20th Digital Studio’s BITE SIZE HALLOWEEN Brings 21 Spooky Shorts from Diverse, Emerging Filmmakers for Hulu’s annual ‘Huluween’ celebration.
In celebration of the best month of the year, 20th Digital Studio’s Bite Size Halloween series of spooky shorts is back for a third season! Twenty-one new shorts from exciting emerging filmmakers premiered on October 1st on Hulu, blending genres like horror, comedy, sci-fi, thriller, and more.
Shot in seven different countries, this season takes on topical issues such as racism, gender, parenthood, sexuality, and identity.
David Worthen Brooks, 20th Digital Studio head, commented:
As we launch the first feature films developed with our incredibly talented BITE SIZE HALLOWEEN filmmaker alums, we are thrilled to introduce the next wave of dynamic filmmaking talent and their ingenious short films. We take great pride in showcasing these vital, diverse voices and their very personal twists on horror, thriller, and sci-fi.
The goal of 20th Digital Studio’s short film programs is to continue to guide and finance the growth of these artists’ careers and to transition some of the shorts into longer features. The first two films developed in this way premiere this month for Huluween. Grimcutty from John William Ross landed on Oct. 10th, and Matriarch from Ben Steiner will arrive on Oct. 21st.
As you know, we here at Morbidly Beautiful are big champions of short horror and urge you to add some impressive short horror programming to your watch list — for the spooky season and beyond. The talent included in Hulu’s Bite Size Halloween series is remarkable, and we love the studio’s focus on diversity and inclusion.
If you’re interested in discovering some outstanding, emerging talent in the genre and enjoying bite-sized servings of horror goodness, you’ll definitely want to check out Season 3 of Bite Size Halloween on Hulu.
Below is a brief overview of what to expect this season from our editor, Stephanie Malone, and guest contributor, Cole Jennings.
1. Nian (Writer/Director Michelle Krusiec)
COLE JENNINGS: “Nian,” the first episode of Hulu’s Bite Size Halloween, is a socially relevant short that tells the story of a young Chinese girl being bullied at school for her ethnicity. She uses the power of the Nian, a demon spirit in the form of a mask, to protect herself from her tormentors. The setup is much better than the payoff. When the demon finally shows itself, it doesn’t do much more than make weird faces, cry, and then wrap the bully in her long tongue. It kind of feels like the setup to an episode of Tales from the Crypt, but one without a ghoulish payoff.
STEPHANIE MALONE: What “Nian” lacks in scares, it makes up for in wicked humor, some snappy dialogue, and a resonant message about acceptance and the beauty of diversity. I love the visuals and how this six-minute short incorporates genuine Chinese mythology, focusing on the child-eating Nian. It’s a female-driven short with a focus on diversity. You’ll delight in seeing the racist bully get her inevitable come-uppings. And the grandma, played by Dawn Akemi Saito, is perfection.
2. Ticks (Writer/Director Sam Max)
CJ: Intriguing, disturbing, and bloody, “Ticks” pays off as it draws the viewer in, not knowing where the story is headed. A woman beaten by her partner wanders off into the woods in a daze and encounters a stranger who seems to want to help. The title alone should let you know what the stranger wants. But between the strangers’ waif-like appearance and the eventual display of some awesome fangs, she gives more the feeling of a vengeful forest spirit than a vampire.
SM: The eerie and beautifully shot “Ticks” is a captivating, nine-minute short that tackles the heavy topic of domestic abuse while still focusing on creeping tension and an appropriately horror-filled ending. This is another short (like “Nian”) that features a small, entirely female cast — as well as lesbian relationships. It’s dark, sexy, and compelling, with great sound design and makeup effects.
3. Snatched (Writer/Director Michael Schwartz)
CJ: Can parents be too accepting of their gay son? The answer in “Snatched” is posed with comedic results when a boy comes out to his parents. He is met with tears from his mother and indifference from his father until a meteor shower changes everything. I’m not going to lie; this was a lot of fun. From the dad backing his son up the stairs while swinging a Yas Queen pride fan at him (ala The Shining) to the fear of baseball, this was comedy horror done right.
