A Bumper Crop of Short Films

January 15th, 2019

Shorts used to be this artsy thing. But now there really is this explosion in filmmaking. With all this new technology, shorts films have a lot more interest among regular people, because so many people are making them and putting them on the web. Suddenly, we’re not explaining short films to people. Everybody’s seen one.IndieWire

Back in the 1980s, HBO and Cinemax would play short films between their features. HBO referred to theirs collectively as “Short Takes.” I don’t recall what (if anything) Cinemax called theirs, but for a while, it seemed cable TV was poised to deliver a short-film renaissance.

It didn’t happen. Not then. But now – with an ever-increasing number of festivals and websites delivering quality shorts, the only challenge is finding the time to seek out the best. To that end, I have a few recommendations — some playing at festivals, others streaming on multiple platforms.

The first is “The Whistler,” a beautifully shot film that demonstrates how the threat of violence and the intimation of unseen horrors can be as chilling – indeed more chilling – than graphic mayhem and CGI monsters.

The film opens with some standard horror tropes: a babysitter left in charge of a precocious tween and a sense of someone or something lurking in the darkness outside. But from there it veers into a weirdly surreal dreamscape that benefits nicely from exquisite low-light cinematography by Naim Sutherland and a moody score by Emmit Lee Stang. Written and directed by Jennifer Nicole Stang, the film had a terrific run on the festival circuit, winning over a dozen “best” awards, including Best Short at the New York City Horror Film Festival.

If you were fortunate enough to catch it, Gruesome Magazine is giving you the chance to vote on its status as Best Festival Short of 2018.

Also on the Gruesome Magazine ballot is “Heartless,” another festival favorite from the past year. This one presents a modern retelling of “The Tell-Tale Heart,” written and directed by Kevin Sluder, with Jennifer Sluder as executive producer.

The Sluders bring Poe’s classic into the 21st century by re-imaging the story’s deranged narrator as a woman struggling to cope with the inequities of the corporate world. Although considerably more violent than the understated “Whistler,” this film’s blood and gore (expertly rendered by effects artist Josh and Sierra Russell and a crack make-up team) is always to a purpose. As a result, “Heartless” delivers over-the-top mayhem while managing to be about something more than gore — a satiric take on office politics.

Like “The Whistler,” “Heartless” garnered numerous awards on the festival circuit, including the audience-prize at NYC Horror Film Festival in last month.

Heartless Trailer from Sunshine Boy Productions on Vimeo.

Among the many online sites currently streaming short films is Fun-Size Horror, which “aims to terrify and delight viewers with original short films that explore horror from every angle.” There you will find a seemingly endless list of flash films, including to my favorites: “Monsters” (directed by Steve Desmond) and “Midnight Clear” (directed by Joe Russo). Both feature the kind of writing that distinguishes the best of the original Twilight Zone episodes … and you can watch them both in their entirety by clicking the players below.

Enjoy! And if you have any recommendations to share, please pass them along.


  1. This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2019 at 5:40 pm and is filed under 21st-Century Scop. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response or trackback from your own site.

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