The short film is an often under-appreciated medium. Whilst it can’t weave the same complex narratives as its feature-length counterparts, the short is something of an art-form all its own. Having to balance clear story-telling beats alongside extremely tight editing and a limited runtime really forces filmmakers to strike a careful balance between what is necessary and what is not.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the horror genre. Whilst in the medium of a short film it faces all the usual challenges, it also has to do its very best to freak you out. Managing to produce a credible piece of cinema work that also leaves you feeling a bit sick by the end of its very brief run is nothing short of miraculous.
From self-produced YouTube pieces to auteur-backed independent anthologies, horror shorts can seemingly appear from just about anywhere. The thing that unites these following eight pieces is one thing though; they’re disturbing.
What gives each piece its own 'ick' varies massively from film to film but this is the common thread nonetheless. Given the average run time of this medium, it’s impossible not to discuss spoilers so fair warning for the titles ahead.
8. Saw 0.5
It may not be common knowledge now but the Saw franchise started life as a self-produced short film. Made independently by future mega-directors James Wan and Leigh Whannell for only $2000, this feat of filmmaking is even more impressive when measured against the behemoth intellectual property that it ended up spawning.
Clocking in at under ten minutes, the short follows David - played by Whannell himself - recounting to the police how he was kidnapped, placed in the iconic reverse bear trap and forced to cut open his fellow captive to escape. The scene will be familiar to any fans of the franchise as it was reshot and recast to be used as a pivotal sequence in the feature-length version.
Given the shoestring budget and the future maestros’ lack of experience, the film is admittedly a bit ropey. It’s worth remembering, however, that this short film essentially kickstarted the Torture Porn genre.
This is back in 2003 long before audiences were desensitized to such graphic depictions of sadistic violence. In this era, the content of Saw 0.5 (as it was affectionately named after the fact) was disturbing enough to revolutionize the horror genre for the next decade. The impact this ten-minute knockout had on the industry simply can’t be understated.