SM: “Snatched” accomplishes a lot in its ten-minute runtime. The use of lighting in the opening scene is exceptional. The story is equally heartfelt and hilarious, mocking gay stereotypes and well-meaning but often misguided, performative ally-ship with intelligent and witty satire. The wildly clever reference to The Shining made me both cheer and laugh out loud. The ending is an absolute chef’s kiss. This is one short that is not to be missed.
4. Nzu (Writer/Director Conscian Morgan, Co-Writer Will Clempner)
CJ: Meeting your loved one’s parents for the first time is always awkward, but even more so when they have the ability to reflect your family’s sordid past. Hamish is meeting his African American girlfriend’s family for the first time. Right from the start, there’s tension, reminiscent of Get Out. With him being the only white person in the room, Hamish is nervous. So, he starts talking about how he is studying the disparity between people and how we as a society should be moving forward and not looking back.
This remark sets in motion a very well-done and thought-provoking ending that sees Hamish given the ability to look back into his family’s past, shocked at what he sees. The “looking back” sequences are straight out of Hellraiser and provide the perfect dichotomy from the posh well-meaning, but too-confident Hamish.
Social horror can be even harder to get right than the notoriously tricky horror-comedy. It can easily come off as too heavy-handed, too pandering, or forget the horror altogether and devolve into a sermon. Fortunately, “Nzu” is an example of how to do it correctly.
SM: “You cannot move forward until you look at what’s behind you.” Mesmerizingly beautiful and a masterclass in tension, this eight-minute short is both powerful and chilling. It’s a poignant and extremely relevant look at race relations and the heated debate over critical race theory. While I realize that sounds like a politically-charged hotbed rather than an entertaining horror film, I assure you that “Nzu” gracefully walks the line between message and media to keep the viewer riveted. It delivers an impactful blow without making it feel like you’ve been hit over the head, and it’s expertly crafted in every way.
5. Bug (Writer/Director Coral Amiga and Nicole Hartley)
CJ: A mother and daughter traveling through a fog-shrouded forest are confronted by…something. This was a little slow out of the gate, but it has a stellar payoff that makes it a very worthwhile watch.
SM: It begins with a nerve-wracking car ride between a mother and her pre-teen daughter, nicknamed Bug, who delights in pushing all her mother’s buttons. From the word go, it gave me Hereditary vibes, which is mighty high praise indeed. When Bug’s antics force the mom to pull over to the side of the road, Bug runs out into the forest at dusk. She quickly disappears, and her anxious mom tries desperately to find her. The terror of a lost daughter is soon amplified by the unsettling nature of these mysterious woods. And just when their terrifying ordeal seems to be over, we discover the real nightmare has only just begun. A spine-tingling, eight-minute short with just two female leads, “Bug” will get under your skin.
6. Incomplete (Writer/Director Zoey Martinson)
CJ: A breathalyzer machine, Gale from Breaking Bad, polaroids, and a ghost are all wrapped up in this short. A man under house arrest must blow into his breathalyzer machine every few minutes, which is maddening enough. But at the same time, a ghost, quite possibly a demon (definitely undead), is sneaking up on him.
SM: A suspenseful ten-minute short that will keep you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end, “Incomplete” boasts some great acting, a clever story, a great single setting, and some impressive cinematography. I loved the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hints at the dark entity stalking our protagonist. This short also has a bit of social conscience as well, but the emphasis is squarely on the horror that ramps up in a really satisfying way.
7. Remote (Writer/Director Eric Jungmann)
CJ: Horror icon Lin Shaye and a crony show up at a family pawn shop and do not have good intentions. Luckily, the kids have just befriended a space robot that can turn them into remote-controlled humans. Remember those adorable little robots from Batteries Not Included — the ones that helped save a tenant build from being demolished by greedy developers? Well, apparently, they’re back. And they have been watching Phantasm because one of them turns into a silver sphere and burrows its way into Lin Shaye’s head (by way of her stomach.)
SM: A kind-hearted dad leaves his two kids — a teenage daughter and her younger brother — alone for a bit in the family shop while he runs an errand. While he’s gone, the son makes a strange discovery. Something otherworldly has landed on their back porch. But the alien creatures are far more adorable than menacing. That is until some shady characters arrive with ill intent, including the always-reliable Lin Shaye (who looks fantastic in this role and showcases her scene-stealing acting chops). Then things take an unexpected and wildly entertaining turn. This ten-minute short is one charming and sweet but gory story that’s hard not to love.
