10 Horror Movies To Scare You In Under Five Minutes
Too many makers of horror shorts seem to think that “suspense” means “characters sitting or wandering around while nothing happens until there’s a loud noise.” Minutes of time get wasted looking at empty rooms, knickknacks, and other superfluous things in the hope of establishing mood or atmosphere. This makes it all the more appreciable when someone has the discipline and skill to get you hooked on a horror story in less than five minutes.
Note: Depending on your definition, many of these videos may not be safe for work or your peace of mind. Proceed with caution.
The premise of this one is much more fantastical than most horror shorts attempt to be, but the execution by a director with the alias “Broadway” is sufficiently down to Earth that it’s believable anyway. There’s no explicitly portrayed threat to anyone’s safety in it. Two children are in a bizarre apocalypse where making a loud noise makes people vanish because they get taken away by mysterious beings. They are played excellently by Chase Ramsey and J.J. Shurbert. The movie doesn’t overplay the melancholia of being alone and desperate in a world with so little hope left.
The movie’s most horrifying and heartbreaking scene, where the older brother accidentally causes a loud crash and vanishes, leaves the viewer to imagine something completely alien to human experience. The camera lingers on the younger brother’s face to let the loss that the scene means for him sink in. But since this is a world with no room for sentimentality, he merely collects what little useful material his brother had that he can carry and goes on his way.
We later see the younger brother grown into an old man, musing that although he’s since learned of other communities, he isn’t about to go join them. Pretty much all that he has left now is the hope that someday everyone who disappeared will return. This must be a dim hope, given that he’s quite aged, and it hasn’t happened yet.
9 Torture Porn
Since “torture porn” is almost universally used as a derogatory term for horror which relies on mindless violence, the title of this short from director Brandon Christensen simultaneously oversells it and sells it short. It features a scene of extreme violence, but contextualizes it in a way that is very different from what people think when they dismiss things as “porn.” No movie that simply tries to appeal to a lust for torture would use the twist that this movie does.
It begins with an anonymous person waking up restrained to a table and surrounded by cameras. Someone in surgical gear comes in and reads a statement to him saying that because he had sex with that person’s wife, he has hired the man in surgical gear to torture him to death. He begins on the space between his captive’s big toe and second toe. After suffering severe injury, the man yells “medulla.” It turns out that was the safety word, and that this is a couple in a horribly extreme sadomasochistic relationship. In the final scene, they re-watch the video, and it’s very unclear which one is deriving pleasure from it. Henry Dean and Drew Marvick both give performances that truly bring the unnerving situation to life.
8 Lot 254
If you feel that every time a jump scare is used in a horror movie a crime has been committed against horror movies, then you might want to skip this Toby Meakins film. However, you’ll also be skipping a video with excellent camerawork and sound design (minus the jump scares), an intriguing premise, and a decent performance from Adrian Schiller as the sort of person who usually doesn’t get to star in movies like this.
A camera collector is fine-tuning a recent 8-milimeter motion picture camera purchase and finds a rather curious object within it: A miniature crucifix has been placed inside it in an inconvenient spot, but it’s easily removed. Checking to see if it works and playing at filming, he winds it and then looks around the room through the eyepiece. Doing so, he gets glimpses of a strange pale being in the room with him. When he gets a good look at its face, he hears an ear-piercing shriek. Then he feels a presence behind him, something he set free when he removed that crucifix. It isn’t grateful.
7 Lights Out
With more than 10 million views for its original posting alone (and millions more from countless stolen postings on YouTube and Facebook) Lights Out is by far the best-known film on this list. There are two big reasons for this: There’s no dialogue, which is invaluable in breaking the language barrier which holds back a lot of aspiring viral videos. Also, it has a scene which establishes an intriguing pattern and then subverts it, which makes for a scene that works well for gifs.
The scene that works perfectly involves an anonymous woman (Lotta Losten) walking to her bedroom and turning off the lights of the hallway. Looking behind her, she sees what looks like a person’s shadow on the far wall. She turns the lights on, and there’s nothing there which could be casting the shadow. She turns them off and on again, repeatedly trying to find the source. On the fifth time, there’s no shadow, but there is a nude person near her. It is a very effective scare and a very original situation.
Unfortunately, many viewers will probably feel the quality of the short dips from there. Unfortunately for the many people who complain whenever characters in horror movies go into dangerous places by themselves, Losten’s character makes the weird decision to just put tape over the light switch and go to bed. She tries to hide under the covers. After a wait, she looks out and sees a mad woman with pure white eyes. Then the lights go out.
After such an intriguing beginning, seeing the somewhat odd-looking person is a bit of a letdown versus what your imagination could conjure, and the character motivation is a bit weak. Still, the first half of this short is enough to overcome the problems of the second half, and director David Sandberg deserved every accolade he got for this movie—particularly the fact that it’s now getting a feature film adaptation.
6 The Cabin
This video differs from the rest in that it’s illustrated. (It’s not animated, as there are no changes in the drawings from frame to frame.) Aside from John Lopez’s somewhat stilted narration, however, it is an intensely creepy idea effectively executed by Devin Morse. It’s not necessarily horrifying, as no one is even explicitly threatened, but it’s very creepy.
A hiker is lost in the woods at night and chances upon a one-room cabin. He finds a bed inside and is so tired that he can only think to try to sleep. In the night, he awakens to see that the cabin has three portraits on the far wall. They are excellently painted yet feature people looking forward with malevolent expressions. He tries not to look at them and eventually falls back asleep. In the morning, he sees that those were not portraits. Those were windows.
