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)…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Season’s Greetings, Fright Fans! Chris here. I’m hoping you are all well fed and warm as we wrap up 2022, and to us all transition into the new year, we are going to be doing a series of posts providing our personal selections for some of the best horror short films we’ve watched this year. I get the privilege of kicking things off, so let’s dive right in with my list of ten, in alphabetic order.
The Backrooms (2022) – by Kane Pixels
You ever play a video game and have a moment when you fall through the terrain or a wall? At the barest explanation, that is what 17-year-old Kane Parsons (aka Kane Pixels) did in this incredibly impressive and unbelievable short. An amateur film crew is making a film when the cameraman falls down, but he falls into another dimension instead of just landing on the ground. A seemingly never-ending maze of yellow wallpapered corridors lays before him, and an ominous presence may be waiting around any corner.
Made with zero budget and released on YouTube early this year, the initial short has gone on to develop a series of clips and shorts to expand this universe, with other fans contributing to the lore. Since the original short dropped, it has garnered over 43 million views! (Available on YouTube)
Do No Harm (2017) – by Roseanne Liang
When an elderly man with crime syndicate connections needs lifesaving surgery, he chooses well by getting a surgeon who will go to great lengths to insure that rival gangsters will . . . Do No Harm.
This has to be one of the more creative fight scenes I have ever seen in an operating room, even if that is a pretty short and niche list. The story, the pacing, and the resolution in this one are everything you can want in a short film. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)
Goodbye (2015) – by Tyler Russo
Picture combining parts of Phil Tippett’s Mad God with the aesthetics of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, and then set it in the employment office for the afterlife. That’s the best shorthand I have to describe this tasty and twisted bit of existential dread where a man who has died in a car accident faces a series of faces who will determine his placement. A great bit of stop-motion animation that may leave you questioning just what you have done with your life. (Available on YouTube)
Halloween: Harvest of Lost Souls (2013) – by Jay Burleson
Jay Burleson popped up on my radar this year with the festival release of faux franchise The Third Saturday In October and The Third Saturday In October Part V. No, there are no part II, III, or IV, and Burleson advises viewers to watch V before I. This kind of unconventional lunacy always gets my attention, and I did stream both films from the Popcorn Frights Festival in August.
After seeing them, I checked his IMDb and found he had done this fan-made trailer for a third Halloween film that never existed, but damn, would I love to see it! This short captures the homage-almost-parody line that Burleson would go onto do even better in his feature films. Eagerly anticipating anything else he releases, and I hope the TTSIO make it to Shudder or Screambox in the near future. (Available on YouTube)
Hide and Seek (Kakurenbo) (2013) – by Kayoko Asakura
I’ve found that I’m a sucker for Japanese ghost stories, and this bite-size bit was a satisfying selection. A young girl visits a house, seeking music lessons. The woman of the house seems slightly on edge from their first interaction, and the story unfolds from there. I feel this was a perfect and compact way to tell a story such as this, and I will say no more. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)
Honeymoon (2016) – by Ruth Pickett
I love comedies the way I love my coffee: black as midnight on a moonless night. Ruth Pickett delivered a savory cuppa in this short that at times reminded me of Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers. A slightly repressed and prudish couple booked an Airbnb for the titular honeymoon, but on arrival find that the cottage also meant for swiggers, role-players, and other kinky activities. It even comes with its own mistress to help with any problems you may have! Of course, a comedy of errors ensues, and the couple quickly strengthen their martial bond over disposing of a body and tapping into knowledge gained from true crime podcasts and TV shows. This was a great laugh to have in the middle of all the research viewing I was doing, and I hope it gives you a bit of a tickle as well. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)
Job Interview (2013) – by Julia Walter
With the current market, landing an interview can be brutal. Sometimes, the interview itself can be murder. In this German short, Lisa sits for an interview with her potential employer, Marie. Everything has the appearance of going well in this well-lit, fashionable business office, but appearances aren’t everything, are they? There is a delicious and well-crafted twist that I really enjoyed in this one that goes dark quicker than you may expect. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)
Not Alone In Here (2020) – by David F. Sandberg
Told almost exclusively through the interior monologue of the lead, we are given the story of a woman who lives alone yet feels that she is never truly alone. Is it all in her head? Settle in for six minutes of brilliant atmospheric horror and dread to find out. (Available on YouTube)
De Noche Y De Pronto (Suddenly, One Night) (2012) – by Arantxa Echevarria
By happenstance, I actually have a Christmas season short for my list with this entry from Spain. A woman is running late for a party when a desperate man, who says he is her upstairs neighbor, comes knocking at her apartment door. Claiming that someone broke into his flat while he was out and is still in there, he begs her to let him in. The next 20 minutes is an intelligently devised high stakes game of who do you trust. This one genuinely kept me guessing until the final moments. (Available on Shudder in the Etheria Collection)
Slut (2014) – by Chloe Okuno
After watching and loving Chole Okuno’s feature film Watcher, I obviously wanted to see more of her work. Well, this short from 2014 goes dark and gory in the best ways possible, and it may be my true favorite on my list. Lonely 16-year-old Maddy lives in a backwater Texas town with her wheelchair-bound and desperately craves love and romance, which she might only be able to find at the local roller rink. But, as bad luck would have it, she gets found by a sexual predator instead.
This short goes literally balls out faster than you will expect in its 21 minute runtime, and I highly recommend giving it a watch. You may be picking up your jaw from time to time. (Available on YouTube)
That wraps up my list! Be sure to check in weekly for Joe and Jenny’s lists to tide you over until we record again in early January. Thank you all for reading and listening. Happy Holidays!
HoopTober is always a time for finding some treats (and avoiding tricks!), and HoopTober 9 was no exception. Check out our personal picks for faves we watched during the challenge as well as some honorable mentions.