After missing last year, I’m back with my series of short horror films that are perfect for this spooky season, especially as we’re fast approaching Halloween. As usual, there’s something for everyone, so check out this year’s picks and be sure to let me know which one is your favourite!
1. Night Bus (2022) dir. Jessica Ashworth & Henrietta Ashworth, 12 mins
Driving through the nocturnal streets of London on the eve of her 30th birthday, a night bus driver (Susan Wokoma) discovers a supernatural entity on her bus. Filmmakers Jessica and Henrietta Ashworth deliver an incredibly suspenseful short that draws upon how scary being a bus driver at night might be. The film uses many techniques to create its tension and scares, including making full use of the bus’s mirrors and security cameras. Served with occasional humour, Night Bus also has strong cinematography that outdoes many new mainstream features. It’s absolutely worth checking out!
2. Don’t Peek (2020) dir. Julian Terry, 6 mins
Made with three people and a Blackmagic pocket camera during quarantine, Don’t Peek draws upon those of us who were kept entertained by Animal Crossing: New Horizons during early COVID-19 lockdowns. While playing Animal Crossing late at night, a woman (Katie Cetta) discovers that when she turns the lights out in the game, they turn out in real life. She also spots a villager standing ominously in the dark doorway to her house… a villager who wants to be let out, just as we did.
In the film’s short runtime, writer and director Julian Terry managed to create and capture a fun, atmospheric short that uses almost unbearable moments of silence. Nintendo should use this short to advertise the game.
3. Place (2019) dir. Jason Gudasz, 10 mins
Place follows a young woman (Emily Green) who moves into a new house with her boyfriend (Nick Hurley) and young daughter (Stella Edwards), but the spirits in the house aim to make their life a living hell as the fracturing family tries to cope.
Written and directed by Jason Gudasz, who has previously served as a production assistant on films like Tammy (2014) and Keanu (2016), the film plays around with the tropes of a traditional haunted house movie, with an excellent, eccentric, and hilarious script that is nothing short of engaging and entertaining.
4. The Changing Room (2022) dir. Sam Evenson, 4 mins
In Sam Evenson’s The Changing Room, a woman (Jamie Taylor Ballesta) finds herself in a nightmarish trap after sneaking into a closed-off changing room. Serving as writer, director, editor, and visual effects creator, Evenson found a way to create suspense through the idea of infinite reflections.
As haunted mirrors are one of the most overused tropes in horror, Evenson wanted to add something new to the genre. He said, “An entity that can move through planes of an infinity reflection is something I’d never seen before and I was really excited to solve this creative challenge.” Using meticulous planning skills with a combination of practical and digital effects, which are explored in-depth in this behind the scenes video, Evenson achieved his goal.
5. The Ten Steps (2004) dir. Brendon Muldowney, 10 mins
When her parents are out for dinner, teenage Katie (Jill Harding) is left in charge of babysitting her younger brother. With their old house rumoured to be haunted, Katie is forced to climb down the ten steps to the basement to fix the fuse when the power goes out. As she begins her descent into darkness, panic and terror begin to rise in a short that has one of the most effective endings I’ve ever seen from a short.
The Ten Steps was turned into an intriguing yet subpar feature-length film titled The Cellar (2022), starring Elisha Cuthbert and Eoin Macken, but the short utilises camera movement and sufficient storytelling during its limited screen-time to create blistering tension much better than its feature counterpart.
6. Shadowed (2020) dir. David F. Sandberg & Lotta Losten, 3 mins
From Lights Out (2016) director David F. Sandberg and his wife, Lotta Losten, comes Shadowed, about a woman (Lotta Losten) who, during a power outage, begins to discover a strange occurrence involving shadows.
Sandberg creates some excellent effects in Shadowed as he plays around with the terrifying concept of shadows. The short works perfectly as a companion to Sandberg’s Lights Out (both the feature and the short it’s based upon). Both tackle the mystery of what’s lurking in the dark, but in unique ways. Although a common trope, the dark will remain forever scary regardless of whether it includes light in any way or not.
7. Carved (2018) dir. Justin Harding, 6 mins
A Huluween short, Justin Harding’s Carved is simple but effective. It tells the tale of how a boy’s choice of an ugly pumpkin results in an unusual Jack-O-Lantern. It has fun with the concept of what would happen if pumpkins carved us. It’s a silly idea that doesn’t take itself too seriously and has a blast with special effects that, at times, feel like a small nod to Little Shop of Horrors.
8. The Gillymuck (2018) dir. Dan Samijan, 5 mins
Another Huluween short, this one delivers a spooky yet cosy campfire atmosphere as a group of kids listen to a girl scouts guide warn of the Gillymuck — a cute and cuddly creature who isn’t all it appears to be, but is created with superb practical effects. The Gillymuck is a concept that could work well as a feature-length film, à la Gremlins, plus think of all the adorable plushies that could be sold during marketing.
9. Bath Bomb (2018) dir. Matt McWilliams, 3 mins
Bath Bomb is a Crypt TV short that boasts the dangers of bath bombs as a woman’s (Sarah Nicklin) relaxing experience does not go to plan. With David Keninger serving as director of photography, the aesthetics of this short by Matt McWilliams are shot and captured beautifully, not to mention the gorgeous colouring by Tyler Roth. The practical body horror effects in the tub made me recall that one icky scene in Eli Roth’s iconic Cabin Fever. SPFX by Nick Reisinger with assistant Hannah Carleton and VFX by Parker Jarvie.
10. Post Mortem Mary (2017) dir. Joshua Long, 10 mins
In ALTER’s Post Mortem Mary, a mother (Melanie Zanetti) and her frightened daughter, Mary (Stella Charrington), run a post-mortem photography business in 1850s Australia. When they arrive at a small farmhouse, her mother has to comfort the devastated parents (Kathryn Marquet and David Breen) grieving over the death of their 10-year-old daughter (Edie Vann), while Mary is forced to work alone and, in doing so, forced to confront her fear of the dead as she sets out to make the dead look alive.
Joshua Long’s short includes impressive production and costume design, alongside strong performances, editing, and lighting, which all work together to create an eerie and uncomfortable atmosphere. The ending delivers a spooky twist, which makes me think Mary was right to be afraid of the dead this entire time. The concept of professional post-mortem photography is definitely new to me.
BONUS: Treevenge (2008) dir. Jason Eisener, 16 mins
Treevenge depicts Christmas from the perspective of sentient Christmas trees who are hacked down by chainsaws and shipped to family homes, where they are humiliated by humans. As the true victims of Christmas, the trees finally seek revenge by going on a bloody massacre.
Written by Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill, Trevenge is a fun and silly short that really makes you think about the American Christmas tradition of chopping down trees for our own vanity — especially with its fun cannibal backwards styling and use of the Cannibal Holocaust opening theme. It also makes you wonder what a feature-length film about killer Christmas trees might look like, particularly with a decent budget behind it. Eisener went on to director Hobo with a Shotgun (2011) and has had segments featured in The ABCs of Death (2012) and V/H/S/2 (2013).