Not only are horror short films great for quick bursts of terror that don’t take much time away from busy schedules, but they’ve become a major platform for aspiring feature directors. Horror shorts don’t have to just be relegated to the month of October, either. While Hulu and Netflix both featured curated horror shorts in their overwhelming Halloween programming, there’s no wrong time to enjoy. Here are 10 great horror short films that elicit chills and thrills, and some that even make you laugh.
Writer/directors Todd Spence and Zak White previously charmed with a spooky riff on nostalgic board game Mystery Date in Your Date is Here, but their latest horror short takes a very different approach to the horrors of childhood. In Mikus, Pete finds an old box of drawings and toys from his childhood. Pulling out a life-size cutout of his imaginary childhood friend prompts a huge grin, but that quickly fades when…well, you’ll see.
Director Michael Chaves is on the verge of becoming a big name in horror with The Curse of La Llorona and The Conjuring 3 on the way, and his horror short The Maiden is what put him on the map. The short takes a familiar haunted house setting and gives it a fresh spin with a unique perspective; a realtor that is willing to do what it takes to sell the house. Even with familiar tropes at play, that underlying dark humor bodes well for Chaves’ upcoming slate of horror.
Director Teal Greyhavens and writer Nikolai von Keller turn a birthday party into the stuff of nightmares in Special Day. Emily’s 18th birthday celebration brings her family together for congratulations and cake, and a disturbing family secret too. This short has a great build up of tension, but more than that it delivers a unique mythology that leaves you wanting more.
It didn’t take long for writer/director/producer Santiago Menghini’s latest horror short, Milk, to make its way through the film festival circuit before it was announced that James Wan would be producing a feature length adaptation. Before that was Intruders, Menchini’s stunning short that plays like an anthology connected by one sinister entity that wreaks havoc on a neighborhood. Menghini also handled some of the visual effects, further demonstrating this is one up and coming talent to keep our eyes on.
This short is effective on the scares, but even more so if you happen to have an Echo or any smart speaker that’s behaved strangely before. It was recently announced that Amblin Partners was closing a deal to turn this short into a feature length film with its director, Julian Terry, to helm the movie. That’s not the only short of his to receive the feature length treatment either, as a full feature of his short They Hear It is also in the works.
Written and directed by Chris McInroy, this proves that not all horror shorts revolve around the scares. A metalhead receives a family heirloom in the form of a Satanic guitar, and immediately breaks all of the rules contingent upon its receipt. Its humor is only rivaled by the excessive gore and blood flow. So. Much. Blood. Play with the volume up.
This short by director Paul Gandersman and writer Peter S. Hall plays like a condensed episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark? But a bit bleaker. An aspiring teen witch conducts a ritual to enact vengeance upon the girls she feels has wronged her. Horror teaches us many things, not least of which is to be careful what you wish for. Major bonus points for cool creature design.
Sometimes all it takes is 5 minutes to find effective horror in the most bizarre places. Tickle Monster, by writer/director Remi Weekes seems absolutely silly. Until it’s not. The less said the better about this one, except that it takes a crazy concept about tickling and turns it into something completely unexpected. It works.
By now everyone is familiar with Lights Out and the short that inspired it, but there’s a bunch of shorts that director David F. Sandberg filmed with his wife Lotta Losten that are worth bingeing. Closet Space changes up the effective jump scares for a little Twilight Zone inspired dark humor. Sandberg and Losten star as the couple that discovers a bizarre, microcosmic reality within the closet of their new apartment. The doll of the Lights Out apparition makes an appearance. Or two.
This Australian short film by filmmakers Craig D. Foster and Emma McKenna also boasts creature effects by Odd Studio, who won an Oscar and BAFTA in 2016 for their outstanding special effects make-up in Mad Max: Fury Road. More importantly, this short is an absolute blast and feels like an episode of Tales from the Crypt. Poor Ralph is stuck working late at the office, but he really needs to make it home before nightfall if he wants to keep his secrets locked away.