8. Live Bait (Writer/Director Andrew Laurich)
CJ: I always did think fishing was kind of mean-spirited. In this, the conventions are reversed with quick but entertaining results.
SM: A quick and tasty little morsel, this two-minute short is gorgeous to look at but has a nasty bite. It’s a perfect example of how you can pack a punch in a short timeframe.
9. Foreigners Only (Writer/Director Nuhash Humayun)
CJ: A tannery worker uses his skills to address class warfare in his home country that would make Leatherface proud. Being one of the longer shorts this season, this one deftly uses its extra time to set up a tone and place while also making the viewer unsure of where it is going. I thought the story would go in one direction, but it zagged in another.
SM: Serving up disturbing visuals and ample atmosphere from the first frame, this fifteen-minute short is smart, sinister, and oh-so-satisfying. Like most shorts in this series, it has quite a bit to say about social issues and man’s inhumanity to man. But priority number one is creeping you the hell out, and it delivers the genre goods in spades with an ending that is equal parts nightmarish, hilarious, and unnerving.
10. Mr. Crocket (Writer/Director Brandon Espy)
CJ: Who among us didn’t have a video that they would play repeatedly as kids, much to their parent’s annoyance? The titular “Mr. Crocket” is just such a saccharine, sing-along video, and Major’s mother has had enough. But Mr. Crocket isn’t ready to be separated from his friend.
SM: Being a single parent can be exhausting and trying at times. And the mom in “Mr. Crockett” is at her breaking point, pushed to the edge partly by her son’s obsession with the annoyingly cheerful kid’s show that he refuses to turn off. Soon, however, she finds that there’s something much more disturbing than Mr. Crockett’s incessant signing. It all culminates in a fun, seriously disturbing ending that makes this six-minute short well worth the watch.
11. Angels (Director Samantha Aldana, Writer Parsons Twesten)
CJ: Help comes from above when a woman and her ailing mother realize that a crash-landed extraterrestrial has the ability to take away pain and sickness. With almost no dialogue, “Angels” is a great example of short horror.
SM: With outstanding visuals and an incredibly engaging story, “Angels” is beautifully shot, well-acted, and spellbinding. More unnerving than overtly scary, this seven-minute film is nevertheless quite a masterful work of short horror filmmaking.
12. Disposal (Writer/Director Luka Wilson)
CJ: Who knew that a simple garbage disposal could be an allegory for a relationship? When it works, it works. But when it doesn’t, nasty things begin to accumulate, and they don’t always go down easy.
SM: Something is broken in a young couple’s relationship. The spark in their marriage has fizzled, and mistrust has crept in to taint their union. It’s all very typical. But a simple relationship drama is presented with oppressive tension and an intense climax in this nine-minute short — putting a sinister spin on the classic tale of infidelity.
13. The Heritage (Writer/Director Andrew Rutter, Co-Writer Chris Butler)
CJ: Dylan is nervous about meeting his biological father for the first time, and he has every reason to be. Gorgeous, practical effects abound in this gross-out tale about finding your roots, proving some mysteries are better left undiscovered.
SM: A real treat for fans of body horror, “The Heritage” is absolutely twisted with a dark sense of humor. It’s an eleven-minute descent into madness that’s hard to watch for the squeamish but also quite brilliant.
14. Fracture (Writer/Director Jon K. Jones)
CJ: Is Marcus dreaming, or is what he’s experiencing real? Is he a victim of a broken brain? What’s real, and what is merely a delusion? Questions like these figure prominently in a sub-genre of horror where it’s unclear if a character is experiencing some great horror or simply mentally ill. It’s a very well-worn trope. Thus, it’s hard to deliver something truly surprising. “Fracture” is a well-made film but may feel a bit too familiar.
SM: With a great sci-fi opening and an interesting premise, “Fracture” is a moving film about how the human brain deals with trauma. It’s the kind of film that asks more questions than it answers, but it’s exquisitely shot and gives the viewer a lot to think about in only eight minutes.
15. Bad Rabbit (Writer/Director Rebekka Johnson and Kate Nash)
CJ: A young woman constantly belittled by her terrible mother finds a helpful friend in the anthropomorphized manifestation of a rabbit she accidentally ran over with a lawn mower. Who wouldn’t love that logline?
