Compact Macabre: A Selection of Horror Short Films, Part 2 of 3

Hello, fellow fright fans, Joe here with the second installment of our three part blog series featuring short horror film recommendations. Originally this was supposed to be a full episode of The Podcast Macabre, AND take place prior to Christmas, so that’s why I’m going to start my recommendations off with a Christmas horror short (despite the fact we’re past that and facing down the end of 2022 at this a point)…

HUMBUG, Written by Molly Sanders and Directed by Justin Lee and Matt Thiesen

This was my favorite of the short films I saw on the Saturday I attended the Season’s Screamings holiday horror convention in Pasadena earlier this month. HUMBUG starts out as a battle of wills between a holiday cheer obsessive and a goth, “bah humbug” neighbor. It quickly goes in directions I was not expecting, and turns into something that I won’t spoil here. Based on the applause the crowd erupted into that Saturday afternoon, it was many others favorite of the day as well.

THE BLUE DOOR, Written by Ben Clark and Megan Pugh and Directed by Paul Taylor

Gemma Whelan gives a fantastic performance as a home care nurse who stumbles across a mysterious blue door in her patient’s residence. While nearly free of dialogue, we still get a perfect sense of the confusion, panic, and fear the lead goes through in this tight, 9 minutes of terror. This felt like a Stephen King short story that would have been right at home in his anthology SKELETON CREW.

CLEARWATER, Written and Directed by Rob Jabbaz

After seeing the pure chaos that Rob Jabbaz gave us with THE SADNESS, I wanted to see what else he’d done. That led me to this gorgeous looking sci-fi horror film about a sunbather, Joan LoLuo, in New Taipei City, Taiwan who gets more than she bargained for after a mosquito bites her. This is another short selection from me that has little to no dialogue, but the visuals and performance convey everything you need. Not only is the river location in New Taipei City stunning, the CGI work is breath taking.

DAWN OF THE DEAF, Written and Directed by Rob Savage and based on a story by Jed Shepherd

From the minds that brought us the 2020 surprise horror hit HOST, comes a infection/zombie tale. Much like in Stephen King’s CELL, an unexplained sonic pulse turns everyone who can hear it into blood thirsty killers. The deaf/hearing impaired population are then forced to survive in this new blood soaked reality. Caroline Ward and Haley Bishop, also in the before mentioned HOST, give some great performances as Sam and Nat. I feel like this premise is just ripe for a limited television series, and I can imagine it rolling out much like Netflix’s BLACK SUMMER.

LAURA HASN’T SLEPT, Written and Directed by Parker Finn

After being pulled off the internet entirely for a bit, we now have access to Finn’s short film that he adapted 2022’s SMILE from. In the short film Laura, played by Caitlin Stasey who also returns in SMILE, talks to a therapist, played by the always great Lee Temple, about a reoccurring nightmare she’s having. What I love about this is LAURA has the same exact, uneasy vibe Parker Finn gave us with SMILE, and you can see the shared DNA between both projects, but they’re both their own thing. It’s easy to see why and how this got developed into a feature, and proves Parker Finn is one to watch.

LITTLE WILLY, Written and Directed by Andrew Bowser

Andrew Bowser is also our lead, playing Adam Castle who’s a former child actor in a CHUCKY like series called LITTLE WILLY. Adam struggles through attending horror conventions, with the help of his friends Adrienne Barbeau and Zach Galligan (playing themselves), where he’s continually disrespected by “fans” and upstaged by the screen used Little Willy doll. Things go a little sideways when Little Willy begins talking to Adam, but things go seriously wrong when Adam starts listening.

TERRIFIER (2011), Written and Directed by Damien Leone

For some frustrating reason I’m not able to embed the actual short film, but it may be found HERE. Not watching this short until after seeing TERRIFIER 2 was a treat, no pun intended, as it was great to see how fully formed the idea of Art the Clown was, but also how the concept evolved. Here Mike Giannelli takes on Art, and there seems to be more of a mean and menacing streak to his performance…and I know that’s saying something as David Howard Thornton’s performance is deliciously wicked as well. It’s also fun to see how good Leone was from the jump with his practical effects work, yet it’s on a whole other level by the time we reach TERRIFIER 2.

TO MY MOTHER AND FATHER, Written and Directed by Can Evrenol

Evrenol’s BASKIN (2015), itself a feature expanded from a short by the same name, has stuck with me since my first viewing. So, when I came across this short about a boy who finds a mask and decides to use it in order to scare his parents I had to watch. It did not disappoint, and goes from an almost innocent desire to play a prank, to extremely uncomfortable, to beyond insanity.

USED BODY PARTS, Written and Directed by Venita Ozlos-Graham

This short film may be rented or purchased via Vimeo, or watched on Shudder as part of their Etheria series (Season 3, Episode 9). USED BODY PARTS tells the story of two friends stopping at the wrong place to refuel their vehicle. I first saw this as part of the 2016 Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival in Charleston, SC back in 2016, where it was nominated for Best Short Film, and nominated and won for Best Special Effects.

At the time Ozlos-Graham said it was a “proof of concept” short that she hoped could be funded and expanded into a features. Sadly, I don’t believe that ever happened, but at least we have this bloody good time still available to watch. You’ll probably recognize the filming location (Four Aces Movie Ranch in Palmdale, CA) as it appears in such films as HOUSE OF A 1,000 CORPSES, IDENTITY, countless TV series, and even one of Chris’ choices, SNAKE DICK, the last time we talked about horror shorts.

THE WOLF WHO CAME TO DINNER, Written and Directed by Jem Garrard

I’m ending with the most family friendly recommendation on my list, as I adored this short for obvious werewolf related reasons. Bea Barkley (played wonderfully by Audrey Smallman) and her older sister Cate are mortified when their mom has her new boyfriend over for dinner. Cate is freaking out because he’s her French teacher from school. Horror obsessed Bea is freaking out because she believes Adrian Hough’s Henry Woodcraft is actually a werewolf.

What unfolds is a dinner scene that reminded me quite a bit of the dinner scene in THE LOST BOYS. I have to think that may have played a part in Jem’s creation of this tale, and they sure did get the vibe right while still taking it in their own direction. This short makes me want to find more of Jem’s work, and reminds me that we need **WAY** more werewolf related horror!

I hope y’all enjoyed my list of recommendations. If you missed the first part by Chris you may find it HERE, and Jenny will be along next week with her list of short horror films to close out the series.

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