Way before Lights Out starred Teresa Palmer and Maria Bello, and scared cinema-goers senseless, it was a short film scaring the masses online. The film, which starred director David F. Sandberg‘s wife Lotta Losten, stalked through her house as she settled into her bedtime routine. Every time she turned out the light a shadowy figure appeared, each time getting closer and closer until the creature is right beside her, grinning manically. Light’s Out bagged Sandberg a best director award via Bloody Cuts’ Horror Challenge. The idea was soon after snapped up by the Yanks for the feature treatment.
The feature is once more directed by Sandberg, and features Losten in a cameo capacity in the opening sequence. The film expands the world of the short, bonding the shadowy figure, now known as Diana, to manic-depressive single mother Sophie (Maria Bello). Her estranged daughter Rebecca (Teresa Palmer) finds herself drawn back into the family fold after her younger brother Martin reaches out to her. When Rebecca was young she was tormented by Diana, but thought her long gone. She soon realises that this is not the case and she might be the only one capable of getting rid of her once and for all.
Hollywood has an over reliance on reboots these days, but as Light’s Out proves, there are plenty of original ideas already alive. This is not the only scary short that needs longer screen time, here are our top picks for what the studios should invest in next. Spoiler warning, this feature may cause sleepless nights.
Written and directed by Ben Franklin and Anthony Melton, The Birch is a British-set horror from the team behind Bloody Cuts. The film showcases impressive creature effects and some eye-catching visuals. The story sees a tormented teen summon forth a mythic protector, ‘The Birch’, to exact revenge on his bully. The result is bloody and brutal and makes a great stepping stone for a feature. This could just be the first target that he sets The Birch upon before inevitably having a change of heart and having to send her back from whence she came. See the short in all it’s glory here.
He Took His Skin Off For Me
He Took his Skin off for me is a gory but fantastic short film. A young woman tells of how her partner gave her the ‘ultimate gift’ by taking his skin off for her. Put simply, it’s a romantic drama spliced with Hellraiser aesthetics. The short does exactly what the name suggests, featuring a man who takes his skin off. The removal of his skin is an obvious metaphor about exposing ourselves in relationships and fully committing to another. In terms of feature potential we’re thinking of a Nina Forever like tale. He Took his Skin off for me would work perfectly as the midsection of the narrative. This would give time to delve into the events that lead up to the skin shedding as well as expanding on the short’s conclusion.
A film guaranteed to make you think twice before answering a late night phone call, Bedfellows may be under three minutes, but it packs a punch. Bedfellows features a simple but very effective idea that can surely inspire an expanded narrative. Just imagine an Insidious / Conjuring style film wherein this film slots in as one of the dreaded night scenarios. Creepy as you like.
A slightly longer than your average ‘short’ film, Don’t Move sees a group of friends pitted against an unknown assailant who, much like the T-Rex, has a visual based on movement. The short sees friendships disintegrate as within the house lies the message ‘one must live’. Another offering from the Bloody Cuts team, this time directed by Anthony Melton and written by David Scullion, these guys clearly know their horror.
Expanding Don’t Move out to feature length just makes sense to us. This short works as a potential third of a film, be that opening, middle or end; each would offer a great idea. The film raises so many questions, what game are they playing? Where did it come from? Why are they all in different places when the thing arrives? And WTF is that thing, and can it be stopped?
Tuck Me in
Another short, but to the point story, is Tuck Me In. A father is innocently going through the bedtime routine with his son when events take an unexpected turn during the ritual of checking under the bed. The short is definitely short, clocking in at barely one minute, and yet it packs a punch. The idea would be a fantastic starting point for a feature, it doesn’t explain much which means that a full length film can shoot off into a thousand different directions.
2AM: The Smiling Man
A young man crosses paths with an odd stranger late at night. 2AM is a slow burn, which is a peculiar thing to say given it comes in at under four minutes. It has the viewer on the back foot from the start and is creepy as Hell. This could easily be the opening of a feature length horror film. Think It Follows, but the stalker is a crazed and deranged forever-smiling man.
He Dies at the End
Despite having a massive spoiler in the title, He Dies at the End is surely ripe for the plucking? An office worker finds himself working alone, late one night. Seeking a respite from his job he starts an innocent online quiz ‘how will you die’; as he starts to fill in the form it becomes apparent that something sinister is occurring. In today’s social media, internet obsessed culture, this film perfectly warns us of the perils of online quizzes. Recent years have seen the horror genre embrace technology, and films like Friend Request, Unfriended and Paranormal Activity 3 all perform well at the box office. It seems logical then that He Dies at the End could garner further exploration. We just ask one thing, that the monster be changed, this one isn’t hugely frightening. It was a similar issue that dogged the Light’s Out short and they managed to transform Diana into the stuff of nightmares, so this shouldn’t be a deal breaker.
Light’s Out director David F. Sandberg might currently be occupied creating Annabelle 2, but should he be looking for his next project he could start closer to home. Pictured again stars his wife, and again she is tormented in her house (that woman needs to move). This time around it’s a haunted painting that has set its eyes set on her. Reminiscent of part of The Witches, this idea if worked correctly, could be the next Ringu.
Light’s Out arrives on Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital Download from Monday 12th December.