SHORT STEPPING STONES
5 SHORT FILMS THAT INSPIRED FEATURES
PUBLISHED 24 JUL 2017
JAMES WAN / 2003
"Are you grateful David?"
This 10-minute short film resulted in one of the most successful horror franchises in the 2000s. SAW builds the future foundation for a cult following through fast-paced camera movement and large amounts of gore in a franchise now consisting of seven films. The short featurette includes the feature film’s famous torture device “the reverse bear trap” as well as unsettling footage of mastermind serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) and instructions for his victim to survive. SAW immediately offers audiences a glimpse into the psychopathic world of JIGSAW. That following year the feature length versions went on to earn $103 million worldwide with countless sequels, including a new chapter to be released later this year. SAW is every film-makers dream short film to pitch to production companies.
ALIVE IN JOBURG
NEILL BLOMKAMP / 2006
"We don't want to be here, this place doesn't want us"
In five minutes, Blomkamp’s short includes fascinating glimpses of aliens and a large spaceship directly above Johannesburg. The handheld interview sequences offer a quick summary of the plot, revolving around society’s attitude towards the aliens entering the city. The aliens, of course, represent modern societal attitudes towards earthly minorities. By including footage of newly discovered aliens living in New Zealand and the tension that has created among the government and civilians, ALIVE IN JOBURG pitches a teaser not only focusing on the impressive special effects, but also its unique approach to the sci-fi genre: the aliens are not the monsters, it is the humans that are. The feature length film DISTRICT 9 (2009) went on to receive critical acclaim and earned over $210 million dollars worldwide.
ANDRES MUSCHIETTI / 2008
"We have to go, Mom is back"
Muscheietti’s short film seemingly takes place in a single tracking shot, but this was enough to get producers on board to release a feature length version five years later. The distinctive lighting and fast pace places the audience in the shoes of the young girls who are attempting to escape their house. We only see into the rooms as the young girls do as the hovering camera teases the audience towards the climax that they know is coming. We then see a shot of someone dressed in woman’s clothing but their face is obviously not human. We only see the tormentor’s unrecognisable face briefly in a close-up at the end, but are left wondering the fate of the two young girls. MAMA (2013) went on to earn over $75 million dollars worldwide with a sequel currently in the works.
WITHIN THE WOODS
SAM RAIMI / 1978
"You know this place we're staying? It used to be part of an old Indian burial ground"
Like SAW, this short film jumpstarted another franchise and fan favourite for horror lovers: THE EVIL DEAD (1981-1992). At half an hour long, WITHIN THE WOODS follows a young couple who are staying in a small cabin in the woods. All is apparently normal until the curse of the woods gradually affects those who visit, resulting in an exorcism-like takeover of the characters. The combination of the supernatural genre and horror results in intense scenes of characters being tormented by both an unknown presence and the supernatural powers of the woods. THE EVIL DEAD franchise remains a popular presence in horror cinema nearly four decades later, with a remake being released in 2013.
CHRIS MARKER / 1962
"They begin again. The man doesn't die, nor does he god mad. He suffers. They Continue."
Very few would have predicted that this French sci-fi featurette short film would inspire the Hollywood feature film 12 MONKEYS (Terry Gilliam 1995) released over three decades later. Set in the aftermath of World War 3, LA JETEE tells the story of survivors of the war now living underground as the result of nuclear destruction. Scientists desperately attempt to research time travel to send survivors back to different time periods in order to prevent the post-nuclear world. Unlike the other films in this list, 12 MONKEYS storyline is different from the featurette, with the film revolving around a virus that almost wipes out humanity rather than a nuclear war.
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