Thanks for the advent of the Internet, there’s millions of short films that you can watch at any given time. But no other genre of short films enjoy more success online than the horror short film. I’ve spent the last decade devouring horror short films of every kind to help become a better horror filmmaker myself. So I thought to myself – why not share some of my favorite horror short films to the world?
So without further ado, these are 10 of the terrifying horror short films online that have stayed with me. Strap in.
Perhaps the most famous horror short film online and the only one in this list that was adapted into a hit feature-length horror film. David F Sanberg’s Lights Out is a prime example of what you can achieve with one location, one actor and minimal production resources. It’s a simple yet terrifyingly effective idea that is expertly executed. Watch his other short films too, which are just as inventive when it comes to scaring the audience.
One Last Dive
It’s not an easy task to scare someone in the span of sixty seconds, but this short film is an example of one that achieves that magnificently. Directed by Jason Eisener, it’s a technical achievement that uses great sound design and the illusion of a one-take to create a riveting short film.
Vienna Waits for You
The longest film in this list but perhaps the most effective, Vienna Waits For You is one of my favorite horror shorts that really takes the well-worn ‘girl moves into a cheap house that’s haunted’ setup and crafts something that’s incredibly unsettling and has visuals that will stay with you forever. Saying too much about it will spoil the fun so make sure you check it out.
Though moments of Vicious remind me of Lights Out, it’s an excellent short film that revels in some build-up and then pays that off with some of the best staged horror set-pieces I’ve seen in short films. It then sustains that momentum all the way until the unforgettable final shots and overall is a worthy entry to the ‘things that go bump in the night’ subgenre of horror.
Bloody Cuts is a series of great short films by UK horror filmmakers and Don’t Move might be the most effective one of them all. While most horror films are about running away from the monster, the premise of Don’t Move ensures that everyone has to be still and quiet. It’s a great reversal of a trope that leads to some very gory and exciting moments that make this worth the watch.
This is one of the earliest short films I watched online and even now it still holds up. There’s something especially creepy about horror films that deal with current social media technology and Chatter takes video-chatting to a terrifying new place with some excellent sound design and performances.
Continuing the theme of horror short films about technology, Alexia is an incredibly effective short film that takes almost entirely in a bedroom with a computer but has a strong impact. Using Facebook in terrifying ways, Alexia is about the perils of dead relationships gone one step too far.
Horror films about babysitters is a well-worn cliche, but Red Balloon tells an effective story of a babysitter on the worst night of her life. The shots are brilliantly staged, the production value oozes from every frame, and the third act is a roller-coaster ride of tension.
2AM: The Smiling Man
Based on a very creepy Internet short story, 2AM: The Smiling Man is deceptively where it’s spooky and oddly hilarious at the same time all thanks to one central performance and sound design that plays it restrained. One of the most unique short films in this list.
He Dies At The End
For the end, I want to end on a lighter note. He Dies At The End is a short film that’s an exercise in building tension without any fancy visuals or production value. No one speaks throughout the black and white short film but the build-up is unbearable and the ending releases it on an oddly hilarious but very effective manner. It’s worth a watch because of that ending alone.
BONUS – Sleight
As an unexpected 11th entry, I thought I’d use it to plug my own supernatural short film Sleight. I made it after learning from the great filmmakers above and it also takes place in one location with only one actor but hopefully goes in places you don’t expect.