Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top 10 Scary Short Films




It's almost Halloween, which means it's that time of year again when you desperately search through your Netflix queue for anything scary that you haven't seen yet...and that doesn't look terrible.

Unfortunately, the search for a good scary movie can often lead to hours of your life being wasted on bad acting, horrible dialogue, incoherent plots, and awful remakes. Fortunately, there is some really fantastic work being done with scary short films that give you all of the best parts of a good horror flick (dread, fear, and something to keep you up at night) without all the other stuff.

RamblingBeachCat.com has slogged through hours of short movies (that mostly piddle around for a few minutes and then try to redeem themselves with a jump scare) to bring you the top ten scary short films you can watch online right now. Besides needing to be good, here was some of the criteria for making the list:

-It actually needs to be a "short film." When a movie is set up to be a short feature, the audience goes in with certain expectations of efficiency and a quick resolution. Once it starts to drag over half an hour, my A.D.D. medicine struggles to fend off the unicorns that gallop majestically through my mind.

-No zombie flicks. Zombies aren't scary, but they are awesome...and they're getting their own short film top ten list later this month.

-The original Saw short film is a great one, but it was not included on this list due to the fact that it's pretty much completely transcended into a major movie franchise...and because Lions Gate Entertainment is constantly taking it down. It really is a great flick though, and if you can find it online, you should definitely check it out.

Each movie has a brief plot summary and a description about why it's great. There will be minimal spoilers, but you should watch the films first if you really want to get the full scare effect.

Since I'm a giant pansy, there is also a helpful guide at the end of each entry warning you about each film's moment that is most likely to cause you to empty your bowels.

Fair warning: There is some gore (though not nearly as much as you would expect for a list like this) and a lot of swearing (since people tend to cuss a lot when they are really scared or badly injured).

And now let's start things off with a little bed time story...


10. Bedfellows




Plot
A woman receives a phone call in the middle of the night. It's a pretty standard horror movie set up...except that this time, things don't follow the normal script.

Why it's great
This is one of three entries from director Drew Daywalt, and for good reason; the guy knows how to quickly and efficiently build suspense and terror. While some of his work may rely a bit too heavily jump scares, this one is able to do a couple of really unique things that most short horror films are not:

-It gives a surprise twist that you really don't see coming. The whole "call in the middle of the night" plot device is pretty standard stuff. When the voice on the end of the line is a familiar one, however, our minds instantly jump right along with the main character's to the question of who or what is laying in bed next to her.

-It sets up the jump scare so that you know exactly when it's going to happen...and it is able to scare the crap out of you. The clock ticking louder and louder is also a nice touch.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
Easy answer is 1:30, but 1:15 (when we first get a look at what is under the covers) might very well be worse.



9. There Are Monsters




Plot
A couple starts their day by noticing a strange little girl wandering around in their backyard. From there, things get progressively more strange and sinister. Is it all in their heads...or is something evil really lurking in their small Canadian town?

Why it's great
This one may be a bit light on the scares, but it makes up for atmosphere and suspense. Aside from the obvious portions of the movie where you are waiting for something to jump out at the main characters, the dinner party scene has a great current of unresolved paranoia and fear.

While the guests laugh and speculate on the strange behavior that they have observed that day, the maddening (and very unsettling) elephant in the room remains: "What happened to the woman after her husband left?"

Director Jay Dahl continues to draw out the tension just enough so that you start to feel comfortable...and then brings you back to this world's unsettling new reality.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
3:04...not just for the cheap jump scare, but also due to the fact that unattended children are terrifying.



8. The Hunt




Plot
A small town in Kentucky is being terrorized by an evil creature. The sheriff has rounded up a volunteer group of hunters to find whatever it is and put it down. One of them has a video camera (of course), which he takes along to document their expedition and what they find.

Why it's great
Surprisingly, this was the only "found footage" style film to make the list. Oh don't get me wrong; there were plenty to chose from, but most of them were terrible.

This one, however, makes use of some excellent production value, particularly in the sound department. When the priest asks God to help the hunters find this "evil thing"...and then you hear it roar from the woods...you know that he just made a very gross understatement.

'A Good Sized Productions' has produced a number of projects, but this is still one of their best.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
10:15 when everything starts hitting the fan...and that blood curdling scream starts up again.



7. The Closet



Plot
In our second entry from Drew Daywalt, two (incredibly attractive) daughters have decided to surprise their mom for her birthday...by hiding in her closet and jumping out at her with festive noise makers. While this idea was already a pretty bad one to begin with, one of the girls is even more apprehensive about it due to the fact that their mother doesn't like people going into her room.

As the girls peer out from behind the closet door, however, they realize that their birthday surprise is nothing compared to what their mom has been hiding...and what she has in store for them.

