You’re trapped in a room while a silent killer lurks outside.
You’re unable to leave save for the urgencies of food and healthcare.
In the supermarkets the shelves are stripped bare and the dead air echoes with far off sirens, while police patrol the otherwise empty streets like packs of hungry dogs.
The few lone people you see from your window are masked and move like spectres.
The city outside is cold and distant. Normal life is a fading memory.
Your room is your world now, and that world is slowly, surely suffocating you.
Sound like a horror movie?
Nope, that’s just 2020. But to many it understandably did, and some of them decided to translate those feelings into cinema. Thus, a new horror subgenre was born: ‘Quar-horror’.
It’s no surprise that horror was the genre of choice for quarantine film projects. Aside from the obvious, horror is forgiving to low budgets and restricted sets. It’s also a genre that often sees renewed interest and innovation during times of cultural anxiety – the latest expression of this being Quar-horror.
Consisting mostly of short films shot at home and on a shoestring budget, the poorly-but-literally-named subgenre contains some of the most original work put out this year. Quar-horror is proof that imagination is intensified by deprivation and that boredom might really be the most effective motivator known to humankind.
As an introduction to the sub-genre, we picked out our 10 favourite shorts for your viewing pleasure. Just make sure not to watch them while home alone – if you have the choice.
First up, the idea that everybody had but nobody managed to pull off quite as well as Tracy Kleeman – the Zoom call horror film. Screen is original, compelling, and loaded with background details that reward multiple repeat viewings.
But perhaps the best part is that the video-call device isn’t a gimmick so much as a core element of the storytelling – a feat that’s admirable and most likely has roots in Kleeman’s successful Snapchat short of last year.
19 COVID Lane
This is one of those videos that well and truly warrants the stock standard “How does this not have more views?!” YouTube top comment. Part-horror, part-comedy and with some great visual referencing to 10 Cloverfield Lane, 19 COVID Lane wittily parodies the obsessive compulsions many of us were driven to during quarantine.
Swedish filmmaker David F. Sandberg is no stranger to the low-budget horror scene. His acclaimed directorial debut, ‘Lights Out’, was adapted from a short that he made, and ever since he’s been pumping out quality films both through the big screen and YouTube.
Thankfully for us, quarantine only seems to have inspired him to go back to his roots – Shadowed plays on similar themes from Lights Out but with a refreshingly terrifying twist.
View with the lights turned on, or while sitting on the toilet.
In contrast to the above, Lockdown 28 was the quarantine project of a couple of previously unknown brothers from Malaysia who make up for in ambition what they may lack in credentials.
Cheekily awarding themselves Best Director at the “Social Distance Film Festival” (evidence of the existence of which we have yet to find), an accolade that, were it real, would be well deserved. Lockdown 28 is impressive in its construction, featuring some brilliant no-budget CGI and colour-grading, as well as some intriguing sci-fi elements. Well worth four minutes of your time.
Coronapocalypse may be a little longer than the others featured on the list so far, but for good reasons. It’s a narrative piece following a day in the life of fictional streamer/influencer ‘Flick69’, whose journey to buy milk during lockdown yields an unexpected and horrific discovery.
Created by members of the Prague film community in the 24 hours before the city went into full lockdown, Coronapocalypse is a nail-biter that shows potential for future development.
Devil’s Door might be the most genuinely terrifying short on this list. Director Aaron Fradkin makes extraordinary use of a single room and bathroom mirror, as well as playing on classic horror tropes with an unexpectedly fresh twist.
It’s hard to say more without giving it away, so just go watch it – unless you were planning on sleeping tonight.
There are two classic paths you can take in the horror genre. You either make it gory or go for a subtler, psychological approach. The latter is the obvious preference for Quar-horror creators, and QUARANTINED is no different. Well, except for the fact that it takes the psychological element a little deeper than the rest.
Rather than personifying the anxieties of quarantine as with many of the other shorts on this list, QUARANTINED plays with the idea that in isolation, the real antagonist is within. The dish-filled kitchens, the endless social media scrolling and news-watching, the closed curtains and circular routines and empty, indistinguishable, unmemorable days… It does something strange to the brain, isolation, and this cinematic short makes a sharp point of it.
Stay At Home
A box arrives at your door, unannounced. It carries a note that states the box should not be opened for two weeks, lest the evil within it will be unleashed. Seems like a pretty simple set of instructions – and a rather obvious metaphor. It is neither of these things.
One-man film crew Kenneth Brown’s Stay At Home is a striking exploration of the insecurities and fears surrounding the simple mandate after which the short film is titled, and the piece as a whole acts as homage to the wisdom that some of the most insightful speculative works always begin with the simple question ‘what if?’
There is something about darkness that is terrifying on a deep and basic, instinctual level. Perhaps it has been hardwired into us since prehistoric times, when wandering off in the night was a certain death sentence, or maybe it’s something that predates our experience as humans altogether.
So, unsurprisingly, horror films are often set in the darkness. Would it be possible to shoot a horror film entirely in bright daylight? Who knows – this spooky short does nothing in the way of answering that question, rather opting for the anxiety inducing big-empty-house-at-night setting.
Has it been done before? Yes. Is it still a well-composed, list-worthy, pants-shitting nightmare inducer? Double yes.
ISOLATION HORROR SHORT FILM FULL HD
This isn’t the only film on the list that approaches people’s dismissal of the threat of coronavirus through a metaphor, but it is the one that’s the most concise about it. Coming in at just over 2 minutes with the credits included, the apparently untitled film titled ISOLATION SHORT HORROR FILM FULL HD has got more going for it than its duration and title might suggest.
Double points if you can guess exactly how it ends before it does. If you succeed, you would make a terrible character in a horror film. But that’s likely a good thing.