There are a lot of horror short films out there. One might even say too many, a bloody ocean of horror shorts that make it really difficult to wade through the shit to discover the gems. So I’m obviously missing out on a lot (if you know of good ones that I probably have not seen that deserve to be on a list, please please send them my way), but here are of some of my favorites anyway.
1. Safe Haven (2013)
Directed by: Timo Tjahjanto, Gareth Huw Evans
Starring: Epy Kusnandar, Fachry Albar, Hannah Al Rashid, Oka Antara
Hands down the best segment out of all three V/H/S films. Hands. Down. Above is just a two minute clip out of the whopping thirty minute short, that is definitely not safe for work and people who are squicky over excessive gore or are underage should really not watch it – but that’s par for the course for any horrorshow anyway. If you do like the depravity you see in the clip I urge you to track down the full thing.
EXTREMELY SPOILERY side note ahead: do you have any idea what I would give for a “Safe Haven” stealth horror video game? Can you imagine stalking the floors of that giant mansion trying to avoid murderous cult members? And then you stumble into a room where a group of them are committing mass suicide, and then as you’re running away the cult leader appears in front of you and spontaneously combusts and then you’re not running from humans anymore you’re running from the Antichrist who keeps happily calling you “Papa”. I WOULD GIVE SO MUCH FOR THIS GAME.
2. Suckablood (2012)
Directed by: Ben Tillett and Jake Cuddihy
Starring: Holly Jacobson, Sam Metcalf, Ben Tillett (voice role)
A terrifying bedtime story presented in Dr. Seuss-esque style rhymes, “Suckablood” seems to tell a cautionary tale about little kids who suck their thumbs. I reportedly never had this issue as a child, but if I had, one glimpse of this fairy tale would be enough to make me stop. Actually, anyone who knows me knows how much I crack my knuckles, and I’d swear off that bad habit for all eternity if there was a Crackaknuckle monster creeping about out there. (There isn’t, right?)
2. Mamá (2008)
Directed by: Andrés Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti
Starring: Victoria Harris, Berta Ros, Irma Monroig
The short film that inspired the full length Guillermo del Toro movie, Andy and Barbara Muschietti’s “Mamá” was, in my opinion, infinitely scarier. It’s not that I didn’t like Mama the film, it’s just that the storyline seemed better fit for the punchiness of a short rather than a long drawn out tale – a lot of the claustrophobic intensity of “Mamá” disappeared the more background story we were given.
Also, how creepy is Mama’s first appearance in that hallway? So freaking creepy.
3. Cargo (2013)
Directed by: Ben Howling & Yolanda Ramke
Starring: Andy Rodoreda, Ruth Venn, Alison Gallagher, Yolanda Ramke, Kallan Richards, Effron Heather, Scott Wood
God, was this one depressing. I call it the “sad papa zombie” short, because that is indeed what it is. And maybe it’s not horror in the classic “blood/guts/scariness/extreme graphic violence” sense of the term, but the ideas played around with here are pretty devastating.
4. There’s A Man In The Woods (2014)
Directed by: Jacob Streilein
Starring: Michael Ho (voice only)
“There’s A Man In The Woods” is an animated short whose story is told in the form of a poem. It’s also really, really dark. The music here is excellent at building suspense, and the voice actor is great at conveying how deranged the teacher becomes as the short progresses.
5. D is for Dogfight (2013)
Directed by: Marcel Sarmiento
Starring: Steve Berens
I didn’t like most of the shorts in The ABCs of Death, but I really liked “D is for Dogfight”. It’s brutal, horrific, and beautifully shot – the entire thing is done entirely in slow motion and is nearly dialogue-less, the better to focus on the intensity of the fight. It’s by far the best short out of that disjointed mess of an anthology film.
6. M is for Masticate (2013)
Directed by: Robert Boocheck
Starring: Pat Daniel, Joe O’Dell, Kestrin Pantera-Grubb, Rob Lamorgese, Anthony Nuccio
Oh look another ABCs of Death short! This won a contest to be in the upcoming sequel, ABCs of Death 2, which has already gotten reviews full of praise like “it was better than the first one, I guess.” Still, I liked “M is for Masticate” waaay more than most of the stuff from the first film. The song they chose is perfect, the slow-motion was utilized perfectly, and it’s delightfully disgusting and hilarious all at the same time. Moral of the story is: stay in school, don’t do drugs.
8. Red Balloon (2010)
Directed by: Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot
Starring: Rachel Bright
The well-shot and well-acted “Red Balloon” earns a spot on this list half because the babysitter is genre-savvy enough to actually run out of the house instead of up the stairs or into some dark, tiny, inescapable hiding spot (though she quickly hands that card back in when she runs back to save the creepy child, shame) and half because of the twist on the clown statue urban legend. The Bunnyman is way, way preferable over icky clowns.
9. Dead Island (2013)
Directed by: BJ McDonnell
Someone made a shot for shot live action remake of the now iconic Dead Island video game trailer, and it’s just as hard hitting and fantastic as the original CGI’d one. And yes, it’s technically just a trailer and not a short film, but IT’S MY LIST I’M COUNTING IT. Consistently breaking the rules of my own lists – this is a theme with me, you’ll see.
While you’re here, check out this Goat Simulator Parody trailer. Work of art.
10. Lights Out (2013)
Directed by: David F. Sandberg
This is that one where a lady with zero self-preservation keeps turning the light on and off to peer at a monster, is surprised and terrified to find the thing suddenly gone, and yet still decides to stay in the house and go to sleep. It’s not particularly scary to me, hence it being at the bottom of the list, but I did like it, and it’s been talked about so much over the past year I had to mention it somewhere. To be honest, the lights on/lights off bit of the short was pretty fantastic (even though I had to suspend my disbelief that someone would just stay flicking at the lights over and over again and not just get the hell out of dodge).
It’s the ending that was disappointing, where they showed us an uninspired and unscary monster instead of leaving its creation up to our active horror-aficionado imaginations. I’m pretty sure even I could have come up with something freakier than that happily grinning white-eyed creature, and my mind isn’t nearly as depraved as some of y’all out there.
So there you have it, folks, my top ten favorite horror shorts
out of the fifteen or so that I’ve actually seen. Make your own favorites list in the comments and expand my repertoire at the same time!