Inspired by this week’s release of Lights Out, a progression from director David F. Sandburg’s 2013 short of the same name, we have picked out six of the best short films that were so successful they made it to the big screen. After all, if you can tell a good story in just a few minutes, you might be talented enough to progress to feature length.
In Mama, Argentine filmmaker Andrews Muschietti portrays the psyche and fear of two young sisters who suddenly awake at the sound of their mother returning home, an occurrence that usually wouldn’t raise eyebrows. An abundance of confusion, intrigue and mystery translates to the screen well in this foreign short film. Only at the end do audiences find out why the sisters are terrified at the thought of their mother returning, creating an unsettling and disconcerting yet highly enjoyable audience experience.
Became: Mama (2013)
Starring a critically acclaimed cast including Jessica Chastain and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and executive producer Guillermo del Toro, Mama was released in 2013 under the same name as the short. It loosely follows the original storyline, two sisters rescued by their remaining relatives after a traumatic experience and years of isolation living in an abandoned cabin in the woods. This may sound like a happy ending but after a series of unexplained situations and peculiar behaviour, the girl’s uncle and his girlfriend soon begin to realise the girls have brought someone or something home. Muschietti takes inspiration from the disconcertingly unforgettable mama figure from the short to create many suspense-filled moments.
Lights Out (A Short Horror Film) (2013)
In this Swedish short film, David Sandberg creates three of the most intense minutes of any horror-enthusiast’s life. Featuring a young woman who believes to be seeing a figure only when she turns her lights off, this prompts her to tape the light switch permanently on and hastily hide under her duvet. Only then does she realise hiding won’t save her from the figure that lurks in the shadows. A low budget short in all its glory: simple and highly effective, only if you like jumping out of your skin of course.
Became: Lights Out (2016)
Sandberg brings the short to the big screen, this year, this time loaded with 81 minutes of pure horror in the feature film Lights Out. The film follows Rebecca and half-brother Martin on their desperate urge to be rid of the figure that haunts them from the shadows. The obvious struggle of mental illness prevalent in the feature blurs the lines between reality and imagination, leading the characters down a spiral of the unknown and ultimate fear. Armed with a substantially larger budget, you won’t want to miss out on this year’s most chilling horror!
Director Jennifer Kent released her short film Monster in 2005, later nicknamed as ‘Baby Babadook’ with the release of the feature film. The film explores the common childish fear of a monster in the closet, to which the boy’s mother struggles to deal with and solve. Her battle only increases when she begins to feel a dark presence all around her, leading her to question whether it is really in her son’s imagination at all…
Became: The Babadook (2014)
In 2014, Jennifer Kent returned to re-imagine Monster into a full length film, The Babadook, an equally unsettling audience experience. Once again, the film follows a single mother and her young son who encounter a strange creature that appears from a children’s pop-up book. Fearing for their safety and sanity, the family must learn to defend themselves as the Babadook certainly does not hold back on his victims.
La Jetée (1962)
La Jetee tells the story of a post-nuclear war experiment conducted on prisoners held underground in the Palais de Chaillot galleries in Paris. The test subjects are transported to different time periods but all does not go to plan and complications soon arise. Constructed almost entirely from black and white still photos, this gritty and intense short explores love, trauma and death in less than 30 minutes.
Became: 12 Monkeys (1995)
12 Monkeys signalled a return into the industry for Terry Gilliam, who teamed up with Bruce Willis, Brad Pitt, Christopher Plummer and Madeleine Stowe in this neo-noir science fiction based on his 1962 short. The original time-travel theme is kept at the film’s core but includes a deadly virus and a desperate fight for a cure.
Inspired by Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Tim Burton created a 30 minute short tale of a boy who tragically loses his dog Sparky. The next day he learns at school about electrical impulses in muscles and is inspired to try reviving Sparky. To his joy the experiment works, but his neighbourhood does respond so understandingly…causing trouble for Victor and Sparky. A short chase ensues in which Sparky ends up saving the boy from an anger-induced blaze and what was once a ruthless mob are forced to re-think their initial prejudices. If Tim Burton’s cinematic style does it for you, make sure you check out this classic.
Became: Frankenweenie (2012)
Soon after creating the Frankenweenie short, Tim Burton was notoriously fired from Walt Disney – his dark humour supposedly unfavourable with its producers. However, eighteen years later he returned to create the animated feature film of his beloved tale; a take on the classic and historic novel, which funnily enough Disney ended up producing. Burton’s famous dark cinematic style was kept at the heart of this masterpiece that captured the hearts of audiences.
Lights Out is in UK cinemas August 19th
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