The future is a scary place. We could unwittingly create horrible things for ourselves with technology. Something we could use to make contact with beings we never could have imagined, or would ever have wanted to. Consider these short, completely safe for work videos visions of what the future could bring, which you can enjoy during a break using your company computer.
10. 9 Minutes
This beautiful 2014 film is from director P.J. Wolff, primarily a director of music videos and television. A man is living in a fairly isolated location, pretty much with only his dog there to keep him company. He sees glimpses that there is something odd appearing in the skies around his home. One night, the entity makes its presence explicit. Lights come in through the windows as he is frozen in place.
He awakens later, with nine minutes missing except for the trace on his camera. He then finds his dog, seemingly dead. But after a few moments of agony, the dog seems to come back to life, and of course the man is overjoyed. But the next day, when the dog is alone, lights and operating data project from its eyes. Whatever the aliens did to it, it’s clearly no longer the man’s dog anymore. Hopefully Wolff will soon be able to take some time away from the his directorial day job to make more films like this.
9. Sleep Walk
Few cartoons are as relentlessly bleak as this 2013 video from directors Mark Szumski and Gina Niespodziani. In the year 1959, a black hole opens above New York City. Although it’s relatively tiny, the entire city is quickly crumbling under the force of its gravity, and the rest of the world will soon follow. One sandwich board doomsayer is briefly pleased by the situation, but quickly comes to his senses and realizes that he’ll soon never have another chance to makes amends with his family. As the world crumbles around them, he reunites with his daughter one last time. Then both of them dissolve.
For all the emotional power of the moment of redemption itself, the cartoon ends with a cosmic hand extending from the void and casually snuffing out planet Earth. It’s a snide little reminder that on the astronomical scale, nothing we do or feel matters in the face of oblivion. It’s very Lovecraftian.
8. Sight by Sight Systems
This 2012 video is so polished, believable, and chilling that it feels like a short and superb episode of Black Mirror. A man wakes up and prepares for an average day that will end in a date in a future where apps are constantly in his line of sight because of implants behind the eye. His date is initially unimpressed, as he can see her updating her social profile with this information. He uses apps and wine to win her over, and she accompanies him back home.
At home she sees that he has an app she finds invasive and disgusting and storms out. He, however, works for the tech company she has installed in her head and that has provided him some information he can abuse horribly. He uses the system to override her conscious choices. She finds herself compelled to come back into his apartment. It’s hard to tell if we want Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo to ever expand something this disturbing to feature length or not.
Speaking of short horror films being expanded to feature length, Rob McLellan’s short film was actually optioned by MGM to get exactly that treatment, although as far as the public knows it hasn’t moved past that stage. The optioned story is that an android (excellently rendered with CGI) has a problem with its AI that causes it to feel strong emotional attachments for beautiful women, even though he doesn’t understand the emotion.
This he explains to the beautiful woman he has tied up in a secluded location before revealing that he has surgical equipment, and demonstrating his skills with them by using a scalpel to bisect a moth without looking at it. The director mercifully cuts away before we see him try to “fix” her. But the video ends on a shot of ABE as it studies another woman from behind a pillar, the way it stares and stares being creepier than explicit violence could hope to be.
6. Doll Face
Coming from the early days of YouTube, this video from Andrew Huang has been creeping people out and depressing them since 2007. The plot is very simple: a doll-faced robot similar to a jack-in-the-box sees a television on a jib arm with a supposedly ideal face on it. It extends itself up on a neck with spider-like arms, and applies makeup to better match the face. Then the face on the television changes and the television moves away from the robot. It extends itself further and gives itself modifications, like installing eyes. Then the face moves much farther away and higher up.
The robot tries once again to get a closer look, but the television’s too high up. Determined to get a better look, the robot malfunctions as it makes one last desperate exertion to see the screen again. While the symbolism about the self-destructive nature of obsessing on beauty standards isn’t exactly subtle, the design of the robot and the sadistic way the television is raised are both unnerving while the fate of the robot succeeds in pulling the heartstrings.
You know what’s surprisingly creepier than someone being harsh and brutal while they do something horrible to you? Someone being at least superficially nice and reasonable to you while it happens. That’s the situation faced by the young protagonist in this six minute 2012 film from MainStay Productions that adapts Neal Shusterman’s bestselling 2007 book of the same title.
