This Halloween season, we’ve asked some of our favorite genre-bending filmmakers to help us curate a special spooky playlist just for you! Arguably, horror is the most versatile genre to tell a story in, as depending on the interpretation, it can be fueled by fear, packed with comedy, or in some instances, turned into a musical and still be considered as such. Don’t believe us? Check out Theo Rhys’ Stuffed and try not to sing along to those romantic ballads about taxidermy.
Horror is first and foremost exhilarating. There’s never a dull moment in a film that promises scares, suspense, or gore. It’s also one of the few genres that can break every narrative rule and still have a satisfying payoff – sometimes the lack of ending makes the ending. A little bit of mystique surrounding an evil monster or villain means that its journey on-screen doesn’t end when the protagonist dies – you could be next.
As you watch these horror shorts, curated by filmmakers who have used the genre framework to tell the very best in their craft, remember to lock your doors, check under the bed, and turn off all the lights.
Happy spooky season, friends! – Chelsea Lupkin
by Henrietta and Jessica Ashworth
“Night Bus terrified me when I first saw it, firstly because of the nail-biting terror and secondly, the fact that it was Hen/Jess’ directorial debut. The talent these two have is incredible and I’m excited for what’s next”
Recommended by: Kate Herron
Although she’s not an out-and-out Horror director, Herron’s rise to fame was helped by the success of her “lube-tastic horror-comedy” Smear. With that short followed by directing Netflix’s Sex Education and Disney’s Loki, we’re excited to see more of Kate’s work in genre filmmaking in the future.
by Jimmy Dean and Ellie Gocher
“Synnøve Karlsen shines in this haunting, funny and beautifully observed vampire short. Gocher’s script is witty and playful before twisting the knife on us and delivering a gut-punch ending, while Dean’s direction is elegant and understated, like the Andrea Arnold vampire movie we never knew we needed”.
Recommended by: Rob Savage (Dawn of the Deaf, Salt, Healey’s House )
With two horror shorts already on S/W and having directed the most talked-about scary film of 2020 (Host), Savage was one of the first names on our list for filmmaker recommendations for this article. With his latest feature DASHCAM having recently premiered at TIFF, where once again it became a focus of discussion, Rob is currently developing various TV and film projects including an original horror film produced by Sam Raimi, a series of three films for Blumhouse, and a supernatural thriller for StudioCanal.
by Robert Morgan
“The Cat With Hands is a deliciously dark fairytale nightmare that takes you somewhere both terrifying and wild in its short runtime. I’m a huge fan of Robert Morgan’s work, and if people dig this short they should definitely check out his other work – Invocation is another Robert Morgan favourite of mine.”
Though we were never lucky enough to feature the work of Bailey-Bond on S/W, we’ve long admired her filmmaking, having seen her short Nasty on the festival circuit back in 2015. With her debut feature Censor catching the eye of festival-goers around the world in 2021, Prano announced herself as one of the most exciting genre filmmakers to emerge this year. Censor is released on Mubi on Halloween and is also out in the US on Hulu for Huluween
by Rob Savage
“I love Salt because it has such a different tone from most horror shorts. Instead of being a single, suspense scene like a lot of horror shorts, including my own Larry, it creates a whole world, energy, environment, and mythology in just two freakin’ minutes. The pace is incredible while still leaving room for tension and scares. It does all its storytelling visually, the cinematography is dynamic and surprising, and the performances are top-notch. Knowing how many edits and shots are in these two minutes, I’m sure it took a lot of discipline to keep it at such a short runtime.”
We love a good short-to-feature story and Chase’s Larry is one of a number of horror shorts that have been snapped up for feature adaptation in recent years. The story of a monster that manifests itself through smartphones and mobile devices, Come Play is available on Showtime or wherever you choose to rent your streaming movies. Jacob has recently directed the last four episodes of horror series The Girl in the Woods, currently streaming on Peacock and fans of his debut feature can check out a making-of on YouTube.
