13 Short Horror Films About Relationships
Pssst. Hey kid, you wanna see something scary?
We just so happen to have 13 short horror films curated especially for sick little fucks like you! Each of our stories deals with “relationships,” as represented in some of their numerous incarnations. And perhaps some dis-incarnations, as well. (Is that a word? It is now.)
The point, sweet poppet, is that we’ve got films for those that mark themselves pro-relationship and those that mark themselves anti-AF. You’ll find films examining romantic relationships, along with obsessive relationships, platonic relationships, supernatural relationships, familial relationships, lopsided relationships, unrequited relationships, blind hook-ups, and relationships that are just plain dead.
Film 1: Night of the Slasher
Our first selection is a single-shot, meta-horror love letter to 1980s slasher films. In Night of the Slasher, we see a young woman fully committed to accomplishing her goal, even if it gets an innocent person killed.
Filming a single, continuous shot is nearly always a monumental undertaking. But when you account for Night of the Slasher’s tight filming quarters, intricate fight choreography, and the length of the film, this achievement goes from monumental to master class.
Night of the Slasher has a lot of fun subverting audience expectations. Even though the 1980s throwback-style feels familiar, the characters and plot both feel fresh and unique. Shant Hamassian, the film’s writer/director, has clear adoration for the horror genre, which is evident in the intelligent yet affectionate genre meta-analysis he treats us to.
RUNTIME: 11 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Jenelle and the Killer
BONUS FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: Perhaps the most notable of Hamassian’s allusions to genre film is his decision to place the Killer from Night of the Slasher in a Leonard Nimoy mask — a clever acknowledgement of the stranger-than-fiction origins of the enigmatic mask donned by Michael Myers in the first Friday the 13th film.
BONUS FOR MY METAL NERD HOMIES: In an impressive show of dedication to the 1980s vibe, the filmmakers had Grayce record an original song called Dying for Love, just for the film. It’s a synth-y, hair metal song that sounds like it could easily come from a vintage Heart or Lita Ford record. Yeah, I said record. Horns up!
Film 2: Cupid Bloody Cupid
Our story opens on Valentine’s Day when fate puts Emily and Brian on a collision course with each other. Fate also puts Emily and Mr. Kincade on a collision course though, and unfortunately for Mr. Kincade, it ends his life. Cupid Bloody Cupid is, above all else, a love story told through the veneer of horrifying goodness.
Emily and Brian are that couple we all love to hate. Their saccharine-y flirt speak and blinding affection for one another assures us all Emily and Brian are the real deal. Despite their faults, or perhaps because of them, these two are just about as perfect for each other as any two people possibly could be.
RUNTIME: 4 minutes (after 50 second intro)
RELATIONSHIP: Emily and Brian
BONUS FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: Observant viewers will notice Emily and Brian are essentially characters animated by a collection of exaggerated, cisgender, heteronormative social standards — from their patterns of speech to the choice to dress Emily in baby pink and Brian in baby blue.
Film 3: PYOTR495
PYOTR495 opens on Moscow in 2014, where we see 16-year-old Pyotr alone in his bedroom. He’s browsing potential hook-ups on a Grindr-type app, and eventually arranges to meet someone new. What he doesn’t realize is that he’s been baited by a vicious, ultra-nationalist group whose attacks have recently been bolstered by Russia’s LGBT Propaganda Law and continuing anti-gay sentiment.
This film is difficult to get through for all the right reasons. It’s apparent rather early in the film Pyotr will be victimized. When it happens, his assault is as intensely difficult to watch as you’d imagined. Persistent viewers, however, will be rewarded with a genuinely touching conclusion to PYOTR495.
RUNTIME: 15 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Pyotr is looking for a relationship from the start of the film.
BONUS FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: Sometimes we can lose sight of the fact that art isn’t created in a vacuum. There are a multitude of socio-economic-political variables that can and should influence film and narratives in all forms. To put PYOTR495 in proper perspective, keep in mind it was written in Russia during January of 2014, a month after Uganda’s “Kill The Gays” bills had passed. Additionally, Russia had recently invaded Crimea and the new LGBT Propaganda Law made it illegal to portray a gay life as a normal life. Pyotr, our protagonist, lived in Soviet-era tower blocks in the rundown Cheryomushi district of Moscow. All this and President Putin’s approval rating was at a 6-year-high. Context certainly isn’t everything, particularly with good art, but it sure does enhance the experience.
Film 4: The Tickle Monster
The Tickle Monster opens to reveal an aspiring grime mc named Elliot as he attempts to create rhymes for his lyrics. Also in the room we see his girlfriend, Natalie.
