It’s that time of year where I bring you another collection of short horror films to enjoy this Halloween. Previously, I’ve listed short films for Reel Honey and The Simple Cinephile, so be sure to check those out if you’re after a larger selection.
2020 has been a strange year that isn’t over just yet. It’s forced many of us to stay indoors for long periods of time, but these unfortunate conditions can be utilised this Halloween season to make the holiday more enjoyable. There’s no better way to get into the spooky spirit than indulging in a wide array of short films with your friends and family members, whether it’s in person or over a video call.
As always, the shorts vary in length and tone, so there’s something for everyone, whether you want something more fun and light-hearted or something that makes you hide behind the nearest object. While this list includes shorts from as far as back as 2013, it also features new ones from this year which have caused some filmmakers to get creative.
- Strange Noises (2020) dir. Rob Savage, 2 mins
Not an official short (or title), but at the start of the year, lockdown caused one director to get creative with his zoom chats, as Rob Savage calls his friends to investigate the strange noises coming from his attic.
Savage’s exciting and effective two minute short demonstrates how quickly found footage horror adapts to new circumstances and technology, thus making it one of the most innovative sub genres in cinema.
The warm response to the short led Savage and his friends to make a highly entertaining and scary 60-minute feature called Host, which took over Twitter in early August. The film is streaming on Shudder and is a must-see if you enjoy this little short. Watch them both in the dark on a laptop for the full experience.
2. Knock Knock (2014) dir. Jeff Betancourt, 13 mins
In Knock Knock, Val and her friends play a game, the Knock Knock Game, which allows them to communicate with the dead — but the girls soon learn that some rules should never be broken.
Jeff Betancourt’s short film introduces a chilling game that could be replicated at sleepovers by daring teens. Knock Knock isn’t overly scary, but it features some worthwhile eerie scenes, a believable cast, and fun yet spooky special effects.
The film’s cool campfire-story vibes would make for a great feature-length film if accompanied by a strong script.
3. Vicious (2015) dir. Oliver Park, 12 min
Lydia is haunted by her sister’s death and becomes paranoid that she’s not alone when she comes home to find her door unlocked.
Oliver Park’s short utilises dead space and camerawork to build a creepy and unnerving atmosphere. He plays old tricks masterfully, proving to be a promising filmmaker deserving of flexing his skills across a full-length feature.
Although the main character makes a few questionable decisions, Vicious allows us to indulge in psychological horrors as it showcases how important suspense is when creating genuinely scary scenes.
There’s a gripping sequence with a lamp that’s reminiscent of Lights Out (which actually started out as a short film) that makes me want to warn you not to watch this while in bed at night — although that might be the best place to experience it.
4. Bleed (2019) dir. Megan Rosati, Lola Blanc, Natasha Halevi, Linda Chen, Danin Jacquay, Francesca Maldonado, 13 mins
Bleed is an anthology featuring six short horror films from an ensemble of women, known as the Fatale Collective, who all share entertainingly twisted tales through a feminist lens.
While not all shorts are particularly strong, they’re all worth watching for their entertaining ideas that draw fears from contemporary life. The stories examine the hypocritical exclusion safe spaces generate, the horrors of idolising someone through social media, the unrealistic expectations of women presented through makeup tutorials, in addition to many more.
Hopefully Fatale Collective will return with another installment as they continue to inject a breath of fresh air into the horror genre by providing the modern woman’s perspective.
5. Fear Wish (2020) dir. Zak White and Todd Spence, 3 mins
Midnight Video, made up of filmmakers Zak White and Todd Spence, are some of the most creative filmmakers making horror shorts right now. They specialise in creating original ideas as they play around with genre expectations to create fun and short-lived frights.
Earlier this year, they released Fear Wish, a very pertinent idea that plays heavily on real fear and human emotion with its simple premise: to wish for something you need, you have to wish for something you fear.
White and Spence are masters of tension building, but their short also provides a unique twist on the phrase “be careful what you wish for.” Fear Wish’s message is effectively explored in just 3 minutes as the intensity comes to a sudden halt.
6. Face Mask (2020) dir. Dan Allen and Adam Huber, 6 mins
While writing this list, Midnight Video’s White and Spence wrote and released another short film called Face Mask, but this time allowed their friends Dan Allen and Adam Huber to direct.
This creepy and well-made short follows a man who is confronted by an unsettling stranger when he goes outside without wearing a face mask.
