It’s halfway to Halloween, and to celebrate I have been hiding from the sun in my blanket fort watching horror shorts. Today, we look at five brief bits of terror well worth checking out as we tick off the days until October.
All shorts available for free on YouTube.
The Rizzle (2018)
Director: Josh Tanner
Hulu’s Huluween is a fantastic place to find shorts, and their lineups are almost always worth looking through. My personal favorite is The Rizzle, a terrifying look at TikTok dances. A young woman (Holly Rooth) stumbles across a video of an old-timey vaudeville dance called The Rizzle. Despite it having no other viewers, she decides to imitate it for social media. The monster that comes crawling out of the screen is pants-shittingly scary. What makes the short so powerful is its incredible sound design and heartbreaking ending.
Don’t Peek (2020)
Director: Julian Terry
Admittedly, Don’t Peek is kind of a ripoff of the viral megahit Lights Out, but if you go in ready to forgive that then the film is actually lightyears better. Director Julian Terry introduces a neat new element into the format by having the protagonist (Katie Cetta) discover that her game of Animal Crossing is somehow allowing her to control objects in the real world. Initially delighted, she’s soon stalked by a monster intent on getting free from her Nintendo Switch. Fans of Lights Out will see the ending coming from a mile away, but even with all the foreknowledge, it still made me jump in fear.
Sound From the Deep (2017)
Director: Joonas Allonen and Antti Laakso
Sound From the Deep is easily one of the most ambitious horror shorts ever made. An ocean vessel is looking for oil and gas on just south of the Arctic Circle when a mysterious noise starts to affect the crew’s minds. Things get Lovecraftian in a hurry, and Sound From the Deep makes it all work thanks to some jaw-dropping shots of the icy north and extremely impressive CGI. While a bit long for a short film, the tension is kept tight and personal as the crew slowly starts to succumb to the call of whatever is below the ice. Even at a time when Lovecraftian homages are better than they have ever been, Sound From the Deep stands out as one of the best of any length.
Director: Sean van Leijenhorst
If you prefer your horror Lynchian, then Rusty Lake’s Paradox is where you want to go. A man wakes up in a bizarre hotel room and has to uncover various mysterious through weird puzzles. It’s essentially Silent Hill: The Room, but done with such style and grace that it will hopefully make you ever forget about that turd of an entry in the franchise. Paradox is also just beautiful. The art direction is off the charts, particularly some creepy original paintings by Johan Scherft. This may be the least frightening entry on the list, but it’s far and away the one whose look will stay with you.
Portrait of God (2022)
Director: Dylan Clark
This film. This. Fucking. Film. I was not okay for several days after watching it. A researcher (Sydney Brumfield) studies a black, blank canvas called “Portrait of God” that some people say they see a deity in. She does not, but eventually her eyes begin playing tricks on her. Shot in a style reminiscent of The VVitch and Saint Maud, the short tackles religious mania well. What it lacks in the longer films' character development it more than makes up for by the incomprehensible horror of the thing in the painting. Does the researcher see God or something worse? In the end, it hardly matters, but the devastating revelation she receives is unforgettable. No horror short of the last decade has come close to the how scary Portrait of God is.