Top 10 Scariest Short Films

Yes, Halloween was a whole four months ago, but in my opinion it’s never too later (or early?) to scare yourself into an entirely new sleep schedule. Want to try it out?

I’ve scoured the Internet to find some of the most frightening and shocking short films out there. I found lots of gems, but I somehow whittled the list down to my top ten. And without further ado, here they are.

10. Slash-in-the-Box

Why it Made the List

Slash-in-the-Box had some classic horror elements that we all know and love. Okay, maybe we don’t all love a jack-in-the-box. In fact, I hate them. But that’s why this short made the list. Not to mention the fake-outs that made me tense and then snicker.

The Downside

The reason Slash-in-the-Box made number ten is not only do I not appreciate typing out words with too many hyphens in them, but the film also used a few cliché elements that I didn’t quite appreciate. The baseball hopping down the stairs was also out of place. And why did wifey not notice the huge puddle of blood in the kitchen?

9. Red Balloon

Why it Made the List

Because it was creepy. Plain and simple. The little girl was creepy, the rain was creepy, the house was creepy, and the breathing stuffed bunny was creepy! The camera work was superb and it definitely had an amazing ending.

The Downside

The babysitting horror thing is slightly out of date at this point. Coupled with the cliché jump scare dream, the film did it’s job with the creepy factor, but failed in originality.

8. Cat with Hands

Why it Made the List

Why wouldn’t it make the list? The stop-motion animation was fantastic and it made me not want to hug my cat for once. And the distorted face at the end just did me in. The creepy atmosphere and close camera angles made me feel uncomfortable as well.

The Downside

I can see how the switch from live action to animation would bother some viewers. While I didn’t mind it, it may have been an okay piece with CG.

7. Befellows

Why it Made the List

The shear thought of seeing your significant other call you on the phone while you swore they were next to you in bed is enough dredge up a cute little chill in your soul. I could feel it ribbon up my spine while watching this one. Not to mention the director does amazing work showing the viewers what’s going on while the woman has no idea.

The Downside

I am not a fan of jump-scares. In fact, I hate them. If there’s a way a filmmaker can scare me in my head without making my heart skip a beat I will be one happy camper. But the jump factor was not necessary in this short film.

6. Don’t Move

Why it Made the List

Aside from some chilling CG going on, this film was as claustrophobic as they come. This, folks, is what happens when you try to mess with demons. Move an inch and this monster goes on a face-ripping spree. I love seeing idiots get what they deserve.

The Downside

In my opinion, the less shown the better. The first few times the viewer spots the demon, he’s nothing more than black smoke curling through the air. However, at about 3:54 you get a good look at its face and… I wasn’t impressed. I’ll admit the effect was done well, but it was simply shown way too often.

5. He Dies at the End

Why it Made the List

I am a sucker for long drawn out shots of random objects. And this was directed quite well. Plus, I loved the subtitles to keep us from constantly watching the computer screen. And the tension was very well-built throughout the entire film.

The Downside

The ending. That is all.

4. Victim

Why it Made the List

Students films are either notoriously artistic or horrifyingly so. This strikes a balance between both. I like the close-up in and out of focus shots at the beginning and the sense of unease is well within its limits.

The Downside

It’s obviously a student film. A few too many shots that try too hard to be artistic with an end that seems to fizzle out visually.

3. Sleepover

Why it Made the List

This short film combined horror and comedy in a great way. Plus, it did something horror directors rarely move into–it brutally murdered a child. I have no idea why, but it made me love this film even more. It was directed well and starred Josh Feldman (Insidious), so it had a higher than normal budget for a short film.

The Downside

Having actors you recognize in a horror film can sometimes be off-putting if it’s supposed to be in a run-of-the mill setting smack in the center of suburbia (unless it’s Paris Hilton).

2. Click

Why it Made the List

Aside from no questions being answered as to why there is no one else around and it seems these kids are on their own, this film is simply brilliant. The establishing shots are perfect and the viewer has a sense of camaraderie with the kids. The biggest factor to me, however, is the fact that the viewer sees nothing. No monsters, no ghosts, no nothing. It’s just darkness. And nothing’s scarier than not knowing. 