When Elliot claims to have felt fingers brush up against his neck, Natalie casually confirms that she shares her bedroom with a tickle monster. Furthermore, it was likely said monster that tickled Elliot’s neck. It’s Rhianne Barreto’s (the actress that played Natalie) deadpan carriage of this bizarre and frightening news that generates most of the tension in this film. Watch those peepers to see vapidity deadening her eyes in such a way that one cannot help but feel unmoored when she speaks. In other words, bitch is creepy AF.
RUNTIME: 4 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Natalie and the Tickle Monster (Elliot was nothing but inconsequential Tickle fodder)
Film 5: Dead Love
Dead Love is a micro-horror film about a lonely man who, one evening while out for a stroll, finds the woman of his dreams. Of course, she’s already dead with a knife sticking out of her chest — but nobody’s perfect, am I right?
RUNTIME: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
RELATIONSHIP: The Cooking Man and the mythical woman with whom he has a committed relationship
Film 6: He Took His Skin Off For Me
“Is this what you want?” he asked.
And I said, “yes.”
So, he took his skin off for me.
…thus our sixth film begins.
Based on a short story of the same name by Maria Hummer, He Took His Skin Off For Me is ultimately about the perils of irrevocably altering yourself in order to make someone else happy. Perhaps most interesting is the filmmaker’s choice to unapologetically use horror genre conventions to tell a love story.
It’s easy to enjoy watching Her deal with the extra domestics that come along with having a partner sans skin (extra laundry, extra cleaning, etc), but the most captivating scenes show Him and Her dealing with the consequences of his decision to take off his skin.
TAGLINE: Love is Sticky.
RUNTIME: 11 minutes, 30 seconds
RELATIONSHIP: Him and Her
BONUS FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: Did I mention the Behind the Scenes video? Or the video of Maria Hummer, author of the original short story, reading an adaptation of He Took His Skin Off For Me? The Practical SFX makeup test video? Teaser trailer (aka a deleted scene)? Just checking.
Film 7: Troubled Youth
Troubled Youth begins inside a high school where some sort of major tragedy has occurred. We see pools of blood on the floor of the hallway. We also see a (barely) surviving student attempting to crawl towards safety.
Troubled Youth ends with an irreverent closing scene depicting our cheerleader slo-mo-strutting down a school hallway littered with the corpses of her teachers and classmates. She confidently tightens her ponytail and swings her pristine white tennies over each body, every pool of blood, and the icky viscera coating the floor. It’s all very John Hughes, if only John Hughes did horror. Oh, if only…
RUNTIME: 4 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Eva and Fluffy
Film 8: Conventional
With Conventional, we come face-to-face with fictional, B-movie, slasher film actress Rachel Milligan and watch her struggle to stay relevant on the genre film convention circuit.
Thanks to Milligan’s thoughtful insights, writing, and direction, watching this film is an uncomfortable experience because it feels real. Rachel Milligan feels like a real person struggling with real, relatable issues. Repeatedly, we watch her carve deeper into her self-respect, her dignity, and her self-worth, painfully rending pieces of herself and feeding them to her ravenous yet dwindling entourage of Stu Mac cosplayers.
RUNTIME: 9 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Rachel Milligan and her career; Rachel Milligan and her youth; Rachel Milligan and her dwindling self-respect; Rachel Milligan and the Stu Mac cosplayers.
BONUS FOR MY WHOVIAN HOMIES: That’s right Whovians, aging and plumped scream queen, Rachel Milligan, was played by none other than Karen Gillan (the actress who played Amy Pond) on Doctor Who. Prior to filming Conventional, Gillan wrote and directed her first short horror film, Coward.
Film 9: ПЕРЕХОД (The Crossing)
Our next film is actually a Russian horror allegory. It begins with the Woman, alone at night, distraught, and in an underpass when she realizes a scary beastie lives down there. Timing is everything. The filmmaker decided to use virtually no dialogue in the film, which successfully adds more atmosphere and cranks up the creep factor. Because of this, we recommend you turn off the lights and darken the room, put your favorite headphones on, and turn up the volume for an intense, immersive experience.
TAGLINE: Don’t ask. Run.
RUNTIME: 7 minutes, 30 seconds
RELATIONSHIP: The Woman and her nameless ex
BONUS FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: This film was shot by a production crew of only three people with a Blackmagic camera and a tripod, inside an actual Subway underpass over three nights.