The film’s tagline “don’t forget to wear your face mask in public” has become our new normal, but the film cleverly uses the mask as an analogy outside of the pandemic. It can protect you from different things and also delivers the message that people are not always what they seem.
Be sure to check out Midnight Video’s entire catalogue if you haven’t already.
7. The Hoarding (2020) dir. Karen Gillian, 14 mins
Mostly known for her acting in Doctor Who and the MCU, it might surprise many people to know that Karen Gillan is a filmmaker herself. She has written and directed various short films, most of which belong to the horror genre.
Gillan’s newest short, The Hoarding, follows Mary (Jamie Brewer) whose first job as a cleaner inside a hoarder’s home, with the help of Hope (Gillan), gives her more than she bargained for.
The Hoarding isn’t necessarily scary, but its intriguing story demands to be made into a full-length feature. Brewer and Gillan give strong and entertaining performances of their fleshed-out characters as they explore their delightfully creepy surroundings. The ending lets the film down, but those scared of baby dolls should be cautious of this one.
8. Other Side of the Box (2018) dir. Caleb J. Philips, 15 mins
In Other Side of the Box, a couple receives a mysterious package from an old friend and are left to deal with the consequences.
Caleb J. Philips’ short (co-written with Nick Tag) is packed with tension and creepiness as a man, who is wet for some reason, stares at Rachel and Ben from inside his cardboard prison. What does he want and what will happen if they look away from him?
This is another short where the ending may not be a strength for many, but everything that comes before it is a masterclass in horror storytelling and tension-building. Other Side of the Box could do well fleshed out into a longer film that explores the lore behind the man in the box.
9. I Love You So Much It’s Killing Them (2016) dir. Joel Ashton McCarthy, 15 mins
This black comedy horror follows Vivian, a lonely serial killer whose three loves in life are math, accounting and killing random people. Everything changes when she meets Alex, the man of her dreams, as it turns out even smart female serial killers fall victim to douchebags.
Joel Ashton McCarthy’s script (co-written with Mike Doaga) is funny and clever as it comments on men taking credit for women’s work and plays with expectations. It’s a well-made short filled with beautiful shots, a brilliant cast, and an entertaining use of props.
Female serial killers are so in right now (hello Killing Eve!) and this original and offbeat premise would make for a killer full-length feature.
10. The Dollmaker (2017) dir. Alan Lougher, 10 mins
In The Dollmaker, a grieving mother latches onto a magical surrogate for her dead child, but small miracles come with consequences, especially if rules are broken, which is usually the case.
Alan Lougher’s short film, written by Matias Caruso, proves that it’s possible to tell a story about a creepy doll without it being possessed or killing anyone.
With the story unfolding perfectly across its 10 minute runtime, this sad tale draws from elements of horror to remind us that accepting the loss of loved one is immensely difficult, but it doesn’t do well to live in the past.
11. Foxed! (2013) dir. James Stewart and Nev Bazaire, 4 mins
In this 3D stop motion short, a young girl called Emily is forced to work in the mines beneath her house when she is kidnapped by foxes. She works tirelessly to get back home and uncover the foxes’ secret plan.
The animated kid-friendly design is jarring against such a heavy subject matter about the horrors hidden in plain sight, especially when viewed as an unsettling analogy to oppression and human rights.
It’s impossible not to compare this award winning animated short to Coraline, considering its equally chilling style and dark story about replacing children.
12. Kissed (2020) dir. Edmund Quincy Walker, 6 mins
In Kissed, a coroner fixes up the new body in the morgue, and adds a few touches of his own.
The Creepy Coroner Cinematic Universe (CCCU) is very weird and specific in its endeavours, but this short makes for a fine addition to the stories that many CCCU fans have come to know and love over the years.
Edmund Quincy Walker’s Kissed is full of some amusing one liners and has a slightly different twist than expected. Good for her!
Bonus: Come Be Creepy with Us (2019) dir. Elizabeth Fletcher, 15 mins
Anna, a young woman stuck in the midst of a quarter-life crisis, learns how to keep living after being haunted by the undead spirit from her summer camp past. Stuck between millennial angst and emerging adulthood, the film is about letting go of our pasts and embracing what it means to grow up.
The first five minutes of Come Be Creepy with Us are wonderful — filled with an eerie atmosphere that’s lightened up with some great comedy. Unfortunately it goes downhill fast after that, despite exploring an interesting concept.
I’m including this short film solely because it includes the best description of a dream that I’ve ever heard.
Happy Halloween and sleep well!