The Downside

It was a tad drawn out in spots where quicker shots would have been more effective.

1. One Last Dive

Why it Made the List

Obviously I’ve talked about this film before, but it is my number one because it just sets such a dynamic scene. The lighting and tension are perfect and the ending is shocking and scary. I can forgive the jump scare in this one because it was more realistic than simply being there for shock value.

The Downside

There isn’t one.

Advertisements

One Last Dive

My search for the scariest has come up with some great short films as of late. But this one takes the cake. A contest based around the film The Conjuring called “The 3:07 AM Project,” has produced this gem.

Now this…this is an exceptional short film. Not only does the first person dive into murky waters at three in the morning make the viewer already feel claustrophobic and genuinely uncomfortable, but the director does an excellent job at the imagery. The lights perfectly reflect particles in the water to where you can’t see much outside the beam.

But what gets me the most is that baby stroller attached by a chain to a cinder block on the bottom of the lake. I got chills. The build up was flawless and the climax was amazing. I want more from this filmmaker!

Winchester Mystery House… Want to Spend the Night?

Construction began on the Winchester House in 1884. Sarah Winchester was always seen as “different,” but nobody knew how until the house was being built. It was under constant construction and had not even been finished at the time of her death in 1928. She even consulted mediums and held seances to help her understand where to put a staircase or a door.

Now, the Winchester Mystery House is open for the public (at a modest charge) to explore its interior. It’s situated right across the street from bustling Santana Row in San Jose, California. The main draw of the house is it’s seemingly random staircases that lead nowhere and doors that open to shear drops. 

When I was fourteen, my parents took me there. Needless to say, I was into the paranormal heavily at that time and jumped at the chance. I was so excited that I was going to see/hear/feel a real ghost! Finally!

But when I got there, I was more impressed by the maze of corridors. Turns out, Sarah Winchester was told by mediums that she had to keep building otherwise she’d be accosted by spirits. This is why some staircases and doors lead nowhere and there’s a garden inside. So, Sarah did just that. Even when her arthritis prevented her from walking up stairs, she just built them an inch from the ground. Yes, there is a staircase with forty steps in the house that only ascends about nine feet.

“Sure is a funky old house, ain’t it?”

Anyway, the buzz is that a recently-acquired permit is allowing thrill-seekers to stay overnight at the mansion. Of course, not all the rooms are included (mainly the caretaker’s and foreman’s residence). What it looks like is that it will almost be transformed into…a…hotel

I heard on the radio this morning that a gentleman said he’d be willing to pay $3,000 to stay overnight at the place. The DJ was flabbergasted. Me? Not so much. Want to know why? Because when I was involved in paranormal investigation, I contacted the Winchester Mystery House to get in on that sweet piece of haunted real estate. Guess how much they wanted to charge me for an overnight investigation. Yep. $3,000. 

So when I heard the news they were letting people in overnight like it was a new concept, I kind of looked like this:

The option has always been there to stay overnight, it’d just cost you a month’s salary (if you’re lucky enough to make that much). But now it looks like it will be much more affordable. 

Would you stay in the house overnight? Have you been there? Experienced anything? I’d like to know!

Let’s Talk About Zombies!

Since the first zombie movie was released in 1932, the public has exploded with fanatics. What is it about reanimated cannibal corpses (forgive the accidental reference) that releases all those good ‘ole fashioned horror hormones?

Okay, so maybe there’s no such thing as “horror hormones,” but there should be. Am I right?

The first zombie film ever released was White Zombie (1932). This is excluding Frankenstein as the monster was not a cannibal and one of the most iconic attributes of zombies is their insatiable desire for (living) human flesh. The film was intriguing–not just because it starred one of my favorite actors of all time Bela Lugosi–but because it took place in Haiti where the zombie legend first originated. Voodoo priests would use blowfish powder to subdue victims. These victims would go into a deep sleep where their heartbeat and metabolism would slow enough to be pronounced dead (much like the affect atropine has). When the victim would eventually awaken, their memories would be so skewed that they’d believe they were still dead. Voodoo priests would use these “somnambulists” as their slaves.

Obviously, this definition has morphed over time as they often do. The word zombie now defines a reanimated corpse which shambles around, chewing on healthy people and spreading the disease like a mutated form of rabies. The only way to kill them is to either destroy their brain or burn them.

