Short films are perhaps the most criminally overlooked elements of essential horror viewing and are becoming increasingly relevant, with them being able to reach audiences online that standard length horror films cannot. The true beauty of short films of any genre is their ability to condense a breadth of ideas, emotions, characters, etc. into a mere few minutes and in this list is a large selection of short horror films that stand out from the rest.
Perhaps one of the most bizarre short horrors, The Birch tells the story of a tormented British teen boy who is haunted daily by a brutish school bully. The boy becomes so sick of his torment that he confides in his grandmother who reminds him to remember The Birch. The Birch will protect him. Of course, in the days to follow, the bully chases the boy as usual, this time into the woods, where he has a nasty shock. Just what is this creature, The Birch?
The first of three short films on this list that were to become full-length horror films, Lights Out is the living nightmare that those who are scared of the dark encounter daily. As a little kid, most people were scared of the dark, right? Every time you turned the lights out, you would skip to your bed and hide from the monsters that inhabited your house and hope you’d survive until the morning. Lights Out shows the story of a middle-aged woman living alone who, as everyone does mundanely, switches out the lights out to go to bed. However, she sees a dark figure at the end of her corridor which quickly disappears when the lights are turned back on. What is the figure and is it even real?
Saw is perhaps the most original short on this list as is the precursor to the critically acclaimed Saw franchise. In this, we are transported into the early Saw timeline and are introduced to the terrifying Reverse Beartrap and the testimony of a victim who managed to escape from it. It’s not hard to see how such ingenuity spurned interest amongst avid cinephiles and made its way to the big screen.
If a short film is enough to creep even Guillermo Del Toro out, it surely is going to be a work of art, which is exactly what Mama is. Mama portrays the story of two young sisters, Victoria and Lily, who are supposedly home alone, in their beds. That’s until ‘mom’ returns. Upon descending the stairs, the girls realise, to their horror, that they may be mistaken as to who is lurking downstairs and so ensues a truly tense minute of terror.
Winning multiple awards, The Smiling Man is by far the most terrifying short horror film on this list and truly is unmissable. A young girl is woken to find a balloon in her room with a strange package attached to the balloon, which instantly raises the girl’s suspicions. Upon following the small trail of balloons in her house, leading suspiciously downstairs (look out for the subtle deformed hand placing the balloons). Upon reaching the kitchen, the little girl finds a white man with a crazed grin on his face who seems strangely playful, but not speaking. Who is this smiling man and what is the red liquid he’s wiping on his face?
If you’re a frequent partygoer or enjoy the nightlife where you live, 2 AM is not a short to watch, as it perpetuates every fear that people walking home alone at night hold. The plot is simple; a lone young man is walking home upon a lonely road, but he suddenly spots a deranged man with a wide smile plastered upon his face across the road, staring directly at him. The man then begins dancing the tango on his own, back and forth, seemingly following the young man home. The man appears to be backing off and the young man breathes a sigh of relief until the unthinkable happens and the crazed man sprints towards the young man, which generates suspense that will get a few hearts beating and will stay with you when you next walk home alone at night.
Have you ever watched the horror classic slasher, ‘Maniac’. Firstly, if not, you seriously need to check it out as it is exceptional and secondly, if you have, then The Seamstress is the multi award-winning short for you. A young seamstress lives with her dog, sewing away at garments for her creepy mannequin, presumably for a fashion degree and goes to get a drink of water, but when she returns to find the mannequin missing, a suspenseful wild hunt for the mannequin ensues with a horrific conclusion.
If you sleep with a partner in bed, you’ll probably be familiar with the habit of checking that your partner is still asleep in bed next to you and if this is the case, Bedfellows will play on all of your fears. A young woman is asleep in bed with her husband until she is awoken to a phone call from her husband, asking her to let him in the house as he is outside and has forgotten his keys. You truly cannot miss this entertainingly frightening short, which will definitely make you think twice about who you share a bed with.
If you’re a fan of found footage horrors (especially of the Paranormal Activity and REC series), Cop Cam is certainly the short film for you. A routine police call to a broken down house in the suburbs turns awry when painful sobs are heard from within the house, but with no obvious source. If you like tense first person horror, this award-winning short is ideal.
The final film on this list is by far the longest short and is one of the most intricate and creative too. A nurse is taking care of an elderly woman on her deathbed in the Faroe Islands near Denmark and as a long-forgotten memory of the island returns, the old woman’s health deteriorates along with the nurse’s sanity. Strange happenings begin in the house that the nurse is taking care of her patient in and they are left to experience the past returning to them.
I strongly implore you to watch every short film from this list as they are all unmissable and artful pieces of short cinematography. That’s if you feel brave enough to stomach the horrors that lie within these shorts! Remember to support indie filmmakers as all of the films from this list have come from indie filmmakers who are providing us with the finest in horror and many of those who directed the films from this list are household names in horror circles. If you have 5 minutes to spare, you have 5 minutes to watch a short horror and be positively terrified!