There will never be a winner over which format suits horror best: short or long form. And it doesn’t matter, really, because we are blessed to have both. When we need our horror fix (and yes, for some of us it is needed) but have less than 20 minutes available, short horror really does the trick.
This is not a complete list of the best short horror films on Youtube. That would be next to impossible given how many videos are uploaded daily. But this is a helpful list of short films I’ve seen that would be handy for someone beginning the foray into horror on YouTube. Many of these short films have won awards and a few are recent.
Prepare to have your hair raised and to dash desperately through any darkened rooms you encounter.
At under 10 minutes, this short film gets straight to the point in building suspense and terror. A man looks at a picture of his ex-girlfriend and feels guilty when weird occurrences leave him desperately trying to unplug. With sound effects that increase tension and makes you jump, this short film is an adorable intro to the goldmine of horror on YouTube.
It Had Pale Skin
A young girl is walking down a darkened street in suburbia. What could possibly go wrong? Horror fans know the answer to this one. Many will also wonder why the hell anyone would walk down a street that is pitch black.
Simplistic, this short will leave you horror-struck, particularly if you’re coulrophobic. Don’t know what that is? Watch the short and you will.
A woman returns home to find her front door unlocked and fears there’s an intruder.
From there, the short quickly ratchets up the tension and scares. It plays on a common experience, when familiar shapes in the day appear sinister and demonic in the night. This short film won several awards and it’s easy to see why. For extra fright, watch in a pitch-black room. You’ll swear that pile of clothes on the chair moved.
A man, asleep in his apartment, answers a knock at the door.
There’s nothing like old-timey music, creepy marionettes, and a dimly lit hallway. It calls to mind a scene from 1408 in which John Cusack tries to seek help from someone in a building across the street. If you live in a building with similar hallways, you have my sympathies.
A teenage girl is dared by her brother to play a game…in a closet.
Nothing good can come from these games. But sometimes, insatiable curiosity combined with a “don’t back down” mindset can lead to nightmares…if you’re lucky. It’s uncomfortably horrifying how many innocuous locations and objects in a home can be transformed from mundane to bone-chilling. A top recommendation from this list. Try the game yourself if you want. Let me know how it goes.
On My Way
A police officer is on his way to a Halloween party when he realizes that everyone in town has gone crazy.
People going crazy is one thing, but people going crazy on Halloween is worse. We question whether it’s genuine or a group performance put on in the spirit of the season. That leads to danger and possible death. Filmed in one continuous shot, the fear ratchets up as you experience it alongside the officer in real-time.
Two detectives investigate an empty house and encounter a scared woman searching for her missing daughter.
Scary with a twist,
Behind The Door
A young boy hides at home while something predatory lurks outside, trying to get in.
We are immediately tossed into the midst of this short horror film, and the stellar use of shadows and camera angles ratchets up our fear. And again, creepy music from a handheld radio that changes stations all on its own just increases our dread. If you hear a knock on your door while watching this, it’s a guaranteed jump scare.
An older woman hears strange sounds coming from her basement.
Honestly, there’s little as terrifying as creaky sounds, particularly when you’re home alone and the sounds are coming from another room. The sound effects for this one feel like their pulsing in time with your galloping heartbeat. At under three minutes long, this one is short and scarily sweet.
A poetic, nightmare story of a little girl with an evil stepmother.
While a traditional gothic bedtime story, rhymes and all, this short is both panic-inducing and satisfying. The dramatic opening and the terrifying voice narration aptly demonstrate that this genre of horror still has life. I can hear the Beach Boys singing, “Wouldn’t it be nice if Suckablood existed?” Another top recommendation!
Penelope explores her childhood home and finds something more.
Not to be confused with Creak, this one bears more of a similarity to Suckablood. There’s something great about just getting to the meat of the horror, and still being able to build the fear. The music here deftly does it with a “wait for it” pressure that haunts as it climbs. Mr. Creak is a thoroughly chilling ride and one well worth taking.
A young man heads to a new gym to work out and get buff.
A bit of a cheat as it’s more comedic than scary, Ripped is still well worth your time. There is some fear and scares but overall this is just an enjoyable trip with a great twist. Kudos to showcasing how annoying and problematic overly helpful people can be. Never fun to be lurky.
Is That You?
Whitney is at home on Halloween night when she sees someone outside her house.
Terror on Halloween may be a common story; however, they never grow old. Watching people run around in costumes for Halloween when you suddenly notice someone standing still is creepy enough. What adds to it is that, thanks to the mask, you can’t tell if they are simply facing your direction or staring at you. You can’t see what intent lies in the eyes. And how do we know that it is indeed a costume? Add this to your watchlist and enjoy the spine-tingling intro music.
Working late to finish a project, a woman realizes someone or something is stalking her.
It may hit too close to home for some who have not only worked late at a job, but have been the last one out the door. The silence in an empty building increases your unease alongside the protagonist. When there is sound, it’s even worse, vibrating, and pulse-shredding. Enjoy and never work late at work again.
“What’s up bro?”
A man at home is looking at investment options when he gets a text message from an unknown number.
The style of this one, from the cinematography to the ruse of yellow shades, is inspired. The camera angles raise the hairs on your neck as the unknown texter quickly goes from harmless to code red. The surprise may not alleviate all your fears because we all know what they say about karma.
I Love You, Jamie
Wes is working late when a presence stalks him through the job while his partner watches online.
There’s something voyeuristic about our addiction to watching the real lives of people online. This story amps it up by making the lady an unwitting purveyor of Wes’s imminent danger. It’s also reminiscent of the Scream franchise as it becomes horror within horror. If you’re a fan of films like Host on Shudder, this may be in your wheelhouse.
A man is having nightmares.
The description does little to convey how great this short film is, and it is scary. The film takes place in a bedroom with a man in the midst of gripping nightmares. It has horror, loss, and trauma, and in the end, you still won’t be sure what was real. At under four minutes, it’s an essential watch.
A woman gets into an argument with her boyfriend in a public bathroom. When he leaves, she hears strange sounds coming from the stall beside hers.
Another short film that deals with sadness and what that can cause or create when allowed to fester, it’s a wonderful use of lighting, atmosphere, and makeup. Pain and sorrow is a nightmare in itself, but perhaps sometimes it can foster something more.
A woman is asleep in bed when her television turns on in the living room.
A lot of short films build up the terror, easing from zero to 100. Granted, many of these short films reach 100 faster, but Play Time starts at around 50, then leaps to 100, and all you can do is tremble and clutch at whatever is nearby: a pillow, a toy, a person. Superbly done sound effects combined with makeup makes this is a well-oiled horror machine.
Don’t Look Away
A lady is staying at her boyfriend’s place while he’s out of town but unfortunately, she’s not alone.
Again, we have a petrifying combo of a phone, home alone and for extra chills, the use of the camera. It’s never easy to build and maintain tension when the film takes place in one room, but it’s done with ease here. Here, it’s what you’re not seeing that freezes your blood.