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.
90. The Tell-Tale Heart (1941)
The Tell-Tale Heart follows an unnamed narrator who becomes obsessed with an old man’s vulture-like eye. Convinced that the eye is evil and must be destroyed, the narrator carefully plans and executes a murder. However, his guilt soon begins to consume him, as he becomes tormented by the sound of the old man’s heartbeat, which he believes is growing louder and can be heard by others. Joseph Schildkraut delivers a powerful performance as the tortured narrator, capturing the character’s descent into madness with intensity and conviction. His portrayal effectively conveys the inner conflict and paranoia that Poe intended for the character. Fans of Poe’s work will appreciate this faithful adaptation, and those new to the story will be drawn into its haunting narrative and chilling atmosphere
89. Ripped (2016)
An avid gym-goer joins a late night neighborhood gym where he finds an over enthusiastic personal trainer who takes a keen interest in his routine as things take an unexpected turn for the worst. More comedy than horror, Ripped may not have you jumping out of your skin like most others on this list but what it lacks in spooks, it more than makes up for in laughs.
88. White With Red (2013)
Slenderman may be the undisputed king of creepypastas but he’s not the only heavyweight in the ring. There have been quite a number of excellent horror stories born from Internet forums and while White With Red isn’t the most well known of these, it’s effective in its simplicity. A man checks into a motel and before he goes to his room, the man behind the desk tells him not to go into the vacant room next to his. Short and sweet like the story it’s based on, White With Red wastes no time getting to its surprising ending.
87. French Doors (2001)
Steve Ayson’s supernatural short puts a twist on ‘domestic violence’ as a DIY home renovator fits a set of second-hand french doors to his doer-upper. He discovers that light isn’t all they let in. French Doors has won numerous awards but it’s great achievement is its ability to still scare the hell out of people close to a quarter century after it came out. It does for domestic renovations what Jaws did for going to the beach and since home improvements are in no way as scary as sharks, it’s even that much more impressive what Ayson was able to accomplish.
86. Portrait of God (2022)
No man shall see me and live.— Exodus 33:22. You would think that passage from the Bible would be warning enough for anyone curious enough to try and see the visage of the Almighty but for one curious artist, it only served as a challenge. Tasked with analyzing a painting that’s captured what is said to be the true face of God, an art expert has her faith and sanity tested when she finally sees it. Are you brave enough to look upon the Portrait of God?
85. Srazhenie (1986)
An animated adaptation of Stephen King’s battleground, Srazhenie is a bit of an outlier on this list since it’s more action revenge than horror, but since it’s a King adaptation most haven’t seen, I thought it should make the cut regardless. If you’ve seen the excellent mini series Nightmares and Dreamscapes, you’ve already seen this story play out with William Hurt and while that version is superior, there’s an unsettling weirdness to Srazhenie that I prefer.
84. Mr. Creak (2016)
Mr. Creak is an excellent example of a horror short film that relies on atmosphere and suspense rather than relying on gore or jump scares. It demonstrates the power of effective storytelling and the impact that can be achieved in a limited runtime. With its strong performances, skillful direction, and haunting atmosphere, Mr. Creak is a must-watch for horror fans craving a unique and unsettling experience.
83. Daddy (2012)
Clocking in at just under ten minutes, this atmospheric masterpiece takes viewers on a haunting journey that is as chilling as it is thought-provoking. The film begins with a young girl, Lucy, who finds herself trapped in a small, dimly lit room. She struggles to remember how she ended up in this nightmarish situation, her confusion and fear palpable through every frame. As the story unfolds, Lucy slowly unravels the mystery behind her imprisonment and the presence of a sinister figure known as “Daddy.” One of the most impressive aspects of Daddy is its ability to create tension and terror within such a short span of time. The claustrophobic setting, combined with minimal dialogue, showcases the director’s skill in building a sense of dread and unease. Every sound, every creak, becomes amplified, leaving the audience on edge throughout the film.
82. Suicide by Sunlight (2018)
The story follows Valentina, a vampire who is navigating the challenges of being a mother to her young daughter while living in a society that persecutes vampires. Valentina desperately tries to maintain her semblance of humanity by hiding from the sunlight, an act that becomes increasingly difficult as her daughter’s school situations force her out of her comfort zone. What sets Suicide by Sunlight apart is its ability to use the horror genre as a metaphorical exploration of societal pressures and discrimination. Through Valentina’s struggles, the film delves into the complexities of identity and the constant fear of exposure, drawing parallels to real-life experiences of marginalized communities. Suicide by Sunlight is a powerful and socially relevant horror short film that stands out for its exceptional performances, engaging story, and thought-provoking exploration of identity. It is important issues and create meaningful art.
81. Suckablood (2012)
Suckablood begins with a creepy nursery rhyme narrated by a haunting voice, setting the stage for the unsettling events to come. It immediately creates a sense of unease and anticipation, drawing the viewer into the dark and mysterious atmosphere.The main character of the film is a young girl named Tilda, who is plagued by a curious and adventurous spirit. She lives in a big, old house with her strict and overprotective mother. Tilda stumbles upon a locked door that she has been forbidden to open. However, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she decides to explore what lies behind it. As the door creaks open, the film takes a sinister turn. Tilda discovers a large, foreboding clock and a letter that warns her not to let it strike midnight. Ignoring the warning, she meddles with the workings of the clock, setting off a chain of terrifying events. A well-crafted and atmospheric horror short that effectively combines elements of suspense, horror, and dark fairy tales, Suckablood demonstrates the talents of the filmmakers in creating an unsettling and visually stunning experience that leaves a lasting impression with its haunting imagery and spine-chilling storytelling.
What are some of your favorite horror shorts? Maybe they will show up later in the list!