For the past fourteen years, YouTube has provided the world with countless amusing cat videos, babies biting people, and the insufferable Justin Bieber, however you may or may not know that in a darker and more sinister corner of the internet YouTube plays host to some of the scariest short films based in the world of horror. From the works of Hollywood directors to college students, there are hundreds upon hundreds of short films uploaded every day and so in the spirit of the Halloween season we count down some of the scariest short horror films you can go watch on YouTube right now for free.
10 2am : The Smiling Man
CreepyPasta and its contents have often been controversial topics thanks to likes of the SlenderMan, however it is some of the lesser known stories on the popular fiction site that can provide substantial amounts of source material for the budding horror short director and 2am : The Smiling Man is one such success story.Directed by Michael Evans in 2013 this short film based upon the Reddit phenom chooses to embrace a creepier style of story telling, Paul Foltz who plays the smiling man embodies the character and really brings a sense of mischief to the role with his gaunt and misshapen movements that are sure to leave viewers unsettled and perhaps rethinking that late night stroll.
9 The Cop Cam
The Blair Witch Project is undoubtedly one of the most popular horror films ever made. With its found footage approach, it opened up the world to a style and format of film making that had never been as commercially successful. It gave up and coming filmmakers a tool that could be utilized without breaking the bank and so the onslaught of found footage films began.The Cop Cam takes this very premise and infuses it with a video game style to create a suspense filled journey through an abandoned house in response to an emergency call, it is not however the most story driven piece but for an electrifying scare it is a perfect go to for any fan of found footage film.
8 Bloody Mary
Folklore and tales of Bloody Mary have always played havoc with anyone looking for an easy scare and more often that not this old tale has served generations of teenagers from all over the world in scaring each other silly but with no real outcome, however director Alexander Ronnberg tells a different story in 2016's Bloody Mary short.The lack of any kind of soundscape plays a key role in building tension in this piece. With the looming camera movements, typical horror tropes, and cliches, it serves its purpose in delivering a memorable experience that is perfect for putting anyone off of ever looking in the mirror again.
7 The Captured Bird
By far the most visually stunning selection on this list is The Captured Bird, directed by Jovanka Vucovic in 2012. It quite rightly grabbed the attention of Guillermo Del Toro, who was named as an executive producer, because of its simple premise, but beautifully structured exploration of innocence and seemingly dark undertone.The film also enlisted an outstanding team for its production and you can really tell that this was a labor of love for all involved, with impeccable creature designs and a nod to the works of H.P Lovecraft. It was a critical success, and very rightly so for its haunting atmosphere, stunning visuals, and unnerving performances. It is a must see for fans of anything that Guillermo Del Toro has produced.
6 Tuck Me In
Tuck Me In is a perfect example of the effectiveness of using common and everyday tasks that a viewer can relate to then giving them a perfect scare. Directed by Ignacio F. Rodo in 2014 and one of the shorter selections in this list with just a one minute run time, Tuck Me In has an ability to create intrigue that can rival a full blown feature length. Its climax proves to be scary because of the performances from both the father and son, giving us something more unsettling than what is expected without the need for a typical jump scare. It leaves the viewer with questions and the door open to interpretation which only adds to it's appeal.
5 The Maiden
From Michael Chaves, director of The Curse Of La Llorna and the upcoming The Conjuring 3 comes The Maiden, a masterfully produced short that delivers on everything you could ask for from a horror film.The Maiden balances itself on the thin line between comedy and horror with its humorous story that involves a real estate agent selling a haunted house knowing full well that the place is haunted, Chaves hammers down on the comedic premise by ramping up the tension and delivering horrifying visuals with a poignant ending.It is an extremely well executed piece with performances to match and it is exciting to think of what Chaves can accomplish within the Conjuring Universe going forward.
Written and directed by Andy Muschietti of IT and IT : Chapter 2 fame comes Mama, a short film that later went on to be adapted for the big screen thanks to its haunting premise and well executed, claustrophobic atmosphere. Muschietti cleverly brings his story to life in what would appear to be one continuous sequence held together with solid and convincing performances from the two sisters at the mercy of Mama. Some fans argue that this short is infinitely scarier that its feature length follow on and it is hard to dispute when we see the jarring and uncomfortable Mama in full glory, terrifyingly running amok in this creepy and memorable piece.
3 Autumn Harvest
Directed by Fredrik S. Hana, Autumn Harvest explores one lonely mans desperate pursuit for connection with grotesque and horrific outcomes.Shot entirely in black and white and lacking in dialogue, Autumn Harvest is a beautifully produced short. As it progresses we see incredible acts of violence paired with an intriguing story of tragedy that is only made better with an incredible performance from it's leading man. Lovecraftian to the core, it's impossible not to applaud everyone involved and it is certainly a memorable piece that keeps its cards close to its chest until the bitter end.
2 Lights Out
In 2013 David F. Sandberg, an unknown writer and director at the time, entered a short film based around a simple premise into the 'Who's there film challenge'. That film was called Lights Out and not only did it win the competition but it shot Sandberg into the spotlight, and in 2016 went onto to become a fully-fledged feature length film. Yet fans of the original short film will argue that the film never quite matched the horrifying original.Filmed on a shoe string budget, it is a simple premise and really demonstrates that fears and phobias can often create the most thrilling of horror experiences.
Director/Writer Neill Blomkamp, best known for the film District 9 decided to branch out from Hollywood and into the world of short films by creating his own studio, with its sole purpose being to produce short films to test the water for larger projects and possible ideas for feature length productions. As a result of this we have Zygote, a sci-fiction horror short with clear comparisons to John Carpenters The Thing and Ridley Scott's Alien.The indie style short film format allows Blomkamp to really stretch his legs and play in his own sandbox with the viewer reaping the rewards with its horrifying creature designs and intriguing story. It's a tension filled experience and one that is a testament as to what can be achieved when a talented director is in a position of creative freedom without constraints.