As a fan of all things terrifying and grotesque I often ask myself, why do we get scared? What causes us to feel real fear? I like to believe we experience fear at times when we feel insecure, unsure and uninformed. This might explain my disappointment with "modern horror" films that I feel give too much information and try to rely on visual elements to provide the scare factor. Don't get me wrong, many of these films are great, but a lot of times I feel like producers and directors make things too obvious and too predictable for me to feel uneasy. If I feel like all is well in the world while watching horror? Something's missing..
Anyways, I've compiled a list of five short films that I feel all have their own take on this thing we call horror. What I enjoy about these short horror pieces is the fact that they are, just that - short. They don't have the liberty of taking 90 minutes to build a plot, develop characters and prepare for 'the big scare'. Because of these time constraints we are given limited information and little time to settle in and get comfortable in the stories. With all of these short films, the scare starts immediately.
So without further ado, let the creepiness commence.
Monster by Jennifer Kent
This first film should look somewhat familiar to you (if you managed to keep your eyes open, that is). Monster (2005) was directed by Jennifer Kent, the same woman who directed last years standout horror film, The Babadook.
Monster served as a springboard of sorts for The Babadook. The short film is just under ten minutes long and gives us a small taste of the horror that would eventually be expanded in the feature length production. I discovered this 'pilot' of sorts just a couple of weeks after I'd seen The Babadook and it made me love the film that much more. One thing I love about this short is how completely quiet it is. It's somber, lonely and even sad in many ways - you really feel the isolation of the characters. That's something I thought made this clip really effective, and something that also made The Babadook so terrifying. There is very little dialogue in Monster and no musical score. The sounds that we do hear - pots banging, floorboards creaking, cats meowing, all seem to remind us how truly alone and how terrified the two are inside that house.
The Last Time I Saw Richard by Nicholas Verso
The Last Time I Saw Richard was both written and directed by Nicholas Verso. The 20 minute horror short tells the story of Richard and Jonah, two young teenagers forced to share a room together while taking residence at a mental health clinic. While they seem to start off on the wrong foot, the two boys find themselves needing one another more than they expected as they battle the demons both internal and external.
Lights Out by David F. SandbergWhen I watched this film for the first time I was impressed by a number of things; overall it's just a great piece of work. I thought the film had great transitions and some really stark images. Aside from being just all kinds of creepy I also thought that is was just incredibly well acted. Toby Wallace (Jonah) and Cody Fern (Richard) seem to have a way of saying so much, without saying anything at all. The film forces you to ask so many questions that don't get answers - it makes you challenge your own sanity. When I watched The Last Time I Saw Richard for the first time, the first thing I did was watch it again.
You might have seen images from David F. Sandberg's award winning horror short, Lights Out, circling around the internet without even knowing it.
David Sandberg is a guy who's taste in horror I appreciate. And if you have the time I highly suggest you check out this clip he made explaining the 'importance of sound' in film. Lights Out, I feel, is a perfect representation of Sandberg's style. And while it doesn't even break three minutes, the film makes the most of every second and every decibel used. In the short the protagonist, actress Lotta Losten, is just trying to get some shut eye. But no matter how hard she tries to turn the lights off, something in the shadows, just.. won't.. let her.
Before you press play on this one I suggest that you turn out all the lights. If you are reading this post during daytime hours, you just might want to save this dark little treat for later.
Listen by Vernon Wilbert
This is one of my personal favourites on this little list of horror shorts, mainly because we have pretty much NO idea what exactly is going on.
Remember. Less information = MORE terror. It's science you guys!
Maisie by Ray SullivanIn this short film, directed by Vernon Wilbert, we're given a lot of soundbites that don't seem to make a whole lot of sense. Still, as the title and the images suggest there is something going on that we simply have to listen to in order to understand. There is a sense of terror and madness that is put across in this film not so much visually as it is via audibly. While both the images and audio work perfectly together, I think that Listen could stand a lone and be just as affective, just as scary if you didn't have the accompanying visuals. To me this film feel like a recurring nightmare, one that makes less and less sense each time I experience it.
Up until now I've definitely failed to include something that should always be present in a proclaimed 'horror post' - blood. Which brings me to the last short horror film on this list - Maisie , directed by Ray Sullivan.
In this short narrative, a visitor of the night finds himself in a bloody mess when he comes home to find his wife and daughter, presumably, playing a game he's never played before. I won't give too much away, but he doesn't win. If you've seen other short films from Ray then you know what you're about to get into by watching this one. Like his other short horrors, Maisie doesn't hold anything back. The moral of this story - never skip out on play time
If you've got some spare time, and a few extra nerves to spare I highly suggest you check out some of the other videos made by all of these brilliant up and coming directors! Let me know which one was your favourite, and what you look for went you want a real scare.