A young woman is on an operating table as some sort of massive organ harvesting is prepared. She is, as it turns out is her legal right, fully conscious and aware of what is happening to her. She is constantly being reassured by one of the doctors on hand as they go to operate on parts of her body (offscreen). When she’s told to expect to feel a “tingling” in her chest, she naturally reaches the breaking point. She half demands, half begs for the operation to start. But as she is told, “it’s too late now.” She’ll be kept alive, even though now they’re moving on to the brain. What they are doing to her that would leave her bodiless and still alive is disturbing in its vagueness.
4. There Will Come Soft Rains
This is the only video on this list made before 2000. It’s a Soviet cartoon directed by Nazim Tulyakhodzayev in 1984, adapted from a story by science fiction titan Ray Bradbury. At 7:00, a futuristic house activates. A robot, which seems in charge of the home and moves about on a huge hose, comes online and tries to begin the morning routine. The problem is that the neighborhood was struck by a neutron bomb. The humans inside have been reduced to black ash in human shapes, which crumble immediately. Still, the robot tries to go through the routine. It makes breakfast, prepares clothes, plays music, and so on until a bird enters the home. Then there are signs the robot is more aware of what’s going on then has been previously indicated, because although it initially tries to drive the bird away, eventually the robot attacks its own control center after seeming to pause long enough to contemplate what it’s doing, and causes the house to explode.
Beyond the creepiness of mechanized human conveniences going on even after humans are destroyed, the house robot is very unnervingly designed even if it is a tragic figure. Those spikes that extend from its jaw even when it’s not in attack mode look a bit too much like fangs. It does not seem like anyone would let that thing be in their house, let alone let it interact with children.
3. Uncanny Valley
Even though video game violence was for decades getting blamed for real world violence, there’s little evidence that they increase people’s likelihood of committing criminal acts. Federico Heller’s 2015 short film focuses on a more intriguing premise, which asks the almost more unnerving question of whether the advancing nature of video games will cause the lines between reality and the game itself to blend, and how would that be exploited?
An ace gamer is one of a collection of interview subjects about what an amazing rush a particularly immersive artificial reality first-person shooter game is for him. It’s a level of game immersion something beyond even the Oculus Rift. It’s more like The Matrix, where he’s not even aware he’s plugged into a game, because it stimulates all the player’s senses on an alien world. In real life, he and other people being interviewed are living in shabby, rundown buildings, because who could care about that when there’s the amazingly exciting game world?
Then the ace gamer is playing a session and wanders over into an area he shouldn’t, where there are graphics glitches. First one level of the heightened reality shuts down as the game interface malfunctions, then a second one. He finds that he isn’t just playing a video game. He’s operating an android remotely like a drone as it goes through a destroyed Middle Eastern city dispatching survivors. He’s been killing civilians and others because the game was designed to project an illusion that all enemy humans were just video game enemies. Naturally he’s horrified and immediately stops using the game. Before long, a drone android just like the one he was using enters his home, and from the perspective of the person operating it, the man who knows too much just looks like another video game enemy.
2. From Beyond
One of horror favorite H.P. Lovecraft’s timeless classics, From Beyond already had a film adaptation in 1986. However, that one was more a horror comedy than the straight horror we’re looking for with this list. Michael Granberry had no time for that with his 2009 stop-motion video.
A man goes into a large room with a huge, bizarre contraption in one corner and a chair facing a TV in the opposite corner. When he has a seat, the television comes on and his old friend explains to him that he will soon see visions of creatures from beyond our dimension because of the machine. The wall the man is facing disappears and is replaced with a tableau of terrifying beasts. The man on the television becomes more disdainful as the monsters around the man become more frightening, culminating with a giant humanoid with huge growths on him and seemingly no skin. Eventually the man blacks out, and then comes to in peace and quiet. He walks back to the door to find a sign saying that no patients are to be allowed out of their rooms without supervision. He might have been driven mad by the experience, but the last shot we see are more monsters behind him.
1. The Flying Man
Imagine if someone were a combination of Batman, Superman, and Punisher, and you have this alien entity from this 2013 story by Marcus Alqueres. One day, mockumentary footage and news coverage tells us a humanoid being seemingly made of black marble begins flying above the streets of an unnamed city. Initially he is a figure of fear, then it is learned that his pattern is to kill deadly criminals.
The style then changes as we follow two nonviolent criminals committing some form of theft. The flying man attacks them in their vehicle then, and kills one. The next day the one who survived awakens. The flying man is outside his window, watching him as if he is seeing if the message has sunk in. It’s pretty tough to take any superhero who claims to scare criminals into obeying the law at face value after seeing this.
Dustin Koski heavily recommends you check out his list of horror videos that are ninety seconds or less if these are too extreme for you.