Sometimes, you’ve got the bandwidth for watching the extended cut of a superhero movie plus all its special features, or binge-watching an entire TV season. But other times, you only need a quick fix. We’re here to help with 10 of the best new sci-fi, fantasy, and horror shorts around.
Header image: Courtesy Stephen Vitale
1) Final Offer
A lawyer named Henry wakes up after going home with a beautiful woman he met at a bar the night before—except she’s not a human, she’s a three-eyed alien, and she’s spouting all kinds of talk about how he’s been chosen to “represent his species” as part of a shady interplanetary trade negotiation. (She’s also capable of conjuring rum and Cokes out of thin air.) That would be a lot to take in even without a ripping hangover. What happens next? Watch director’s Mark Slutsky short and see. [Short of the Week via Dust]
2) Sword of the Dead
Director Stephen Vitale made a lovely Star Wars fan film called Hoshino a few years ago; his latest proof of concept project, Sword of the Dead, is a samurai zombie film he describes as “Yojimbo meets 28 Days Later,” rendered in crisp black-and-white with a synth score that pays homage to John Carpenter. If that sounds awesome, that’s because it is. Check out the behind-the-scenes vid here.
In Katy Wang’s animated short, a stranded astronaut sends a message into the cosmos, hoping to find a friendly voice or even a way back to Earth from his lonely planet. What he finds leads to a stunning conclusion that’s somehow equal parts hopeful and hopeless. [Vimeo Staff Picks]
4) The Scarecrow
Scary clowns get all the attention, but there’s something awfully sinister about a scarecrow that’s just, like, posted up in the woods for no reason. Dan Allen’s suspenseful film only runs two minutes and change, but it’s chock-full of some very compelling reasons why you should never, ever approach a rogue scarecrow. [Crypt TV]
Here’s another very quick, very scary film. This time, it’s from filmmaker Julian Terry, whose Whisper will make you look very sideways at your Amazon Echo—and maybe even dare you to ask the question, “Alexa, can you hear dead people?” [Vimeo Staff Picks]
You will notice that Instant is co-executive produced by Rod Roddenberry, son of Star Trek creator Gene, but Alex Albrecht’s hostage drama doesn’t take place in outer space. It unfolds in a dive bar, where a frantic, heavily-armed man forces the assembled patrons to sit tight for hours while he hides from the cops outside. Instant runs a little long, and it gets more than a little melodramatic at the end—but all that talking in its middle section builds to the sci-fi reveal you’ve been waiting for.
7) Palo Santo
We’re already fans of filmmaker Fred Rowson (earlier this year, we shared his delightfully macabre mock-doc Rodney), so when he sent us this “part narrative, part music video” for the band Years & Years, we had to take a look. The visually striking Palo Santo cleverly flips a sci-fi script we’ve all seen many times before, imagining a world where humans are used to entertain androids (a theme that runs throughout the band’s recent album of the same name). You’ll recognise Ben Whishaw playing a hologram, and yes, that’s Judi Dench voicing the AI.
Ten years ago, a young girl slipped out of sight while playing at the park, and her devastated mother—who’s long since turned to heroin as a coping mechanism—can’t shake the feeling that even after all this time, her daughter is still out there somewhere. Working “on a shoestring with a very patient cast and crew,” filmmaker Paul Wright wrote, directed, edited, and did the VFX for this very dark, reality-bending tale.
9) Better Humans
Created by Moth Studio as part of a science-minded series celebrating Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, this short imagines what humans of the future might be able to achieve biologically with the help of technology—like, say, living for 150 years or more. Better Humans matches colourful, fanciful animation with narration about tinkering with genes and body parts, provided by an environmental ethicist and a biomedical engineer. However, its standout character has to be that foxy yeti. [Everything Animated]
In the future, robots will have their own New New Testament. (Image: Manual)
10) The Manual
Technically, this is a “medium-length” short (it runs 30 minutes), and we don’t have an embeddable link for this one—currently, if you have Amazon Prime, you can watch it for free via this link; if you don’t, it costs a buck or two to rent depending on what format you choose. That said, don’t let the runtime and potential cost deter you from checking out Wil Magness’ well-crafted film—it charts the life of the last man on Earth, raised since he was a child by a robot who holds some very specific, and potentially very dangerous, spiritual beliefs... and is also weirdly obsessed with horoscopes.