Toby Meakins returns with something very different from Lot 254. This gorgeous, creepy video is of two guys in an abandoned building. (One of them is played by Josef Altin, best known for being Pypar, a member of the Night’s Watch on Game of Thrones.) They’re undertaking a strange summoning ritual. They both take deep breaths, which manifests a female apparition.
One is new at it and understandably horrified, but the other manipulates him to keep at it. They do it again, and when she appears again, she caresses the new summoner. The more experienced one promises that things will go a lot further than that if she is summoned one last time.
The new one agrees to try again, and when she manifests, her face is right in front of his. When he can no longer hold his breath, she steals it from him. The other guy comes up behind the unfortunate newbie and smothers him. His final breath allows the woman to become corporeal, and she and the murderer share a kiss before she fades away again. Clearly, more people will be brought in for future summonings. As said, it’s very far from relying on jump scares.
4 Tuck Me In
One time on Reddit, a popular thread was posted where readers were asked to submit two-sentence horror stories. A lot of them boiled down to “There was an intruder in the house that we thought was a member of the family making a noise.” The most popular of them was credited to Juan R. Ruiz. In it, a guy looks under his son’s bed intending to reassure him that there’s no monster and finds his son under there saying “Daddy, there’s a monster in my bed.”
Ignacio F. Rodo took this story and turned it into a very popular and very short horror video starring father-and-son team Mark and Luke Scharadan. The best part of the short is that it ends before there is even the slightest hint which one of these is the real son. It’s not overtly lit or shot to emphasize the creepiness, which leaves it more believable and surprising when the horror comes in. There’s no catharsis or cheap shocks here, just an unanswerable question—one that will leave many parents unwilling to put their kids to bed at night.
With its notoriously campy tone, Doctor Who is not something that even most fans of the series would associate with horror. One of the more prominent exceptions are the “Weeping Angel” characters, statues that moved to kill people as long as they weren’t being observed. (They’re similar to the statue monster in The SCP Foundation, which came out just before the Doctor Who episode featuring the Weeping Angels.)
John Swift spent three months rendering a CGI tribute to these, and even though it looks like first-person point of view video game footage, it’s very immersive and the elements of it are introduced with great timing. First the claustrophobic brick walkways, then after a bit of a wait to build up suspense, the first weeping angel appears. It’s relatively easy to keep it in sight. Then a second appears, and it’s a constant juggling. Finally, the protagonist backs into a corner, and the flashlight goes out. Then the Angels’ eyes begin to glow.
2 Night Watchmen
This short film, another by Brandon Christensen, is all about providing just enough information to tap into the average viewer’s imagination. It pretty much has to be, since it’s only one minute long. A police officer (Brian Blu) is looking for his partner who has gone silent. He finds the partner’s vehicle abandoned but hears something on the other side of a wire fence. It’s the missing partner (Kyle Von Elzey), and he’s badly injured. Surveying the fence, the newly arrived officer sees bits of flesh and uniform in the razor wire . What could have compelled the officer to climb through razor wire? Well, the other cop is about to find out, because it’s coming up right behind him. It looks like it’s close enough that climbing through the razor wire will be his only way to escape it.
What’s especially great about Night Watchmen is that it offers the main character just enough of a chance that he can escape, and since there’s hope, the audience feels for the guy in a way they wouldn’t if he were completely doomed. But what he’ll have to do to survive is more horrible to himself than anything most of us will experience or even imagine. It’s similar to what the Saw movies were often going for without being so over the top.
1 Tea Time
Few movies are so deliberately ugly and gain so much from it. Regina Mocey is the nonspeaking lead who has clearly done something horrible before the short film begins but is trying to go about her day as if everything were normal. Eventually, the banal but pleasant music becomes eerie and dissonant as she has flash frame hallucinations of her husband. It becomes clear that things are anything but normal, for her husband is dead in the bathtub from being stabbed. When she retrieves some tools and chemicals to dispose of the body, we see that the cat’s corpse is under the sink.
There are so many touches that enhance the feeling of this short without increasing its violence. The use of 8-millimeter film stock gives it a grungy feeling without making it unwatchable. The shot of food being dumped into an already overflowing pet food bowl is subtly unnerving and an excellent way to begin showing us how horrible the situation is. The frames of her husband attacking her are jarring in a way that showing the scenes could never hope to be, as they show the husband long enough to make him look much worse than sustained shots would. It’s a shame that the director hasn’t posted any new shorts in the past six years.
Some people might argue that this shouldn’t count, as it’s a music video, and it’s animated. Also, there are touches of dark humor here and there in it. However, even without any dialogue, Jeremie Perin tells a more coherent story than many short films do and gets more emotion and feeling out of drawings than many live-action shorts can do.
Some teens sneak into a school pool to drink and have sex, except for one who’s somewhat uncomfortable with the whole situation (particularly with the idea of drinking and making out). After she jumps in the pool to escape an awkward pass, she feels something wriggling inside her shorts. Climbing out, she soon sees that two of her companions have become demonic aliens, for lack of a better description. They make short work of the boy who was making a pass at her, but the girl escapes temporarily into the pool and learns that that the bottom of the pool has become some sort of portal to another world. She goes through and immediately dies when she looks up what can only be described as a living monstrous mountain.
The ending is an homage to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The being at the end is exactly what he would have had in mind as he described Azathoth and other such cosmic monsters.
Dustin Koski took part in the creation of the short sci-fi film Get With the Times about deep brain stimulation.