The Beauty of Short Horror Films

Short horror films use a bare bones approach to storytelling to craft films to send chills down your spine.
on Mar 31, 2021 · 9 comments

Looking for something to entertain me horror-wise, I traveled to YouTube. Finally, I found what I was looking for.

Unlike their big budget or low budget longer counterparts, short horror films work very quickly to tell a story. The story doesn’t have to be completely flushed out, but you need to get the gist of what’s happening. Some of the short films are anywhere from three minutes to ten. Some a little longer like twenty minutes.

The movies I’ve listed below are on YouTube. If you decide to click on them, the thumbnail will reveal the scary image of the film. This is to attract viewers to the channel and entice potential subscribers.

The Beauty of Short Horror Films

Simple storylines.

In the short film titled, Polaroid, which is only three minutes long, we follow a young man who just moved into an apartment. He finds an old polaroid camera. Bemused, he takes a picture with it. And what he sees starts his journey in horror.

Within the first maybe five or ten seconds, without any dialogue, you pick up on these cues. The director staged everything so well that even the most passive viewer can see it.

Plot driven acts.

In these short films, it’s not necessary to know about the characters’ entire personal history. Depending on the type of story it is, we only need to know enough to follow their path. The purpose is to build tension within a short time frame. In She Knows, a five-minute film, we don’t know much about the main character. We only see the results of his actions as he hides the body…and what happens after that.

Sound effects, lighting, and space.

I think sound effects in these short films can really amp up the creepiness. Hearing a maniacal laughter in the background, crying, the creaking and cracking of bones, wind shrieking, a timid voice, a deep growl, all of those bring forth visceral reactions. In Reflection, another three minutes short, we have no idea who the woman is brushing her teeth. We don’t care. All we do care about as she’s doing something completely innocuous, we see the edge of something strange behind her in the mirror. Throughout the short is this weird laugh throughout that adds another level to strange to it.

The lighting and spacing in the movie created a claustrophobic feel. Evoking that sense brought you deep into the film. Tight spaces, darkness, and shadows are a recipe for creepiness.

Jump scares are a stable of horror films. Something jumps out at you when you least expect it. This technique can be overused to the point you no longer feel the impact of the scare.


Due to the limited nature, some shorts have the capacity to craft a well-rounded story that leaves the viewer to guess what it means. This ambiguous aspect adds to the tension but in a more subtle way. “Make Me a Sandwich” explores domestic abuse and its psychological effects on the victim. The special effects weren’t the greatest, but the acting really made the film standout. As we follow our abused wife as she hurriedly answers her husband’s constant calls for another sandwich, we start to wonder at the happenings between this couple. The disgust factor in this three-minute film adds that weirdness to it. the husband chomps, and chomps, and chomps on the sandwich – no matter what’s in it. When we arrive at the end of this film, we find ourselves wondering about our own state of mind.

In “Lili”, an excellent eight minute film, it’s entirely dominated by two people. A man who remains mostly off-camera and a woman, an actress auditioning for a role. Her acting skills are phenomenal to anyone listening and watching her…but the guy behind the camera wants her to do a bit more. Echoing sentiments of the MeToo movement along with feminine empowerment, when we get to the end, it’s not what you think.


These films are predictable – that’s why we like them! We know someone’s going to get it. We know something dreadful is going to happen. We want to be the ones safely ensconced behind our monitors or our TVs in the living room and holler at the screen. “Don’t go in there!” “Don’t open the door!” “Stay away from the ancient demonic artifact!”

When you look in the comment section on YouTube, the commentary can get hilarious. In Lights Out, the not-even-three-minute film that became a full-length feature that grossed 150 million dollars, we’re screaming at the lady to ‘Keep the lights on!’ She does that. Then we heard creaking footsteps and we’re like, “Get out of the room!”

But we know she’s going to stay there. Ultimately, we really don’t want her to get out the room. We need to see the monster, the goblin, the ghost, the alien what have you.

This doesn’t mean that all short horror films are good. Due to the limits some are pretty bad. But why spoil it for you?

Looking through these short horror films, I noticed something a few things about them. There are more knowledgeable people about the film industry than me so please take these below ideas in a general sense of someone on the outside looking in.

  1. Many of them were amateur movie makers. The makers weren’t well-known directors or had thousands of dollars at their disposal. They had a vision and worked at executing it.
  2. Many of them used what was available. This means they called in friends, used their own vehicles, houses, borrowed clothes, and other favors. Many of them are scaled back in production design.
  3. Those moviemakers who continued to make movies got better at making movies. Practice makes perfect. With the kind of technology out there, some of it free to download, use, share, and connect, more people are going at it.
  4. Movies is an art form, not just entertainment. Most like to tell stories.
  5. There is a community working together.

The Advantages and Examples of Horror Writing through a Christian worldview.

