In the realm of horror, brevity can sometimes intensify a thrill, leaving you clutching your book or clinging to the edge of your seat. Some of literature’s most enduring nightmares are short-form. Neither MR James nor HP Lovecraft have a novel to their name, yet they’re amongst the most famous authors of horror and it could be argued King and Barker’s most successful works are their short stories.
In the world of film, there are numerous examples of directors using shorts as a launchpad to bigger and better things. Huge directors such as Raimi, Wan, Waititi, and Burton all got their start with shorts and newer directors such as Bruckner, Sandberg, Muschietti and Jennifer Kent are all finding similar success with theirs as well. Based on how many there are and how well most of them do on YouTube and other platforms, there’s clearly an appetite for bite-size horror and the market doesn’t look to be drying up anytime soon.
In this list, we’ll delve into some of the greatest horror short films ever created, each possessing the unique ability to send shivers down your spine in mere minutes. So, let’s dim the lights, embrace the darkness, and venture into a world where fear lurks around every corner.
These are the 100 Greatest Horror Shorts of All Time.
100. Within the Woods (1978)
Despite its technical flaws, budgetary constraints and amateurish acting, Within the Woods remains a significant piece of horror cinema history. It serves as a starting point for Raimi’s later successes, showcasing his innovative approach to a genre that he would eventually master. For fans of Raimi or the Evil Dead series, Within the Woods offers an intriguing glimpse into the early stages of his filmmaking career and the birth of a horror icon.
99. Ward 13 (2003)
Speaking of Raimi, one of his favorite shorts is Ward 13 and it’s easy to see why. The pacing is relentless, ensuring that there is never a dull moment. The action sequences are well choreographed and keep you on the edge of your seat and the editing is frantic, ensuring you never get bored. Ward 13 is a thrilling and adrenaline-fueled ride that captures your attention from start to finish and has some of the smoothest stop motion animation this side of Harryhausen.
98. Green Vinyl (2004)
Before he’d go on to make the critically acclaimed Neighbouring Sounds, Kleber Mendonça Filho directed this creepy little tale. A mother and her daughter live in an apartment in Recife. The mother gives her daughter a box of old colored records with children’s music. She can listen to anything apart from the green vinyl. If she does, it will have tragic consequences. Effectively combining suspense, mystery, and a clever twist, Green Vinyl delivers an eerie experience that will linger long after it’s over.
97. Don’t (2007)
Fake trailers in movies is nothing new but Grindhouse took it to another level. Enlisting three genre heavyweights to help recreate one of Tarantino’s movie nights, the film’s fake trailers are one of it’s highlights. Rob Zombie and Eli Roth both knocked theirs out of the park but Edgar Wright’s is easily the best. With a movies worth of jump scares and dripping with eerie atmosphere (along with his trademark humor), Don’t is a short you DON’T want to miss.
96. The Chair (2023)
Instead of relying on cheap jump scares or excessive gore, The Chair relies on psychological fear to chill the viewer to the bone. Unnerving soundscapes help to build tension and amplify the visual scares. Each creak, whisper, and ominous noise contributes to the unsettling atmosphere, keeping viewers on high alert throughout the film’s short runtime. This minimalistic approach enhances the sense of dread, allowing the viewer’s imagination to fill in the gaps. It proves that sometimes less is more when it comes to generating genuine scares.
95. Zygote (2017)
The story unfolds in a dystopian future where a mining corporation, CPH4, has been extracting a valuable resource from a remote location. When an accident occurs at the facility, the surviving workers find themselves in a terrifying situation. The accident has generated a hybrid creature made up of the combined DNA of the workers, resulting in a grotesque and relentless creature known as a “zygote.” Directed by Neill Blomkamp, known for his work on movies such as District 9 and Elysium and starring Dakota Fanning and Jose Pablo Cantillo, Zygote gives blockbuster thrills on a small budget.
94. What We Do In The Shadows: Interviews With Some Vampires (2005)
Before there was a movie and two TV shows, What We Do In The Shadows was a hilarious short. Like the movie, it follows Viago, Vladislav, Deacon, and Petyr, who are centuries-old vampires struggling to adapt to modern life. They grapple with mundane tasks like paying rent, doing house chores, and dealing with conflicts among themselves. Filled with witty dialogue, subtle visual gags, and hilarious situations, the comedy is both clever and irreverent, poking fun at vampire tropes and popular culture references. The film doesn’t shy away from absurdity, embracing the ridiculousness of the vampire lifestyle and turning it into comedic gold.
93. The Blue Door (2017)
The Blue Door is a remarkable short film that excels in storytelling, visuals, and performances. It skillfully navigates complex themes of regret and the fragility of life, leaving a lasting impression on its audience. Paul Taylor’s direction, Nicholas Hope’s stellar acting, and the film’s poignant message combine to create a moving and thought-provoking experience. One of the film’s strengths lies in its ability to leave a lasting impact on the viewer. The Blue Door raises profound questions about the choices we make and their consequences, urging us to reflect on our own lives and the paths we have taken. It serves as a reminder that even when life feels bleak and hopeless, there may always be a glimmer of opportunity and redemption waiting behind a metaphorical blue door.
92. Latched (2017)
A mother and son venture into the woods for some quality time together, only to encounter a mysterious creature that throws their lives into chaos. The chemistry between the two leads is believable, you really feel as though the two are related but as good as they are, it’s really the creature that’s the stand out. The filmmakers have taken a unique approach by constructing a creature that is simultaneously terrifying and captivating. The attention to detail in the creature’s physical appearance, as well as the seamless integration of practical effects, brings an extra layer of authenticity to the film’s horror elements.
91. Six Men Getting Sick (1967)
Made during his time at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Six Men Getting Sick was Lynch’s directorial debut and his signature motifs are already present. The film starts with a black-and-white static shot of a building exterior, setting an eerie atmosphere right from the beginning. Suddenly, six disfigured and contorted faces appear on the surface of the building, accompanied by a crescendo of cacophonous sounds. These distorted faces begin to vomit, and their sickness is conveyed through the use of animated paint overlaid on the film footage. It’s grotesque, it’s surrealistic and 100% Lynch.
What are some of your favorite horror shorts? Maybe they will show up later in the list!