Too many horror movies labor under the misconception that they need to be boring and droning to generate tension, suspense, and a sense of dread. Way too many others think they have to rely on gore or violence to get under the audience’s skin. To prove just how wrong these assumptions are, here are ten scary videos that could all be watched back-to-back within the length of a lunch break, all of which could easily air during prime time.
10. I HATE SNOW
TheLittleFears is a channel for a Canadian filmmaker who hasn’t uploaded new videos for years. That’s a shame, because her videos like I HATE SNOW demonstrate her ability to create mood in a handful of seconds with simple but fresh ideas. In terms of content, it’s about taking her dog for a winter walk, and coming home to see unknown tracks in the snow. While the awful music in the first half turns many off, it does imply a significantly different type of video so that someone can be taken off guard by the foreboding silence of the second half.
She has several more videos that run under a minute in length, a few of which are almost as creepy and ambiguous as this one. Several of her longer ones are even more horrifying, without using any cheap shocks.
9. Justin Bieber Eats a Slice of Delicious Cake
The YouTube channel for user Redminus is largely about taking popular innocuous Internet memes and morphing them into something grotesque. It was thus inevitable he would go after Justin Bieber. His art style in the introduction and preview image are perfect for initially concealing the true nature of the video. While there’s no blood, the trails of SFW black and green fluids that leak from Bieber’s face after the reveal are suitably nauseating. It’s a perfect video for pranking his many Beliebers, and its hundreds of thousands of views indicate it already has.
8. Real Demons Caught on Tape
After a month’s effort with Adobe After Effects, Justin Martinez finished what he thought would be a hoax video capable of fooling the world. Mostly it ended up just fooling some people on YouTube and scaring the rest of us, but that will probably be quite sufficient. The video is about a guy shooting video of his bedroom, when he begins to see numerous hands emerging from his ceiling. If you can overlook how the person filming the video remains much too calm in the face of what’s happening, it’s one of the greatest pieces of found footage horror ever made. This video builds up a sense of dread with excellent pacing, features simple but surprisingly convincing effects, and a rather unique being at the end. No wonder it’s gone viral several times over.
Made by the Daywalt Fear Factory, there’s both a quaintness and a very modern sensibility to Jack. The whole idea of a child voluntarily playing with a jack-in-the-box anymore is very out-of-date, but the timing, simplicity, directness, and slickness of the cinematography give it a visual quality that makes it feel like it’s happening in a warm, contemporary setting. But the implied connection between what the child is doing and the fate coming has a darkly comic tone that makes the short much more horrifying. So odds are the Santa Barbara Minute Film Festival it was created for was happy with it.
6. Agamemnon Counterpart
You need to start the video twenty-four seconds in to skip a joke that sort of hurts the creepy effect without adding much in exchange. This popular video by Michael Robinson is stylized to look like strange, heavily distorted VHS footage of a confusing and oddly sinister cartoon, with a soundtrack that consists largely of screaming. The images are an homage to to 1970’s psychedelia, especially a frog-like character that’s clearly meant to resemble an H.R. Puffnstuff puppet. A subtler creepy touch is that there’s a cartoon character seen towards the end which seems significantly less distorted than its surroundings and even appears superimposed atop some video flaws, as if it were not a regular part of the cartoon. The total effect is that it seems like a regular cartoon clip that has somehow been possessed by a malignant force of some kind that corrupted both the video quality and content.
It’s worth noting that the short is a one-off for Michael Robinson, whose movies mostly consist of abstract experimental films that play with images of color, nature, etc. This experience was no doubt very handy in getting the look of the video distortion right.
Cyriak Harris is a freelance cartoonist who has worked for Adult Swim, Showtime, and BBC, among other networks and clients. When left to his own devices, he makes things like this video of a lamb. It’s one of his most popular videos and probably the most unsettling one that doesn’t include graphic violence. He described it as an “experiment in bovine geometry.” Basically, that means the lamb’s anatomy is constantly changing in numerous improbable ways. For example at one point it splits in half to seemingly reveal a little lamb factory inside itself.
Some might find many of the variations in the sheep’s “geometry” funny early on. But as it goes on, the nature of little mutant lamb spawn it leaves becomes more grotesque and less mechanical. This is to say nothing of what happens to the lamb itself.
4. Microwaving a Cell Phone
For some reason, YouTube’s users seemed fascinated for a period with the spectacle of mobile devices and the like being loaded into microwaves and blenders. This video, originally from Break.com, takes the idea in a rather different direction. While the effect of what happens to the phone is extremely good and creepy, the best part is how the power goes out at just he right time, making it very unclear what exactly happens at the end. It helps considerably that no credits roll to show who made the video, even though the special effects for the video are of such a high quality.
We return to the films of Marichelle Daywalt to see what can do with very little more than a baby monitor. The short starts off with a man just using his computer in what appears to be the dining room. He is amused to hear the sound of his wife singing through their baby monitor. Then something comes in through the back door …
This exceptionally disturbing short with its take on the most primal of adult fears was named “Scariest Short Horror Film of the Week” by Horrorboom.com in October 2012.
2. Quality Meats
The label “nightmarish” is applied to a lot of horror shorts, but few of them live up to it quite like this student film from a 2009 class for Gnomon School of Visual Effects. It’s very brief, consisting mostly of our POV walking down a convenience store aisle past two monsters from Silent Hill with worm-like beings pulsating on the floor to either side of us. The lack of context, the dissonant music, and the unsteady (but not excessively shaky) camerawork replicate the sensation of being asleep and not yet knowing to wake up with uncanny accuracy. They are a big part of the reason this clip is rated one of the scariest many have ever seen, even though there is no violence and it quickly becomes clear there is no overt threat. Unless you’re a vegan.
Watch the unembeddable video here!
1. One Last Dive
Commissioned for the web site Vice for their 3:07 A.M. Devil’s Hour contest, this short was written and directed by Jason Eisener. Eisener is the writer/director of such NSFW films as Hobo With a Shotgun starring Rutger Hauer, and Treevenge. The subject of this particular short is what appears to be a rescue scuba team operating in murky waters. One of them finds just what mysterious and terrifying things lurk in those waters. An incredibly tense, original, oddly beautiful, shocking video that ends on a note that will rival Jaws for how effectively it could scare people from venturing into open water.
Dustin Koski is also the author of Six Dances to End the World, which currently remains the scariest book about apocalyptic ballerinas ever written.