In modern day, the basic functions of a zombie haven’t changed much (aside from shambling). Many of the movies I’ve seen recently portray these masticating monsters as inhumanly fast and ridiculously strong. They can also leap extremely high. There must be a Superman reference in there somewhere.

Now what makes a zombie film exceptional? Well, this is obviously and opinion and varies from person to person. To me, a great zombie movie includes no explanation of what caused an outbreak. Speculation is fine. Movies have come up with a wide array of estimations. I’ve heard of a space virus from a meteorite, mutated flu virus, and a mutated rabies virus. A lot of times, films won’t explain it at all.

Actually, the game Last of Us was something I hadn’t heard before. A fungus. More precisely, the Cordyceps fungus which invades healthy tissue, eventually taking over the brain of its host. It’s an interesting take that impressed me. The zombies in the game who had been infected for the longest amount of time had fungus growing where the heads used to be. Last of Us was successful in its execution of everything zombie.

Video game rant aside, my favorite older zombie film would have to be Night of the Living Dead. Not only did the film include the typical zombie archetype, but everyone dies. The dawn emerges on the hero’s sanctuary. The night had been fraught with flesh-eating monsters and each of his companions had been one-by-one pecked off. As the lone survivor, he peers out the window to see a glimmer of hope–military men with guns. They’d come to save him! Alas, they believe he is “one of them,” and proceed to fire a shot into his head. The end. I get chills.

For me, the best modern-day zombie film would be Shaun of the Dead. Aside from the companionship of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost being my guilty pleasure, this film did everything right. There was no explanation for the zombie outbreak, the monsters were shamblers, and it was even humorous! Among those, there were subtle things that couldn’t be beat. Shaun (Pegg) has a routine–get up, play some video games, run to the corner store to buy some snacks, then bring them back to Ed (Frost) before heading off to work. The first day, the routine is shown as normal. But the second day (before either of the main characters realize the outbreak has happened), the routine for Shaun is normal, but the audience sees the previous days’ inhabitants have been replaced with zombies. And let’s not forget Frost becoming a zombie in the end and being kept as a pet.

Of course this is simply my humble opinion. I’d like to hear yours. What’s your favorite zombie movie? If you have more than one, please share!

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven – A Review

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Heaven: (Or, How I Made Peace with the Paranormal and Stigmatized Zealots and Cynics in the Process).

Yes. That is a book title—a book written by Corey Taylor, the lead singer of Slipknot and Stone Sour. When I first heard about it, I didn’t know what to think. An overloaded title for an over-egotistical rock star. But when I heard what it was about, I realized I wanted to read it.

Click for link to Amazon.

Made Peace with the Paranormal. What does that even mean? When my fiancé told me the title, I just looked at him like a cat does when you’ve been baby-talking to him for four minutes straight. What? No one else does that? Anyway… He explained it to me this way:

“It’s the lead singer of Slipknot.”

“Okay.”

“It’s his second book.”

“Okay.”

“It’s about his experiences with the paranormal.”

“I’m in.”

And that’s all it took. We started listening to the audio book that very day. Taylor narrates himself which, in a way is cool. In another way it’s slightly an ego thing, but if my titles were ever made into audio books, I’d either want myself or James Earl Jones to read them.

Now, on to the substance of the book. Aside from Taylor’s many random, pages-long tangents about religion, exorcisms, “arm-chair science” and ginger ghosts (yes, you read that right), it was quite interesting to hear about his adventures with friends, band mates and fellow paranormal investigators. Like any rock star you’d imagine he had a lot of fun. The book is written quite well aside from a few redundant words and a bit much of the thesaurus from time to time.

