In celebration of Spooktober, I’ll be reviewing one or two animated horror short films a week! I watched Super Eyepatch Wolf’s video on Horror in Media, where he talks about how animation as a medium has surprisingly few good examples of horror due to its reputation as “kid’s stuff”. Thinking on this, I set out to find as many good animated horror shorts as I can and share them to people!
To start off, is a 4-minute CG animated short film simply titled “Horror” by Riff and Alternate Studio. Seriously, just go watch that first before you continue reading this review, it’s worth your 4 minutes!
“Horror” is a memento to all of our childhood fears from the rational (domestic violence, broken homes)-
-to the irrational (monsters and ghosts).
For a small indie studio, the animation quality is top notch, and they make great use of the lighting in the house to make for some truly terrifying scenes. The lightning and the dim lamps give off a genuine sense of unease, the same unease one experiences when going around the house at night as a child on a stormy day. In particular, this shot makes use of all of the above to make a strikingly nostalgic scene for anybody who’s ever stayed up a bit too late and got too scared to sleep.
Another reason why I like this short so much is that feels so familiar, as the household is distinctly Asian, specifically that of Thailand. I’m Filipino but thanks to the similar climates of our countries, and the fact that the Philippines is Asia’s cultural grab bag, the house just looks like any house in our neighborhood, especially the floral light-colored cloths, calendars and the cheap-looking wood of the house.
Of course, that also means it’s much easier for me to put myself in the little girl’s shoes,making the short film that much more effective.
In addition, having the entirety of the horror sequence play out from the perspective of a child really adds a sense of danger and urgency than if it was shot like a traditional movie.
The monster designs are actually relatively simple concepts. From the perspective of a child, who has been exposed to scary stories as seen in the first few seconds of the film, all “bad things” are monsters, and so, her parents became monsters in her eyes for doing things she thinks are bad.
The symbolism present in this scene, and what the whole film’s message really builds up to, is that children are the products of their parents. When a susceptible child grows in an environment of monsters, then monsters they might become. The little girl’s shift from a scream into a smile means that she has become used to the constant fighting, and in turn has viewed it as normal. This plays upon the little girl’s fears of becoming like her parents.
Obviously, it’s a case by case basis because children from broken homes don’t necessarily turn into broken, bad people, but for a very young child with no other exposure to the outside world, they absorb only what’s in front of them.
“Horror” is a perfect example of what an atmospheric animated horror short should accomplish. It should be able to tell a story with very few words, give us scares that DON’T rely on cheap shock value, and leave us with something to think about by the end.