Sunday, October 21, 2012

Top 10 Zombie Short Films

If you are looking for zombie films to watch this Halloween season, there are plenty to chose from. A quick search on Youtube or Netflix will yield a cornucopia of undead abominations chasing humans across a (usually) post apocalyptic landscape.

In making this list, however, I began to realize just how bad many of the short film entries to the zombie genre were. For some reason, people seemed to equate "hordes of undead" with "excuse for low production values" and "having no plot."

Fortunately, there are some filmmakers out there who took the (arguably overused) plot device of a zombie pandemic and turned it into a first class viewing experience.

The following is's Top 10 Zombie Short Films. There are few things, however, that you should take note of before diving into this list like a delicious, healthy human brain:

-There will be some NSFW language due to the fact that people tend to get scared and swear a lot while being chased by the undead.

-There will be a fair amount of gore, since zombies tend to eat people.

-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 effect.

And now let's begin with a touching story about a woman coming to terms with her new hacking away at the undead...

10. Home

A woman tries to survive on her own in the wilderness against the physical and mental destruction that results from a zombie apocalypse.

Why it's worth watching
Director Cameron McCulloch sets the tone for this one perfectly without any dialogue, instead relying on some beautiful cinematography and excellent acting from Jamie McDowell.

At the point that our main character puts on her wedding dress, we are fully aware of just how emotionally and mentally traumatized she is in this new world. The extent of her break down, however, is revealed with an ending that completely flips the usual "survivor kills loved one who turned into a zombie" trope into something completely surprising and tragic.

9. Left 4 Dead: Impulse 76

In this excellent fan film based off of the popular Left 4 Dead video game franchise, we find a representation of the game's characters trying to survive a zombie apocalypse. 

Why it's worth watching
I cheated by adding this one, which was originally on my Top 10 Summer Action Short Films list. But it was too good not to include here, as well.

The special effects (aside from some "cloudy" blood splatters) are fantastic. The sound editing and zombie makeup is also far better than you will find on almost any fan film.

We also get to see a staple of zombie video game franchises: A variety of looks and killing abilities for the undead minions.

Director Adrian Picardi transitions seamlessly from tension filled survival movie to knock down/drag out action flick. The cast does an excellent job in the opening scenes of using their brief dialogue to display the group's different personalities and general dysfunction. The ending goes a little over the top with all the guest stars/cameos, but it's still a lot of fun to watch.

8. Too Late

A man rushes home and begins frantically tending to wounds on his body before it's too late...but not for what you might think.

Why it's worth watching
I generally stayed away from most of the comedic zombie films for a couple reasons:

1. It's going to be hard to find one that even comes close to Shaun of the Dead or Zombieland.
2. Most of the ones I did find were absolutely terrible.

But director Rani Naamani, who typically is found doing some great animation work for Dreamworks, was able to quickly establish a real sense of dread...which he then expertly blows up with a hilarious twist.

 7. Dead Rain

One well armed soldier fights his way to an extraction point through an urban area that is densely populated by the undead.

Why it's worth watching
If you can forgive some terrible raindrop effects, the rest of the film is incredibly well shot, edited, and produced. Director Tom Pykett does a great job juxtaposing action scenes with the personal memories of the main character.

The climatic moment where our hero must decide between taking his own life or continuing to fight is surprisingly powerful considering that we've only known him for a little over seven minutes.

6. Plague

A Latvian gun trafficker tries to leave his dark past behind, only to discover that something much worse has followed him to his new life.

Why it's worth watching
I typically get a little annoyed/angry with the zombie films that...well...don't really show a lot of zombie action. This film by director Matt Simpson, however, gets a pass for a few reasons.

1. The protagonist, played by Joseph Avery, is very interesting.
2. The film is extremely well shot/edited.
3. The horror of "Grandma Zombie" more than makes up for the general lack of undead.

The end result is a haunting look at what the fallout of a zombie apocalypse would feel like for someone that doesn't get to play the hero or the victim in need of saving.

5. Zombies and Cigarettes

A kid working at the mall is trying any way he can to impress the girl of his dreams. His chance will come, but in a way that he never expected (Spoiler alert: It's zombies).

Why it's worth watching
Director Rafa Martinez strikes a perfect balance of action, horror, and comedy that makes this one a lot of fun to watch. From the claustrophobic opening outbreak in the mall (that tips its hat to George Romero) to the hard luck ending that every guy can sympathize with, this one has all the fun and excitement of Zombieland packed into a little under 15 minutes.

4. Spoiler

The zombie apocalypse finally happened and humans prevailed. But our way of life has been forever changed...and with good reason: The threat of infection still exists.

Why it's worth watching
Visual effects guru Daniel Thron wrote and directed this little gem, which looks better than most big budget Hollywood features.

Instead of having our protagonist chased by zombies, he instead has to help make the hard decisions in a time where containment is much more of a concern than basic survival.

The fact that this film also focuses on a more personal story rather than running from hordes of undead adds a different (and refreshingly tense) dynamic.

3. Project S.E.R.A.

A woman wakes up in an abandoned warehouse as armed soldiers torture her father with an experimental biological weapon.

Why it's worth watching
Aside from the incredibly high production values and beautiful cinematography, this film by Benjamin Howdeshell produces another example of a more personal zombie story that doesn't rely on swarms of pursing zombies to create tension and excitement.

Unlike the last example, however, the lone zombie in this film is very much a part of the action as well as the drama. And as gut wrenching as it is to watch a noble character (played by Dennis Keiffer) turn into a savage killing machine, the movie's final twist will make you wish that this was a full length feature...or that there will someday be a sequel.

It also doesn't hurt to have a great looking actress (that can also act) like Julia Voth as your lead.

2. Dark Times

(From the video description because it's a perfect summary) It's Christmas time in Tallahassee, and the employees of the Blue Skies Nuclear Power plant are gearing up for the best holiday party ever. However, after a reactor meltdown, and total evacuation, they'll soon find out that the woods this year aren't exactly filled with holiday cheer.

Why it's worth watching
While the point of view camera is very effective (along with the transitioning view from human to zombie), one of the coolest things about this movie is the foreshadowing of its unbelievable ending.

From the start, we notice that something must be going on besides a "simple" zombie apocalypse. Helicopters are shown firing at something that is clearly not at ground level. The zombies keep reacting and moving towards something that is somehow able to take their single minded focus off of the hunt for human flesh.

When the end does come, Peter Horn and Jared Marshall deliver in a way that is immensely satisfying while still leaving us with a desire to see what comes next.

1. Charlie Bit My Finger

The hit viral video of the same name gets reimagined with a horror twist as Charlie tries to defend his family from a horde of undead...and eventually, from himself.

Why it's worth watching
Director Jeff Chan was commissioned by the 2011 World Wide Short Film Festival to make a promo utilizing the popularity of the viral video showing a baby biting his brother's finger. The end result is one of the most viscerally terrifying short zombie films you will ever see.

Shot in a POV style like the last entry (and proving that people's vision does in fact shade into a red tint when they are infected), this film creates more scares, desperation, and drama in less than 90 seconds than most films could ever hope to achieve in 90 minutes.

And that's it folks. I hope that you enjoyed the films on this list and that they provided something to tide you over while we all wait for Lori to get killed on The Walking Dead. If I missed any that you feel should have been on here, please leave them in the comments section below.

And if you are a filmmaker that made one of the awful movies
I left off the list, feel free to plead your case...or threaten to eat my brains.

For more scary short films, check out's Top 10 Scary Short Films list

Please feel free to leave a comment below. If you'd like to sing my praises or tell me how terrible I am more personally, I can also be found on Twitter.