I do have a gripe, however. I’d never say this to his face (right, like I’d ever meet him in person or he’d ever read my lonely blog), but his experiences were…lackluster. And in the book, he says each one is the scariest thing that’s ever happened to him. Among these experiences include:

  • Seeing a vagrant homeless man in an abandoned house (which he believes was a ghost);
  • Hearing whistling in a hallway where no one claimed to be;
  • A vase being pushed off the ledge of a counter;
  • Being shoved from behind;

Note that during each of these experiences, he was either fatigued or distracted. The other instances I did not mention were those of sleep paralysis. Sleep paralysis can be quite scary. A feeling of being unable to move or breathe. Some people even experience seeing shadows dart around the room. I’ve even heard stories about one male friend of mine who said an old woman would sit on his chest at night while another said someone constantly screamed in his face while falling asleep. One time (after a lengthy few days of playing Silent Hill in the dark), I had an experience where I woke up and saw three mannequins standing by the closet. I thought, “Huh…” I turned over, tried to shake my fiancé awake to no avail, then looked again and noticed they were just jackets hanging up. Needless to say, the closet stayed closed the rest of the time we lived there.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not demeaning Taylor’s experiences at all. I’m simply saying that there are quite rational explanations for them. I dabbled in paranormal investigation for years (I’m even certified), and I try to come up with rational explanations for everything I’ve experienced. These include:

  • Someone blowing air right in my face when no one was there;
  • Feeling as though someone was grabbing my arm (we took a photo later and it was all red);
  • Hearing gunshots in an empty room;
  • Feeling someone wrap their arms around my legs.

    ls

    I wish I still had all the pictures…

All I’m saying is that we can’t trust a lot of technology to record ghosts or spirits. Audio devices have static and artifacts, video is never clear in the dark, and even our own senses betray us at times. If you stand near a circuit breaker box long enough, you’ll feel paranoid or sick because the electromagnetic field around it is messing with your waves. And let’s not forget when you go somewhere or do something expecting to be scared and running around in the dark… Come on. Our minds play tricks on us.

All that being said, it was a fun book and I recommend it. And I promise I’ll go into all my paranormal experiences in a later blog post, so stay tuned!

What are some paranormal experiences that have happened to you? Enquiring minds want to know!

House of Haunted Remakes

As a first post, let’s hit on something I find randomly nostalgic. House on Haunted Hill is a 1999 remake of a Vincent Price classic. It was also the horror movie that made me into the scare-seeker I am today. The very first horror film I could sit through and not want to run and pray to the porcelain gods.  I believe I was fourteen or so, and my brother had rented it for us to watch after school. I knew something was up when I saw that mischievous twinkle in his eye, the arched eyebrow (ala Ace Ventura–he did a killer impression), and the curled upper lip.

What I hadn’t planned for was a movie that would become a huge part of my life for years. I watched it over and over until I could recite each line of each character. I even wrote a short story about it later on, including some of my own characters that I made up. The film even inspired me into a short-lived career of paranormal investigation. Yes. You read that correctly. But that’s a story for another time.

houseonhauntedhill01

The resemblance is striking!

The film stars Geoffrey Rush as a business tycoon named Steven Price who makes a living building amusement park rides. But his biggest thrill is scaring the ever-loving hell out of anyone and everyone. Famke Janssen plays Price’s wife in the film. Janssen’s character seems like a perfect match for her hubby as her character wants nothing more than to have her yearly birthday bash at the most haunted location she can find. Thanks to Peter Graves, she finds an abandoned asylum on top a hill where the inmates one day rose up and murdered the entire staff.  A guest list is made, but after “mysterious circumstances,” four people arrive to the party who are unrecognized by both Price’s.

Understandably, wife is upset and hubby is only mildly-amused, thinking she’s pulled another of her odd tricks on him. Price decides he’d still like to have a little fun, however, so he takes down the names of the other four guests and promises them each $1 million if they can survive the night in the asylum. Once he explains this, however, an ancient mechanism kicks into gear, covering each door and window in steel plates. Everyone is trapped.

I won’t give anything away in case you haven’t seen the film yet, but it’s great for cheap scares and thrills. I wouldn’t say it’s the best movie out there, but it holds a special place in my heart. And upon re-watching it last night, I felt an odd sense of unease. And that’s possibly because my investigations into the paranormal have lead me into some questionable locations where I may have been victims like the characters in the film (without the $1 million, of course).

Either way, it’s not as great as the original film (which I also suggest watching), but it does its job as a decent remake by upping the horror and gore factor to a modern scale.

house-on-haunted-hill-poster-2

Is there another film you can think of that had a decent/bad/amazing remake? Let me know your thoughts.