By Melanie Moyer.
Horror films don’t always need a full two hours of build-up and suspense to pack the scares in. The following bite-sized movies will have you screaming and hiding behind the sofa in just a few minutes flat. The genre, after all, lends itself well to the short film format, just the merest flash or suggestion of something unusual is often more effective and will leave you unsettled for hours after. And with the rise of YouTube and Creepypasta, the digital folklore of the modern age, film directors have found new and inventive ways in which to terrorize their audiences.
While there are plenty of horror shorts available on the internet, we’ve picked out a selection of the very scariest for you. Just remember to turn the lights down low as these miniature scream-fests are best enjoyed in the dark.
1. The Smiling Man
Like many great modern horror stories, this one has its root on the internet folklore breeding ground Reddit. The 4-minute film is a scene-for-scene adaption of the story posted by Reddit user blue_tidal about his late-night encounter with a David Lynch-like villain in the form of a smiling, dancing man. After watching this, you’ll never go for a late night walk alone again.
2. The Maiden
This surprisingly effective 8-minute film follows an unscrupulous real estate agent who is determined to close on a mysterious estate. As she goes about her business she begins to discover that the house is not as deserted as it seems. The plot of the film was inspired by director Michael Chaves’ thoughts on the real estate crash of the mid-2000s and the corruption of the current housing market. It clearly hit the mark as The Maiden has been so successful that it’s been optioned for a feature-length film, so stay tuned for more.
This 9-minute beautifully shot horror film earned honors at the Toronto Film Festival, Cannes, Screamfest, and Toronto After Dark among others. The Intruders follows a young boy, a local teenager, and a town police officer who find their lives in a state of upheaval when a mysterious entity starts to invade their home lives.
Alexia is a hauntingly good ghost-story for the digital age. After Franco’s ex-girlfriend Alexia committed suicide, he still feels her presence through her Facebook page. When his new girlfriend finally convinces him to delete Alexia from his friend’s list and move on with his life he soon learns that a click isn’t always enough to leave the past behind.
5. Cop Cam
This very short (less than three minutes) horror film packs a pretty big punch for such a simple concept. Shot in POV camera style by using a police officer’s body cam, with only his gun held in front of him, a cop responds to a call about an eerie abandoned house and the strange inhabitants waiting inside.
This is the scariest short film that director Guillermo del Toro has ever seen, so scary in fact he made it into a feature film of the same name in 2013. The short begins with a young girl as is woken by her sister who tells her ‘Mom is back’. As the girls creep through the house to make their escape they come face-to-face with a supernatural apparition that could only be imagined in your worst nightmare.
Easily the longest short film on this list clocking in just under 17 minutes. Charlie explores the concept of the email chain letter and the possibility of the consequences when the chain is broken. In this film, Dan, who ignores a creepy email warning him to forward it to 15 people, finds himself taunted and hunted by an entity known as Charlie, just as the email promised.
8. I Heard it Too
Chances are you’ve heard some variation of the short story that this film is based on. A young girl is playing in her bedroom when she hears her mother call to her from the kitchen. As she’s running through the hallway, the door to the cupboard under the stairs opens, and a hand reaches out and pulls her in. It’s her mother. She whispers to her child, “Don’t go into the kitchen. I heard it too.” What started as a quick and effective creepypasta is now 8-minute horror film. What this film does differently, however, is to quickly establish which mother is the real one, turning it into a monster chase through the house, rather than the psychological guessing game of the original story.
For being only 2 minutes long, this short film has certainly packed a punch for those who viewed it in the few years (it still features a flip phone if that dates it for you at all) it’s been available online. It features a simple premise of a woman waking up in the middle of the night and fumbling for her phone while her husband sleeps soundly next to her. However, when she answers it’s her husband calling to explain that he’s going to be home late. As realization dawns, a ghoulish figure emerges next to her.
10. Lights Out
What list would be complete without the runaway hit Lights Out? This now legendary horror short (which was recently made into a major Hollywood feature film of the same name) follows a woman getting ready for bed, who discovers that something is lurking in the shadows. Each time the lights go out closer and closer it creeps until… Well to find that out you’ll have to hit the play button.
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