SM: This unique, seven-minute short is demented, and I mean that in the best possible way. The female-driven cast is exceptional. Melinda deKay is as funny as she is vile playing the wretched mother. Writer/director Kate Nash is endearing as the beleaguered daughter. And fellow writer/director Rebekka Johnson steals the show as the unhinged human spirit of a dead rabbit. It all goes wildly off the rails in the most delightful way. It’s batshit crazy, and I loved every minute of it.
16. Sleep Study (Writer/Director Natalie Metzger)
CJ: This one felt like a pretty unsurprising story about a woman who is tormented by a sleep-paralysis demon that is haunting her, her husband, and their newborn baby. Unfortunately, any dedicated horror fan will see the twist coming from a long way off.
SM: A fitting metaphor for the excruciating exhaustion felt by new parents, especially those trying to juggle career and parenthood, “Sleep Study” may not offer a lot in terms of shock value. But this ten-minute short is deeply unsettling, nerve-wracking, and unapologetically horrific. Olivia Applegate as Sarah is exceptional. With an ending that pulls no punches, it’s a well-executed and sadistic little short.
17. Go to Bed, Raymond (Director Nicole Taylor Roberts, Writer Casimir Nozkowski)
CJ: It is always interesting to see a haunting done in a way that hasn’t been done before. And in this tale, a boy is tormented by the children his parents didn’t have when he was born. This was one of the shorts that I felt could be expanded upon into feature-length territory. Something about the idea of ghosts of unborn children living in the forest is intriguing and could definitely be mined for a longer story.
SM: Riveting for the entire seven-minute runtime, “Go to Bed, Raymond” builds on a strong, extremely clever concept and entrances viewers with nail-biting suspense and an ultra-creepy atmosphere. The creepy kid sub-genre is so satisfying, and this is a short that elevates traditional tropes, creating something original and compelling.
18. The Kapre (Writer/Director Carlo Ledesma)
CJ: A camping couple trespassing on land owned by a mythical creature comes face to face with the giant entity. Some impressive special effects for a short film help elevate this one.
SM: With a great setting, a likable couple, and some outstanding practical effects, this six-minute short is a lot of fun. Based on Philippine mythology, the titular Kapre is a creature best described as a tree giant who sits in tree branches to smoke. While not inherently aggressive, they turn hostile when humans disrespect the land. Though that gives it eco-horror undertones, it’s not heavy-handed at all and is mostly just silly and entertaining. It’s also got a chef’s kiss ending.
19. Alone With Him (Writer/Director Marcus Okami)
CJ: A woman escaping a relationship becomes trapped in her snowbound car and realizes she is not alone. This is a good exercise in what a talented director can do just by having an interesting setting and an effective atmosphere.
SM: One of the shorter offerings in this season, the brevity doesn’t make the four-minute short “Alone With Him” any less effective. In fact, it may be my favorite among many outstanding and memorable shorts. Absolutely chilling, claustrophobically tense, and expertly crafted, this is one short that begs for the feature film treatment. And I’m definitely keen on seeing much more from the very talented Marcus Okami.
20. Tresspassers (Writer/Director Robin Takao D’Oench)
CJ: This is yet another short that I would like to see expanded into a feature-length film. A home invasion burglary goes wrong when they unwittingly let out what is hiding behind the walls.
SM: This six-minute short takes the terror of home invasion horror and ratchets it up several notches by introducing a supernatural element and an unexpected twist ending. Emotional and frightful, this short definitely leaves you wanting more.
21. Ride or Die (Writer/Director Minsun Park and Teddy Tenebaum)
CJ: This season ends on a high note with “Ride or Die.” A group of twenty-somethings on a deserted road in the middle of the night (is there any other kind) discover genre stalwart Sean Whalen with a disease that spreads depending on how fast the person is traveling. A unique concept is explored in this effective season-ender.
SM: Wow, what a way to end a killer season of Bite Size Halloween. This seven-minute gem boasts a stellar cast, including the always brilliant Sean Whalen (The People Under the Stairs), and a truly creative concept. Add in some wildly fun and gruesome practical effects, and you’ve got a recipe for a real crowd-pleaser.