Mike Duran got into a lot of trouble about advocating for this, but I contend that he’s right. Horror is an excellent vehicle that depicts the human condition, and the need for salvation vs. survival. I am reminded of Frank Peretti’s The Oath, a thoroughly enjoyable book that took a literal and symbolic view of sin and Satan in the form of a dragon and black goo.

Most people think of horror as gore. It’s not. Horror has many sub-genres like any other. Sometimes it’s psychological, mysterious, comical.

I’ve seen Christians bully Christian writers out of exploring in this genre because of their own dislike for it. Well, admittedly, not just this genre but any speculative fiction genre. Folks have a knee-jerk reaction and because they don’t like it, you shouldn’t either.

The best book I’ve read in a long time is Nate Allen’s Death is not the End, Daddy. This psychological thriller explores the story of two men – a young girl’s father and the serial killer who kidnaps his daughter. Through dark storytelling, Nate Allen explores themes of sin, spiritual warfare, forgiveness, and possible redemption through a Christian lens. I told Nate it’s the best book I’ve read. I’ve enjoyed many, many books and it’s hard to pick ‘the best’ but I picked it because it’s a powerful piece of fiction looking at God’s grace through the eyes of someone the rest of us would give up on.

Another dark novel I’ve enjoyed is Jess Hanna’s Bright Lights, Dark Skies. Exploring the nature of alien abductions and speculating if they are extra-terrestrial or something much darker. When you listen to the stories of victims of alien abductions, they’re quite frightening. They aren’t first contact with a Klingon. They aren’t aliens asking for you to ‘Take me to your leader.’

There’s something sinister beneath these incidences.

In Deborah Alten’s Mrs. Shackles, this short collection of flash fiction pieces is reminiscent of the Twilight Zone with the recurring character of Mrs. Shackles. I told Deborah I wanted to see more of this woman who acts as judge, jury, and executioner. By the time you’re finished reading it, you begin to wonder why Mrs. Shackles is the way she is.

I wouldn’t call the book horror, but it does have somber, moodier stories. Hopefully, she continues to write more.

I sense there are those in the community of Christian speculative fiction writers who want to explore topics in this genre. Why not? It’s not always about demonic entities but psychological thrillers, cover-ups, manipulations and so much more. In fact, forget the demonic forces at large. What people do to each other can be quite frightening. Maybe you don’t want to go the spiritual or monster route. You don’t have to. The creep factor is what you make of it.

Horror is an excellent canvas to explore good vs. evil, light vs. dark, survival vs. salvation and a whole host of themes. I think it would be even better written within the context of a Christian worldview.

Parker J. Cole is an author, speaker, and radio show host with a fanatical obsession with the Lord, Star Trek, K-dramas, anime, romance books, old movies, speculative fiction, and knitting. An off-and-on Mountain Dew and marshmallows addict, she writes to fill the void the sugar left behind. To follow her on social media, visit her website at
  1. notleia says:

    Welp, this post has been sitting awhile with nothing, so I’m not going to feel very bad about hijacking it.

    I had two unrelated topics I could blather about: the anime Youjo Senki, or the phenomenon of unchurched believers. I suppose I will take pity on my audience and talk about unchurched believers.

    Unchurched believers is a subject that a lot of church leaders have FEELINGS about, yet TBH it’s the logical end result of Protestantism in general. As I see it, the main benefit of corporate worship is because humans are social creatures and we like doing stuff in social situations. It absolutely baffles me that church leaders INSIST that corporate church is NOT about fulfilling the congregation’s social needs, because then why would you bother if you could just stay home and do some Sola Scriptura by yourself?
    In my opinion, corporate church-ness had always been at least somewhat about fulfilling the needs of the congregation. It’s just a matter of what those needs were and how they’ve shifted in the last decade or so. It used to be that your status as a respectable person was maintained by church attendance, no matter if you were fervent or just lukewarm or cultural, you parked your butt in a pew. One way to get access to rich/powerful people was to attend the same church. In college I attended the same church as the dean of the liberal arts college of my university. We pretty much never talked, both being introverts, but he was at least aware of who I was. But now church is not the only ways and means to have a social life or have social clout or even maintain your veneer of respectability, so if corporate church isn’t meeting SOME kind of need for the individual, of course they’re going to opt out. And I don’t think that’s even a bad thing, because you cannot give out of an empty pot. People function better when they get their needs met. In fact, a lot of harm comes from people having no legitimate outlet to get their needs fulfilled and end up doing it by hook or crook. So in conclusion, I support people’s right to vote with their feet and leave congregations that don’t suit them, and the people who get their shorts in a wad over it should stuff it. It’s pretty rare to be able to change a dysfunctional system from inside, and even when it is possible, it takes a hella lot of emotional labor to accomplish it.