Film 10: The Last Time I Saw Richard
The Last Time I Saw Richard begins in 1995 with Jonah, a teenage boy living in a psychiatric facility. He’s a loner and prides himself on being antisocial — he even goes out of his way to ensure the other patients view him with distain. In the past, he’s been bullied at school but now he has a room to himself and he indulges in cutting as a way of coping with his emotional pain. Essentially, Jonah’s got a daily routine and everyone leaves him alone. Things aren’t perfect, but at least he knows what to expect.
That sense of comfort quickly vanishes when new patient, Richard, arrives. Jonah soon learns Richard is his new roommate and things begin to change. Richard is a mysterious and moody guy with an ever-present dark cloud that seems to follow him wherever he goes. He doesn’t sleep and he refuses to take his sleeping meds. When he should be asleep, Richard frenetically draws haunting images in his sketchbook. Slowly, Jonah and Richard forge a bond with each other and one night, when Richard is trying to sleep, Jonah tries to help when he sees shadowy creatures preying upon Richard.
The Last Time I Saw Richard is a beautiful, haunting film about love, pain, fear, and freedom. As far as pacing and production value is concerned, it’s one of the best short films available.
RUNTIME: 22 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Jonah and Richard
BONUS FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: If you’ve seen the feature film Boys in the Trees, Jonah should look familiar to you. That’s because The Last Time I Saw Richard was the prequel to a feature project eventually called… you guessed it, Boys in the Trees:
The feature film continues Jonah’s story two years in the future: Halloween night, 1997. For now, just know Boys In the Trees comes to you recommended. And if you’re merely curious what Richard ended up looking like two years later, just check out the trailer.
Film 11: Slut
Slut begins with a sixteen-year-old girl, with a big ol’ pair of Jackie O bohemian square glasses shielding her face. This is Maddy. She lives with and also takes care of her sick, mute, wheelchair-bound grandmother in an old farmhouse out in Nowheresville, Texas. Maddy still feels lonely, though. She spends her free time at the local roller rink, where she’s a socially awkward outcast, but at least she’s not alone.
Maddy rocks a couple of respectable Farrah Fawcett flips, but her clothes are shabby, her glasses are huge, and her naiveté is mighty to behold. She’s a dorky misfit just dying to let her inner vixen out and to that end, she’s chosen a Slutty Godmother to emulate. This Slut of all Sluts is another girl named Jolee: a pretty, blonde, fun-loving, and unapologetically promiscuous girl who has drawn the attention of an older, charismatic stranger who, well, we’re pretty sure is the killer.
RUNTIME: 21 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Maddy and her identity.
ONE FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: Writer/director of Slut, Chloe Okuno, was inspired by the aesthetic of late 70s/80s slasher films and her love of them. Specifically, she wanted to emulate the best of genre films, like Carrie, Halloween, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
Film 12: Bark
The first thing you may notice about Bark is how handsome and inoffensive the styling is: warm earth tones, contemporary furniture, natural lighting, and everything precisely where it belongs. Even Dot, the girl on the couch in the center of the parlor, looks as though she’s been placed and posed there.
The second thing you may notice about Bark is the distinctly bizarre argument Lo and Dot begin having upon breaking the initial silence of the film. And this, my fellow horror fan, is when shit gets weird.
Bark is a dreamlike sketch of the insecurity, competition, and resentment that inform Lo and Dot’s relationship. Listen to them speak and it becomes apparent they aren’t actually conveying their thoughts to one another so much as they are reciting poetic expressions of their subconscious, replete with lyrical timing and phrasing. Their argument is circular and enigmatic, tense and agitated, but ultimately, it is both maddening and beautiful.
RUNTIME: 11 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Lo and Dot
BONUS FOR MY HORROR NERD HOMIES: Observant viewers will spot curious similarities and differences in the way Lo and Dot were styled for the film. Amanda Kramer, writer/director of Bark, creates a custom color palette for each of her projects. Bored with the aesthetics of standardized films, Kramer wanted a palette that was memorable, hazy, poetic, and sort-of dull. Both girls’ outfits appear to have been pulled from the same color palette/closet, although Lo is polished and accessorized while Dot’s sweater looks as though it has been eaten through by moths, and many details of her appearance feel unfinished. Hunting for these tidbits could easily inspire a deeper look at this amazing short film.
Film 13: Anti Social
Anti Social is, first and foremost, a comedy. Second, it’s a horror comedy. Now that that’s cleared up, let’s get with the giggles.
In our current, tech-addicted society, this film imagines the horrors of dating someone who doesn’t use social media. Like, at all. I know, right?
RUNTIME: 3 minutes
RELATIONSHIP: Sarah and her subscribers
Featured image via Nicholas Verso (The Last Time I Saw Richard).