From Fantastic Fest to Fantasia International Film Festival, horror shorts can have a good life on the festival circuit. But it's in the afterlife—going viral online—where horror filmmakers really get their due. Below, we've compiled a dozen of the scariest short horror films we could find streaming.
Short Horror Films
In under three minutes, this unnerving film takes a simple premise—fear of the dark—and masterfully evokes primordial horror. Are you sure you aren't just imagining things? (Also, check out the director's other films, like Not So Fast, which was shot with an IKEA trash can.) Directed by David F. Sandberg
A mansion is haunted by demonic spirits in this gripping short, featuring great cinematography to boot. Directed by Michael Chaves
The 3:07 AM Project
Timed to the release of The Conjuring, VICE tapped four of indie horror's top directors from around the world to create one-minute shorts. Inspired by the theme "3:07 AM," this short anthology features entirely different approaches to the genre: found footage, a nightmare-come-true, a one-shot slow burn jump-scare, and a creepy investigation of a shipwreck. Then, of course, there's this exchange: "Are we getting raped and murdered or something?" "No, of course we're not getting fucking raped and murdered!" Of course not. Directed by Nacho Vigalondo, Max Landis, Ti West, Jason Eisener
With nearly a half hour runtime, this is by far the longest short on our list, but it's also one of the best standalone films, regardless of genre. Shot in the picturesque Faroe Islands, this haunting film features stunning cinematography washed in muted purple-gray tones. Though it appropriates many horror tropes—it could be said that this is The Shining meets The Telltale Heart meets The Babadook—the ending is thoroughly original and twisted. Directed by Heidrik Heygum
Cinematic and exquisitely shot, this Slamdance and TIFF alum is high on atmosphere, though low on narrative. It's worth seeing if just for its precise and haunting imagery. Directed by Santiago Menghini
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and wondered if the person sharing your bed was still there? At just two minutes, this short will make you never want to ask that question again. Directed by Drew Daywalt
When Guillermo del Toro saw this short, he said, "it was one of the scariest little scenes I've ever seen." In fact, he found it so scary that he commissioned a feature-length version from the director. Directed by Andres Muschietti
The Smiling Man #1
This disturbing short, about a young girl who is terrorized by a nightmarish intruder, was written by a well-known visual effects artist as an exercise in tension-building. Directed by AJ Briones
The Smiling Man #2
Because nothing is creeper than an inexplicably smiling man, here's another variation on the theme. Directed by Michael Evans
A man is contacted by his ex-girlfriend, who committed suicide after he dumped her, via Facebook message. What happens next preys upon our deepest 21st century fears. Directed by Andrés Borghi
German filmmaker Fredrik S. Hana frequents genre festivals like Fantastic Fest with his gruesome but beautifully-shot shorts. Shot in poetic black-and-white, this one is the cryptic story of an isolated fisherman who makes a Faustian bargain. Directed by Fredrik S. Hana.
The Cop Cam
When a police officer responds to a call at an abandoned house, he gets more than he bargained for. Directed by Isaac Rodriguez
The Captured Bird
That Guillermo del Toro Executive Produced this little gem is no surprise—it's got his fingerprints all over it. From a lonely child to beautifully rendered CGI creatures, this one might as well have presaged Pan's Labyrinth. Directed by Jovanka Vuckovic
As zombie films are wont to be, this one is more entertaining than outright scary. But it does boast some impressive practical effects, including an undead kangaroo (because why not?). Directed by Ryan Coonan https://youtu.be/XiOtklXEe6Q
Up Next: The 50+ Best Short Films on YouTube
Liked these short horror films? We have a whole list of other genres you may enjoy as well.