    • Audie Thacker says:

      From what I’ve seen, both by personal experience and from what others have themselves experienced, the church nowadays is little more than a show, and that’s frustrating to me. I’ve seen it in, for example, preachers who say certain things in order to get responses from their listeners, even essentially begging for such responses with statements like “Can I get an “amen”?” or “Ya’ll need to get excited about that, you know!” There’re also the churches that appeal strongly to emotions, trying to get people worked up, dancing around, or running to the altar to pray loud and long. These are just a couple of ways I’ve seen it, with a bit of thought I think I could bore people with even more examples.

      The social aspect of church is one I’ll admit I’m very weak at. Even in the early church in Acts, it seems to have been there in some way–the church did more than have weekly meetings, they also cared for each other and had some measure of fellowship in each other’s houses. But I’m not sure the church is doing that so much now, though I can hope I’m being unfair in thinking that. What I see is a church that, for example, wants people to tithe so they can not only pay the bills and keep the doors open, but also create elaborate stage sets, set up multi-site campi here and there and everywhere, and basically just make the church more and more of a show, or a product to be consumed.

      There was a time I attended a church that had liturgical services, and I think there is a lot to be said for such services. There was more participation from the people attending, they weren’t just there to sit in the seats, listen while the praise band had their mini-concert, then listen further to an amateurish motivational speech/comedy routine. They could pray along with the prayers, the scripture readings may have been responsive, they could participate when it came time for the Lord’s Table. There was overall a certain dignity to the service that is missing in the fun and games church of today.

    • Audie Thacker says:

      I read this article a few days ago, and it seems to be about what you’re writing about.

      It’s about what’s called “third places”, places that are neither home nor work, but other places where people gather and interact. I don’t remember if churches are mentioned, but if so, it still doesn’t focus on them.

      I’m not sure if the church would fit well in the category of “third places”. It may in some ways, but it’s also very different. The church isn’t a restaurant, a library, or a coffee house. But fellowship is a part of church, the church is in some way a family, even if it’s often one with more than its share of problems.

      I have a difficult time seeing the church as a social gathering, or a place where we go to meet people and make contacts and connections. I’ll not say there is no social aspect, though, or that it is unimportant.

      • notleia says:

        Hold on, my pinko tendencies are getting the better of me and I’m trying to suppress a screed about how capitalism is ruining third places because there are very few places where you can go and spend time in a public place without being expected to purchase something.
        Coffeehouses mostly get a pass because the ratio of purchase to time spent at that place is veeeerrry forgiving. Like, it is frowned upon to buy a Big Mac and then chill out at Mickey D’s for three hours using the wi-fi, but no one is side-eying you for the potential sin of homelessness if you do it at the coffeeshop.

  2. Audie Thacker says:

    Not so long ago, new content was put up here at Spec Faith almost every weekday. That’s changed, and a lot.

    I’d guess the focus is moving from Spec Faith to Lorehaven, or maybe that Spec Faith is now a part of Lorehaven. That’s fine, thing’s like that change, but the Spec Faith side of things does appear to be overlooked of late.

    If Spec Faith is being phased out or somehow absorbed into Lorehaven, maybe it’s best to just go ahead and end it or absorb it. As it is now, Spec Faith feels like what was once a nice little bustling old-west community that had now become a ghost town, or maybe even worse the slum to a shine new city.

    • notleia says:

      Heyyyyyy fellow weeb :), this is all the excuse I need to also talk about Youjo Senki. I don’t like using the English title/subtitle “The Saga of Tanya the Evil,” because that’s too loaded but it also prompts the question of what about Tanya is evil, exactly.


      It’s pretty reductive to say that he/she/aitsu is evil, because they’re written more like a clinical psychopath. Also, how do you feel about Kami-sama being written as a manipulative villain, even against a psychopathic antihero? I mean, Kami-sama should be aware that psychopaths are born, not made, but how does that butt up against your feelings on who you root for (besides waifu-bait Sergeant Visha)?

      • Audie Thacker says:

        Afraid I know very little about Tanya, sorry. Haven’t watch any of it.

        Outside of keeping up with Re:Zero last season and with MHA this season, I’ve been working through an older series, Last Exile. A series that started this season that I’m anticipating is 86, I’ve been reading the light novels, and if the series can adapt the first few volumes it should be well worth a shot.

        • notleia says:

          86 looks less funny than Full Metal Panic (dunno if that’s a recommendation b/c I couldn’t get into FMP either), but at least it’s a seinen. I’m just not that interested in shounen at this point in my life (signs I am becoming a common Old).

          • Audie Thacker says:

            Shonen’s a mixed bag. A lot of it comes off as same-old-same-old. I’ve enjoy MHA quite a bit, though. In the manga, they’ve very recently had a huge tonal shift, almost like it’s going from a Superman type of story to a Batman type.

            Yeah, at least at first, 86 isn’t a very humorous story. In the novels, it does have some lighter moments later on, but initially it’s pretty heavy.

            Think I started FMP once, didn’t get far into it. Nothing against it, maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for humor at that time. Outside of something like Tonari no Seki-kun, though, I guess I haven’t gotten much into comedic anime.

What do you think?