Happy Halloween! We once again return to the spookiest time of the year and seek to provide those who are after a good scare with a selection of terrifying shorts from the past year of independent cinema. As I mentioned in my recommendations from last year, when I’m not writing for Directors Notes I run horror website Twelve Cabins which is an online platform dedicated to exploring the best in independent horror. So it’s always nice to reflect on the work being done in horror as whole over the last year or so and make note of a few standout films for DN’s audience to enjoy. This year’s selection is an enticing mixture that covers a decent breadth of horror sub-genres too; from horror comedies about satanic cults to disgusting body horrors about maniacal bogeys. There really is something for every type of horror fan.
Meet Jimmy – David-Jan Bronsgeest
David-Jan Bronsgeest’s short Meet Jimmy is a terrifying take on the contemporary popular obsession with serial killers. Similarly to how Ring and Rob Savage’s Host tapped into the searing fear found in major cultural moments, Bronsgeest’s short twists a trend that has become more noticeable over the last few years due to the plethora of documentaries populating every major streaming platform and podcasts sitting atop the download charts. I would recommend watching this one with the headphones on too as there is some exquisite sound design that amps up the sadistic tension even more. Then, to decompress, following it up with my in-depth interview with Bronsgeest over on Twelve Cabins.
Cubicle – Chloë Wicks
Solely from a technical level, Chloë Wicks’ compact horror Cubicle is an impressive feat of filmmaking. It was shot in a single day on a budget of £160 yet boasts great visual language and clever, unsettling sound design, but it’s also just damn scary. It follows a woman who heads into a toilet cubicle to take a pregnancy test before she’s interrupted by some worrying noises coming from the next stall along. From that point onwards, Wicks and her team venture into some genuinely unsettling territory. DN was lucky enough to premiere Cubicle earlier in the year and spoke with Wicks here, where she delves into the eye-opening process of maximising restricted budgets and tight timescales.
The Front Door – Andrew Rutter
I like to think of Andrew Rutter’s short The Front Door as the healthy dose of pure horror humour in this list. A moment of comedic respite amongst the tense offerings either side of it. The premise is straightforward, a man is lying in his bed at night when his partner asks him to go downstairs and see if the front door is locked. When he decides to go down and have a look, he’s met by a baffling presence. I won’t go any further as it’ll spoil the joy of experiencing Rutter’s excellent writing and direction for the first time. Also, in exciting news, DN will soon be speaking to Rutter for his upcoming short Peter the Penguin very soon, which we can reassure you is as equally bonkers and brilliant as The Front Door.
Flick – Ariel Zengotita
Within the ostensibly childish premise of Ariel Zengotita’s Flick lies some truly interesting comments on the nature of anxiety, obsession and psychological spirals. Zengotita’s film is a body horror first and foremost but like most great body horrors it highlights something much larger about the human condition. It’s about a recluse who becomes at war with an immovable booger which brings forth his own self-destructive nature. It was fascinating to catch up with Zengotita at the beginning the year for the premiere of Flick with DN where he revealed how his team embraced practical effects for their delightfully disgusting short which they see as an ‘anti-kaiju’ film, a sentiment they doubly embraced when developing its exceptionally bonkers soundtrack.
Time Out – Ethan Evans
We’re bookending our selection this year with short films that touch up on the hyper digital age. Whereas Meet Jimmy was a comment on the culture, Ethan Evans’ short Time Out was a genuine viral hit. It started as a social experiment where Evans was curious to see if he could cause a viral success after stumbling upon an impressively creepy and lifelike Time Out Doll. Evans and his team then decided to tell their story using Instagram stories which cleverly broke down any sense of filmmaking artifice and increased the film’s realism, leading to it make massive traction online. I spoke with Evans over at Twelve Cabins where he broke down his thought-process, proving that you only need a phone to create something truly terrifying.
If you have a film that you’d like us to consider for future DN collections submit it here.