Best Short Horror Films (That Probably Wouldn't Be Recognized as Horror or Films)

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NEW!! Links to YouTube videos! See if I'm full of crap or not!

1. The Smurfs, "The Purple Smurfs" (1981, TV Show)
A fly bites one of the Smurfs on his tail, turning his skin purple and causing him to bounce around mindlessly and angrily, yell "G'nap!" and bite other Smurfs on the tail, spreading the virus. Clearly an homage to Night of the Living Dead, this episode, which couldn't be more than eight minutes long, has more action and plot twists than most full-length horror movies. And then there's the ending: Papa Smurf, last of the non-infected Smurfs, is barricaded inside his lab, trying to mix one last batch of the magic powder that can reverse the virus. But the Purple Smurfs break in and bite Papa Smurf on the tail, turning him into a Purple Smurf. Fortunately, he proceeds to smash the lab, which causes a fire, which in turn makes the magic powder explode over the village and reverse the process. But the damage to fragile 9 year old minds has been done, because for a brief moment, the Smurfs are extinct, completely wiped out, replaced by, for all intents and purposes, zombies. That they are restored to normal by pure chance makes the inevitable happy ending seem less reassuring and more like a brief glimpse into a random, unknowable universe. Changed my life, it did.

(See the video. More horrifying and better plotted than 28 Days Later.)

2. The Greg Kihn Band, "Jeopardy" (1982, Music Video)
A man (Greg Kihn) is about to get married, but the guests, the wedding party, and even the bride keep turning into ghouls and monsters. Fear of commitment, a standard comedy theme, made fresh by the brilliant use of horror tropes. The penultimate scene features Kihn battling a horde of guests-turned-ghouls, trying to make it to the exit. He does so, but when he breaks through to the outside, he finds himself arm and arm with his bride, showered with rice...until the image is revealed to be a Super-8 home movie (a device borrowed from 1980's DEATH SHIP, I believe), watched by the corpses of the bride and groom. Yet, that's not even the final image. The last scene is just as chilling, in its way, and much more subtle.

(See the video.)

3. Sprite Commercial, Unknown Title (1998, TV Commercial)
A woman and her two kids have a conversation about a Sunny Delight-type drink, in the standard commercial form, when an animated teddy bear, the drink's mascot, appears. Rather than engaging this cute toy on the merits of his drink, the woman and the children scream in horror and attempt to get out of the house as quickly as possible. Hilarious, of course, but only in the juxtopostion of the adorable teddy bear and the unwarranted reaction by the humans. The director is dead-serious in his/her use of the camera to create horror; if the teddy bear were digitally replaced with, say, Chucky, all humor would evaporate. (Also, a lot of the camerawork and lighting is reminiscent of Wes Craven; for all I know, he directed it.) The ending of this fifteen-second masterpiece is genuinely disturbing: the kids get out of the house but the mother trips and falls at the end of the hallway. She looks back to see the teddy bear is right there. The teddy bear reaches out to touch her leg, but before it does, the camera zooms in quickly on the screaming, terrified face of the mother. Now that's filmmaking.

(See the video. Note how many details I got wrong. Still a good piece of filmmaking, but doesn't have the same oomph that it did.)

Excellent! Love this analysis of why that Smurfs episode is so traumatic: "But the damage to fragile 9 year old minds has been done, because for a brief moment, the Smurfs are extinct, completely wiped out, replaced by, for all intents and purposes, zombies. That they are restored to normal by pure chance makes the inevitable happy ending seem less reassuring and more like a brief glimpse into a random, unknowable universe. Changed my life, it did."

Will there be more additions to this list?

I keep thinking there's at least 2 more to add to the list, but I can't seem to remember what they are. Intuition tells me they're music videos, but otherwise, I'm a blank. But again, that's what makes Listology so great--I've had this list and this commentary in my head for awhile, but never had a place to put it. Anyway, if I remember (or see something new), I'll put it on the list.

Have you seen "The Purple Smurfs", by chance?

I have not seen that one, but I feel like I have based on your description.

I don't remember that exact Sprite commerical, but I do remember a similar one that goofed on the Snuggles fabric softener commercial: Mom's doing laundry and extolling the virtues of her dryer sheets when a talking stuffed bear gets up and starts to chime in. Rather than bemusement, though, Mom reacts with horror and beats the bear to death with her iron. Brilliant.

There was an anti-fur commercial that played once or twice when I was a kid. I remember it making a big impression on me -- there were models at a fashion show displaying the new fashions in fur for the season, and as they stroll and turn on the catwalk, the furs start bleeding all over everything. The final image is the models leaving the stage, oblivious to the massive slick of blood following them. I think that represents my first exposure to explicit gore...

Snuggles! I was trying to remember that damn bear's name. The bear in the Sprite commercial was very much like Snuggles.

Never saw the commercials you mention, though, but I'd love to see the anti-fur one someday.

Wow, I remember that Smurf story, only I read the comic book - never saw the animated version. That whole munchin' on the tail and turning bad scared the hell out of me when I was little. Noooooooooo not the gentle Smurf! Why? Whyyyyyyyy?!

That Sprite commercial cracked me up everytime.
Cool list, I hope you'll add to it.

There was a comic book version of the G'nap? Oh my God, that's awesome. I can't help but wonder if the frozen moments of a comic book panel might make it even creepier.

Glad to see somebody else remembers that Sprite commercial!

Speaking of adding to it, I keep remembering that the impetus for making this list was a very recent commercial, but I never get around to writing it up. Soon, perhaps...

You'll find an image of the book here: http://www.momes.net/BD/schtroumpfnoir.jpg
Now I wish I still had it!