Why it's great
You know something is coming involving the mom, but it's still pretty unsettling when that something turns out to actually be the mom. Plus, if you stay through the credits, the voice you hear will haunt your dreams.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
When Hot Chick #2 drops the noise maker at 2:12 (which I greatly appreciated since it covered up my own girly sounding yelp).




6. The Descendant




Plot
Two hitmen are on their way to a job (and have very different tastes in music). When they arrive and find out the target is a kid, one of them isn't sure they should go through with it.

Since this is a scary movie list and a child was just added into the mix, you can probably guess where things go from here.

Why it's great
Director Robert Glickert takes a pretty conventional "possessed child" story and dresses it up with some great story framing. Top notch cinematography and some pretty good acting also help to make this look like a Hollywood feature...and the ending is incredibly chilling. 

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
At 7:30, it becomes abundantly clear that this kid didn't take his medication that day.




5. Red Balloon




Plot
Julie is baby sitting for an odd little girl named Dorothy. When Dorothy continually gets scared and screams instead of going to sleep, Julie begins to wonder if maybe something really is lurking in the house (Spoiler alert: There is.)

Why it's great
Since this is a scary film, we know something's in the house. What we're totally not prepared for, however, is how we find out about it.

Combine that with some excellent camera work/cinematography and original scored music, and you've got a world class production from directors Alexis Wajsbrot and Damien Mace that is expertly crafted into 13 minutes of pure terror.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
6:01 is the easy choice, but 7:49 (when that rabbit starts moving) got to me even worse for some reason.



4. Gramma




Plot
This episode from the 1980's incarnation of 'The Twilight Zone' is based on the Stephen King short story of the same name.

When an 11-year-old boy named George is left at home alone with his ailing grandmother, he assures his mother that he is not scared of her like when he was little (and that he can look after her if she needs anything).

But there's always been something very "off" about Gramma and the things that happen when she's around...and George is about to find out way. 

Why it's great
One of the reasons Stephen King's stories never seem to translate very well to the screen is that they are lacking the psychological or unspoken parts of the story (or they are just very poorly executed).

While this version may differ a bit from King's original tale, writer Harlan Ellison and director Bradford May are able to capture much of the terror and that George feels along with the the essence of a dark, incomplete back story.

From the Lovecraftian references to Gramma's terrifying voice, this is one of the scariest (and best) Twilight Zone episodes from any era.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
17:56--Worst. Family Reunion. Ever.



3. Doppelganger






Plot
A woman leaving work receives a mysterious call from her husband. He frantically warns her not to go home...and not to believe what she sees if he's there.

Why it's great
Drew Daywalt ratchets up the suspense to a fantastic degree in this one. It also has a great twist ending that leaves you asking questions, but is careful not to come out of left field so much that it doesn't make sense.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
No jump scares to be had here; just pure and slow building dread.



2. Mama



Plot
When two little girls realize that their mama has returned home for a visit, it's not going to be a happy reunion.

Why it's great
Even though this fantastic short by the brother/sister team of Andres Muschietti and Barbra Muschietti is set to be released as a full length feature next year, I'm not sure if it can do justice to the scares generated here in just under three minutes.

From the completely unnatural and terrifying movements of 'Mama' (and her hair) to the film's horrifying conclusion, this is one short film that you definitely shouldn't watch before going to bed 

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
1:57 will definitely start the contractions, but 2:22 will take care of the birth (if it hasn't happened already).




1. He Dies At The End



Plot
A man working alone in his office hears a strange noise. He then notices a request on his computer asking if he wants to know how he will die. Like a total moron, he clicks it.

Why it's great
Damian McCarthy is able to use a minimal amount of space, sound effects, and music to create about as much dread and terror as humanly possible. As the questions being asked of the main character get progressively more intrusive and the film's inevitable conclusion draws closer, we know something terrible will happen...we just don't have any idea what it will be inside of this mundane office setting.

When the end does come, it's absolutely ridiculous. But we've been wound up so tightly by that point that a release of fear is almost the only emotion possible.

The reactions I've observed from people that I've show this film to fall into two distinct categories.

1. The ones that completely crap their pants in fear (I'm in this group).

2. The ones that scream "THAT WAS STUPID!" while gasping for breath and/or picking themselves up off the floor.

Moment most likely to induce brick labor
The end.


And there you have it, folks. Hope this makes for some good Halloween season viewing when you're lying awake at night and hear a strange noise outside.

If you feel I missed any...or are one of the inevitable tools that will proclaim "THOSE ALL SUCKED NOTHING SCARES ME, BRO!"...then please leave a comment below. I'd definitely like to see more (when I don't have to work the next morning).

Sweet dreams.





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