The Hunger (Gutten er sulten)
by Kenneth Karlstad
“I love the feeling and the visuality that he has accomplished in this film. I find it inspiring for that, but also, because I know it’s a very personal film for him, and that he has managed to create it as stylized as it is. It’s really a wonderful and tension-filled film that I can watch over and over again.”
Recommended by: Thea Hvistendahl (Virgins4Lyfe, Satan’s Barn, Cramps)
Although only one of her previous features on Short of the Week has been a horror film (the brilliant Satan’s Barn), Hvistendahl’s style feels like a match made in heaven for the world of genre filmmaking. Now working on her debut feature, an adaptation of the John Ajvide Lindqvist’s (Let The Right One In) 2005 novel Handling the Undead, which she describes as “a horror, but with a lot of drama”, we’re excited to see what Thea can do with a longer runtime.
by Aritz Moreno
“I saw Cólera when attending the 2013 Sitges Film Festival and come back to check it out online quite often. It’s a tight little nightmare of a story that is as technically ingenious as it is skin-crawlingly unnerving. It was a close call between Cólera and the brilliant Post Mortem Mary for my favourite horror short”
Recommended by: Josh Tanner (The Landing, Reverse, Wandering Soul, Decommissioned)
With three horror films on our site, Tanner has become one of our go-to directors when it comes to scary shorts. Whether it’s in the claustrophobic Cu Chi tunnels of Vietnam, aboard the international space station or in a seemingly ordinary underground car park the Australian filmmaker continuously knows how to tap into our deepest fears. Currently working on feature projects (genre-based we assume), it’s surely only a matter of time before Josh’s filmmaking will be screening at your local multiplex.
by Eric Mainade, Andres Meza-Valdes and Diego Meza-Valdes
“A blend of social commentary and horror, Eric Mainade and brothers Andres and Diego Meza-Valdes transform an immigrant story into a heroic otherworldly hell in Boniato. With one of the most intense action sequences I’ve seen involving the undead, this horror thriller is a film I could never forget. A Sundance favorite, Boniato uses the genre framework to humanize a too-often overlooked minority population and weaves in a chilling ghost story with impressive creature designs and blood galore.”
Recommended by: Chelsea Lupkin (Lucy’s Tale)
Senior Programmer and horror director Lupkin is our fountain of knowledge when it comes to the genre scene. With her coming-of-age horror Lucy’s Tale clocking up over five-million (and counting) views on Alter and having sat on the jury’s for a number of prestigious genre festivals (including Fantasia, Brooklyn Horror & North Bend), it’s no wonder she’s Short of the Week’s official Scream Queen. Having just wrapped a new horror short last weekend, Chelsea is also working on a series adaption of Lucy’s Tale and developing her debut feature – a sci-fi horror.
Peter The Penguin
by Andrew Rutter
“As a horror short maker I’ve been to a lot of festivals and have seen lots of shorts and it’s hard for me to remember them all so I’m recommending one I saw at a festival last week that I really liked. Peter The Penguin. I love the tone and the absurdity and the twist. It’s super funny with the ridiculous situation going on in the house, everyone is dead serious and then it goes there. I wont say where it goes but it’s the best, creepy, weird and funny thing.”
Recommended by: Chris McInroy (Bad Guy #2, Death Metal, WE SUMMONED A DEMON)
If when you think of horror buckets of blood and guts spring to mind, then Chris McInroy is your man. A practical filmmaker who feels like he was raised on a diet of video nasties, McInroy has become a mainstay on the genre circuit in recent years with a series of blood-soaked horror-comedies featuring demonic guitars and leftover lasagna. With his new short Guts – the tale of a guy with his guts on the outside of his body – currently touring festivals, Chris continues to build a cult following for himself on the genre circuit.
If you’re still hungry for more scary short films check out our dedicated Horror channel