balloon (2010)
Director(s): Damien Macé & Alexis Wajsbrot Length: 13 mins
Some British horror now, you wankah! A babysitter is watching over a little girl who can’t seem to go to sleep. The babysitter keeps putting her to bed but the girl is kept awake by a strange looking rabbit doll in her room, but upon calling the girl’s parents she discovers that she has no rabbit doll.
Just like Don’t Let Them In was based on the black-eyed children urban legend, Red Balloon is based on the clown statue urban legend. The story, and the legend it’s based on, is definitely creepy, and the film brings to mind When A Stranger Calls, itself based on an urban legend.
13. BlinkyTM (2011)
Director: Ruairi Robinson Length: 12 mins
A boy receives a robot as a Christmas present, but he soon grows tired of his new mechanical friend, and things aren’t great at home either with his parents arguing constantly. As the boy is neglected by his parents, he begins to neglect Blinky, and Blinky reacts in the most unexpected way possible.
What stands out most in this film is the animation of Blinky, you’d swear he was a real robot. You even feel sorry for him as he is abused by the young boy whose unhappy home life is the cause of his frustration.
As far as horror goes there’s something sinister about Blinky, the way he always smiles, his blank stare, the way he coldly tells the parents what happened to their son, it all makes for an effective yet loveable movie slasher.
14. The Captured Bird (2012)
Director: Jovanka Vuckovic Length: 12 mins
A girl drawing chalk figures on the floor is drawn to a large, decrepit building. The girl explores the building only to discover the evil that dwells within as strange creatures emerge before her.
The Captured Bird is an imaginative movie. The building is like something from a fantasy film, its grand architecture and vast gardens really stand out. As for the interior it is lit in vibrant purple and red making it look like an old Disney movie.
There certainly is an element of dark fantasy, such as the works of Guillermo del Toro, who you won’t be surprised to find out is the executive producer for the film.
15. The Jigsaw (2014)
Director(s): The Al-Safar Brothers Length: 8 mins
A bearded man enters a shop and buys a jigsaw puzzle from a strange seller who warns him against doing so. The bearded man settles in for a night of jigsaw puzzling, but perhaps he should have heeded the seller’s warning. Talk about buyer’s remorse.
The Jigsaw was inspired by an old ghost story the directors heard when they were young, the film definitely has a feel of an M.R. James story or W.W. Jacob’s The Monkey’s Paw. It’s a brilliant little film with a great twist.
16. The Facts In The Case of Mister Hollow (2008)
Director(s): Rodrigo Gudiño, Vincent Marcone Length: 6 mins
The first animated movie on this list, all the way from Canada. The film opens with shots of papers and news clippings while strange breathing is heard over it. From here we take a look at a mysterious yet fairly normal photograph of a group of people posing for the camera, three men and a woman holding a child all standing next to a car.
However, not all is as it seems, the camera continues to study the photograph, looking in the reflections of the car mirror, looking into the background, examining trees. We discover dark secrets hidden within the photograph, and this as well as the newspaper clipping allow us to attempt to piece together what is going on.
The Facts In The Case of Mister Hollow is a genius concept and one that could only work in a short movie. The art style meanwhile reminds me of the iOS game Year Walk, with its wooded setting and creepy atmosphere and visuals.
17. Killer Kart (2012)
Director: James Feeney Length: 15 mins
When I first read the title of this movie I thought, “they stole my idea!” so I had to check it out. The title is pretty self explanatory, it’s closing time at some supermarket and manager Cass (Christine Rodriguez) finds herself all alone, someone, or something, or a shopping cart, is killing her staff.
Obviously, Killer Kart is a comedy in the same vein as 2010’s Rubber where an inanimate object is in fact a brutal killer. The comedy comes from how the film plays it straight: the cart is a killer and the humble supermarket staff are the heroes.
Sure, it’s humorous, but it’s also violent and bloody. The kart chews people in half, blood sprays everywhere. The character of Cass is similar to Ash from the Evil Dead movies – for starters, they both worked in supermarkets before people starting getting killed, Cass’s boyfriend is killed while Ash’s girlfriend is killed, and they both end up becoming unlikely, and perhaps unwitting, heroes.
18. Selfie From Hell (2015)
Director: Erdal Ceylan Length: 2 mins
Another short one here, well, shorter. A woman takes a selfie for her boyfriend, but something isn’t quite right: every time she takes a selfie something appears in the background, and with each selfie it gets closer and closer.
Selfie From Hell was apparently made to promote a novel called Fuck You Zombie and does what any good really short (as in four or five minutes of less) film does and builds towards a jump scare, one that it executes really well I should say, too.
The film is being made into a feature film too which, according to IMDb, will be out sometime in 2018, so keep your eyes peeled for that.
19. The Fisherman (2015)
Director: Alejandro Suárez Lozano Length: 20 mins
A Chinese fisherman is haunted by a nightmare of a creature under the water. Turns out this creature was a giant squid, and our fisherman, Wong (Andrew Ng), had caught the creature but it escaped. Now he’s out to get it back, and get revenge for his missing hand.
The Fisherman builds and builds until the final encounter with the creature, which is more than just a giant squid. Its design is somewhat Lovecraftian, a hideous monster covered in tentacles that is both familiar and alien at the same time.
20. The Strange Thing About The Johnsons (2011)
Director: Ari Aster Length: 29 mins
At 29 minutes this film barely made its way onto this list. Is it a horror movie? Is it a comedy? Or is it a drama? The Strange Thing About The Johnsons is all this and more. Despite being released in 2011, this movie has only just become well known this year, and hopefully it can be viewed as the work of art it is.
As a comedy, it’s similar to the Todd Solondz movie Happiness, and while it’s not a horror movie per se it does use cinematic techniques commonly seen in the genre. Tension builds as the relationship between Sidney Johnson (Billy Mayo who is amazing in this role) and his son Isaiah Johnson (Brandon Greenhouse) grows more and more violent and volatile.
I don’t want to give too much away, I’d say just watch it, but be warned, it’s not for everyone. The subject matter is so disturbing that it caused a storm of controversy on the internet. Despite this it is still a well written and brilliantly acted movie that evokes so many emotions such as sympathy, disgust and laughter. It’s a film that says that nothing is ever black and white and that perversion is always present in some form or another.
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