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.
80. We Summoned a Demon (2017)
This 5-minute movie follows the comedic misadventures of two friends, Steve and Chad, as they attempt to conjure a demon. Equipped with a pentagram drawn on the floor and a book of demonic rituals but with no clear indication of what they’re doing or why they’re even doing it, it becomes immediately evident that these characters are not skilled in the occult and are in way over their heads. As they recite the incantation, an unexpected twist takes place. Instead of summoning a fearsome and powerful demon, they bring forth a goofy, pizza-loving creature named Hastur who seems more interested in having a good time than being a loyal subservient. What follows is a battle of wills against two power hungry goofs and a party hungry demon. The short works as a great showcase for the directors
79. Alexia (2013)
Although Alexia, Franco’s ex-girlfriend, committed suicide a number of years ago, he still has her as a contact on his social network. When his new girlfriend finally convinces him to delete delete get from his contacts and move on with his life, his computer starts to malfunction and some thing strange and sinister manifests through the web and into his life. Maybe a click isn’t enough to leave the past behind.
78. Love Hurts (2009)
After an argument with her boyfriend, a woman enters a public toilet heartbroken, unconsciously her tears awaken a darker force and it appears that she is not alone anymore. The original title was “What becomes of the broken-hearted” but the director preferred something shorter and renamed it Love Hurts which is far more appropriate. At just six minutes, the short makes the most of its scant elements — a loud noise, a pool of blood and a demon — and delivers a memorable horror experience.
77. Don’t Peak (2020)
I predict Julian Terry will be the next in a long line of directors who got their start in shorts. Nurse, Whisper and They Hear It are all bangers but Don’t Peek will finally get him the attention he deserves. A young woman discovers a frightening video game character intent on crossing into the real world. A simple concept that’s easy to build upon and a great monster that would look great on the big screen, Don’t Peek has all the makings of a future horror classic if it was expanded to feature length.
76. Ignore It (2016)
Based on the viral NoSleep story “You’re Going to Notice a Woman in Your Home, You Must Ignore Her…”, Ignore It involves a family struggling to cohabitate with a malevolent spirit that becomes violent whenever its presence is acknowledged. Tense and filled with dread, the short is dripping with atmosphere and is a great metaphor for how people ignore their problems until it’s far too late. And like a lot of entries on this list, it all leads to an unforgettable conclusion.
75. Creak (2015)
When asked what the scariest thing is, Stephen King didn’t say a machete wielding maniac hunting you in the woods or a killer clown hiding in the sewers, he said it’s that feeling you have when you’re all alone in your house and you feel something brush against your arm when you’re laying down or when you hear a strange noise like a creak when no one could possibly be in the house with you. Which is exactly what Creak is about. An older woman hears strange sounds coming from her basement and proceeds to investigate what it is. The sound effects are the start of the show for this one. They feel like their pulsing in time with your galloping heartbeat.
74. Rites of Vengeance (2017)
There’s a reason Izzy Lee was once listed as A.V. Club’s 10 female filmmakers to hire. She’s a two-time Rondo Award-nominated director with twenty shorts under her belt that all specialize in socio-political tales that pull no punches. If she’s not trying to terrify you, she’s confronting you with hard premises meant to inspire discussion. Rites of Vengeance is a five minute silent short about a group of nuns getting revenge on a priest. What the punishment is and what he did to deserve it, you’ll have to watch the short to find out. Suffice it to say, if it was any longer, it might be too much to handle.
73. The Maiden (2016)
A young real estate agent is left in charge of a haunted house. While cleaning it to get it ready for potential buyers, she is beset by all number of paranormal activities. She hears noises, nothing too ominous at first but when she goes to investigate, she’s violently attacked by an entity from the past. That would make most run out of the house screaming but she’s got a house to sell, damn it. While a tad bit unrealistic (this isn’t a comedic short), the film nevertheless delivers quality scares and a great atmosphere in a short amount of time.
72. Peephole (2016)
Sometimes all a short needs is a simple set up (a man, asleep in his apartment, is awoken to the sound of a knock at the door and goes to look through the peephole to see who it is) and familiar creepy tropes (old-timey music, creepy marionettes, and a dimly lit hallways) to deliver big scares. All Peephole wants to do is hit you with a whopper of a jump scare and it does
71. Mama (2008)
There’s a reason Del Toro immediately wanted to turn this into a feature film, it’s one of the most efficient and effective horror shorts of all time. There’s no set up, no explanation, and not even a real narrative to speak of. It’s just creepy atmosphere and a monster so instantly terrifying, it feels like it was plucked from nightmares. While the film is solid for what it is, if it was half as scary as this, we would never stop talking about it. That’s how memorable the scares are in this.
What are some of your favorite horror shorts? Maybe they will show up later in the list!