Logo Halloween Horror NightsVoting for the Halloween Horror Nights 2010 Scary Film Competition opened on September 3, 2010 and closed on Friday, September 17, 2010.

Even though the winner’s already been announced, I wanted you to have the chance to watch these 10 horror shorts and maybe discover a new filmmaker you’d like to support.

Below is a recap of the Top 10 finalists in the order in which I would’ve awarded prizes. I rate on a scale of 1 to 5 stars, with 1 star being the lowest and 5 stars being the highest.

#10 – MISTER WEDNESDAY’S PLAYGROUND
Written and Directed by Noah Reich (Twitter)

Image Mister Wednesday's Playground
Click Here to Watch

A kid tortures some random blonde and then deems the victim “no fun.” When she’s finished getting the victim “ready,” Mister Wednesday makes an appearance.

The kid was creepy. However, what exactly was her role? Mister Wednesday’s minion? Daughter? Brainwashed victim? And who (or what) was Mister Wednesday? I dunno. Unfortunately, the score caused total disconnect and the story, as presented, felt choppy. Overall, just meh.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow star
2 stars

#9 – HAZARDS
Written and Directed by Donny Kennedy

Image Hazards
Click Here to Watch

An attractive young woman drives along a dark highway, swerves to miss an animal and then must stop to make sure the poor thing is alive. A half-naked man startles her and she runs away from her car, into the night, with only her flashlight to guide the way.

Yeah, sounds pretty familiar, huh? Anyone who’s watched a decent number of movies will predict the ending right away: that’s the biggest mark against this horror short. The other is relying too much on the radio. But, Kennedy succeeded at building tension in a short amount of time, casting a believable actress, and telling a complete story.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Half Yellow Star
2.5 stars

#8 – THE WIDOWER
Written by Mustafa Eshanzada, Directed by Mustafa Eshanzada and Murad Amayreh (Facebook)

Image The Widower
Click Here to Watch

A man is haunted by the ghost of his ex-wife and aborted daughter.

An okay ghost story, with rigid acting, that presented too many inconsistent images (scenes) to form a cohesive story. Plus, the voice over narration…not great. Why so many stars then? The score was spot on and I liked the “Boo!” style ending.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Half Yellow Star
2.5 stars

#7 – LOVE ME TENDER
Written by Brian McAuley, Directed by Matthew Morgenthaler (Facebook)

Image Love Me Tender
Click Here to Watch

A young girl’s reaction to the boy who lied when he agreed to be her Valentine.

Immediate reaction: Can you scream without a tongue? Overall, the film offered high-quality production, good actors, a perfect score and an interesting story. The little girl reminded me of Dawn from the movie TEETH (2007), but, in my eyes, that’s a good thing.

And, it turns out this is just the opening scene from the real short film about the little girl, Emma, all grown up and in college. From the looks of the trailer, this one might be added to my “must-see Indies” list. [More Info.]

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3 stars

#6 – SUFFERING IN ECSTASY
Written and Directed by Jason Karten (Twitter)

Image Suffering in Ecstasy
Click Here to Watch

An attractive blonde is beaten, mutilated at her own hands, and then committed.

Much like THE NIGHTMARE (2009, Jeff M. Breyer), I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on, but I enjoyed it. The story wasn’t totally clear but the visuals were almost overwhelming and the score made my skin crawl. The images coupled with the constant squealing noise at 2:35 forced me to turn off the sound — it was just too much. Cut those color scenes or make them black-and-white, and tame the sound in the last 20-ish seconds, and this film would’ve ranked higher on my list.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow star
3 stars

#5 – TRICK
Written and Directed by William Rot (Twitter)

Image Trick
Click Here to Watch

A young boy’s penny-pinching father won’t allow him to buy a new Halloween costume, so with a little help from “The Demon’s Guide to Making Horrifyingly Scary Masks” and his imagination, he creates his own.

I’ve said it more than once, masks are just downright scary. At least to me. Creepy, twisted and fun – how could I not like this short?

There is an undeniable call out to the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974). And the film’s animation and storyline also seem to be inspired by TREAT ‘R TREAT: SEASON’S GREETINGS, a special feature on the TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007, Michael Dougherty) DVD. Perhaps not; it felt similar, though.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Half Yellow Star
3.5 stars

#4 – JASPER
Directed by Elizabeth B. Schieffer (Facebook)

Image Jasper
Click Here to Watch

An elderly woman searches for her cat, Jasper, at night in a not-so-great neighborhood.

Perhaps I’m cynical but the first thing I thought was, “There’s no way that old lady would be there,” which put me en garde straight away. So the twist was lots of fun, but a more believable setting would’ve kept it hidden a little longer, maybe. Aside from that, there’s a lot of potential in this female filmmaker and I look forward to watching her next film.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Half Yellow Star
3.5 stars

#3 – THE MARKSMAN
Written and Directed by Chris Lunardon

Image The Marksman
Click Here to Watch

A man, possibly a serial killer, targets his next victim but realizes too late that she’s expecting him.

I felt THE MARKSMAN succeeded best at building genuine tension and suspense. A radio was used (again) as a way to work in the necessary information to set up (and conclude) the story but it seemed more organic in this short. Eliminate the ridiculous hair blowing and I would’ve awarded four stars.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Half Yellow Star
3.5 stars

#2 – PARASITE
Written and Directed by S. Christian Roe (Twitter)

Image Parasite
Click Here to Watch

A young woman watches a documentary about fear and experiences its message firsthand.

Probably the most relatable and realistic of the Top 10 finalists, which is why it’s my number two pick: Anything that could really happen or plays on our existing nightmares is true horror. Who hasn’t freaked themselves out before? And the best part of the film, for me, was showing the audience that we are our fears — it’s all in our mind and within our control.

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4 stars

#1 – THE WINTER STALKER
Written and Directed by Stephen Reedy (Twitter)

Image The Winter Stalker
Click Here to Watch

No recap for this one: Total surprise is the best way to go…trust me.

Steeped in talent and creativity, this horror short film is uber creepy and suspenseful but with a fun, unexpected twist. Stephen Reedy and Zerofriends Films are officially on my must-watch radar. There’s another short, BLOODBATH, posted on Clicker. Click here to watch it now.

Photo: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Yellow starPhoto: Half Yellow Star
4.5 stars

[Click here for the official winner.]

Even though the competition is over, you can still support these filmmakers by visiting their web site or blog, following them on Twitter, or friending them on Facebook. And, of course, buy their films when / if they are available for purchase.

Filmmakers: If you’re going to submit your work to a national contest, please include credits so we know who did what on your film, and at the very least have a Facebook or basic web page set up for your movie. That way fans of your work have a way to track and support your future projects.

Wanna see the entries that didn’t make the Top 10? Click here.

So ‘fess up: Which was your favorite?


1 Comment

Leah · February 21, 2011 at 1:19 PM

Author’s note: The original post was to be published on September 10, 2010 while voting was still open, but due to technical issues with WordPress scheduler it was not published until 2/21/11. So I edited the copy accordingly and included a link to the contest winner.

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