For three years now, Hulu has provided horror fiends with a block of content, under the banner of Huluween. Every year, like a kid in a candy store, I enjoy pouring over their curated list of horror movies, shows and of course, Bite Size Halloween, which is a series of spooky short films. Check out what have in store for our latest yearly treat:
Nian (6 mins 27 seconds)
Plot summary: This short tells the story of a Chinese American student who stands up to bullies thanks to Nian, the mask of a mythological creature said to devour children.
Bite Size starts off strong with Nian. Michelle Krusiec has been crushing it as an actor, appearing in such high-profile projects such as Ryan Murphy’s Hollywood, Supergirl and the sublime indie horror comedy The Invitation from 2015. However, after seeing Nian, I think Krusiec may want to direct horror films. Nian is a bold, creepy short that has just the right balance of scares, humor and a lesson. The lesson here is don’t be a racist asshole and respect other people’s cultures.
Ticks (9 mins 35 seconds)
Plot summary: In the midst of a violent breakup, Jenny – a drifter – encounters a presence in the woods that causes them to turn against their partner.
Ticks certainly takes a more abstract route, and despite the title, this actually isn’t a creature short feature. Sam Max directs this short, and on the positive side, I like how they craft a creepy and unnerving vibe from the very first frame, which only gets more intense as it goes on. Though, if I’m being honest, the vague plot feels less mysterious and more underwritten. Yes, I can see talent and depth in this from a technical standpoint, however, it left me wanting more. I could actually see this being a feature film, as bite size wasn’t enough to satiate my hunger in this case. Though, huge props for the Queer presentation presented.
Snatched (10 mins 27 seconds)
Plot summary: After coming out as gay, a 15-year-old boy must fight for his life when his parents react with otherworldly acceptance.
Snatched might be hard to beat as my favorite short film thus far. The concept of a body-snatchers scenario where people (in this case the parents of a recently out boy) take acceptance to a horrific extreme. The set-up is an interesting one, and in my own interpretation is how ally-ship can sometimes be taken too far into leaning into stereotyping. While yes, it’s fine to be fem, some Queer identifying people are not, which is fine as well. It’s something that, as a Queer, gender non-conforming person, I spent a lot of time trying to explain to overly excited “allies” in the past. We often see “the gay best friend” trope where gay people are straight people’s (mostly women) accessories and not fully formed individuals. Its this stripping away of individuality that plays in nicely with the body-snatcher metaphor. I also loved The Shining reference thrown in for good measure. The satire is on point, though I actually think a feature film exploring this in more depth would be amazing.
Nzu (8 mins 16 seconds)
Plot summary: When a white civil servant visits his Nigerian girlfriend’s family to ask for their blessing to get married, he must face the darkness hidden in his history.
Much like Nian, the fourth short once again drives home the importance of cultural identity. The moral is, you cannot move through a dark chapter in your past without first facing it down. Director Conscian Morgan takes this both figuratively and literally in this brief but very deep and unnerving short film. I think given more time this concept could have been fleshed out better, but I think Morgan gets the point home in an impactful and meaningful way.
Bug (8 mins)
Plot summary: A frustrated mother forces her misbehaving daughter out of the car and loses her in a mysterious forest.
Bug may not tap into any deep societal issues, however, it’s a really stellar short. Directors Coral Amiga and Nicole Hartley use their 8 minutes wisely and produce a simple, yet incredibly effective bite-size horror. Haunting imagery of the twisted dark forest and sound design really go a long way in crafting a chilling little film. The final fright is the cherry on a small but oh so satisfying desert. So far, it’s the first short outside of Nian that didn’t leave me wanting more. Bug gave me a scary dark-ride like experience in the most primal of ways.
Incomplete (10 mins 42 seconds)
Plot summary: A man under house arrest is haunted by a faceless spirit tied to the breathalyzer machine keeping tabs on his every move.
Much like the title itself, Incomplete has a really cool concept, yet, it’s another short where I feel like I could have used a longer format to comfortably explore the premise. Director Zoey Martinson is clearly a great filmmaker and Incomplete is polished in its direction and execution. The message about how the system is stacked up against people of color is certainly a powerful one and well worth exploring. I just didn’t feel completely satisfied despite a highly interesting premise.
Remote (10 mins 34 seconds)
Plot summary: Two young siblings make an extraterrestrial new friend, just as their family-owned pawn shop is attacked by criminals.
Remote is the first hard-sci-fi entry, and it’s a great one at that. Eric Jungmann is probably best known for his acting; however, he might want to direct as well. I love how this short does a lot of great worldbuilding in such a short amount of time. The concept is a fun one, sure, but it’s the family element that ties it nicely together. It does this without getting too sappy. I also love seeing Lin Shaye in this and she is clearly having a blast in the role.
Live Bait (1 min 55 seconds)
Plot summary: A film in which the roles of angler and bait appear to be eerily reversed.
By far the shortest bite size horror, Live Bait is a nice and refreshingly light outing. Andrew Laurich’s film is overtly comedic in tone which really makes for a nice change of pace from the more serious shorts. I have to really give Laurich credit for producing a really fun and interesting outing in such a limited amount of time.
Foreigners Only (15 mins 03 seconds)
Plot summary: In Bangladesh, a tannery worker searches for an apartment, but the local landlords want “foreigners only.”
As the title implies, this horror comedy short is a pretty brutal indictment on how foreigners, specifically white Americans, are treated much better in Bangladesh. The blend and balance of horror and satire is tricky to nail, yet director Nuhash Humayun pulls it off beautifully. Not only is this at times sobering and eye opening, its dark comedy makes for an uncomfortable watch yet engaging watch.
Mr. Crocket (6 mins 01 second)
Plot summary: A hyperactive young boy pushes his mom over the edge by continuously playing an old VHS tape of children’s television host Mr. Crocket.
Wow, I was totally blown away by director Brandon Espy’s short Mr. Crocket. This 6-minute film manages to be engaging, thoughtful, and, most importantly, creepy as hell. Clearly, Mr. Espy understands exactly how to build and maintain suspense, and this legit is among the more straight up scary films this season so far. Moreover, while the film acts as a fun spooky thrill ride, it also has a deeper message of parenthood and the mental push and pull of being a single parent. This is just a really excellent short film and I hope Brandon makes a feature film out of it.
Angels (7 mins 18 seconds)
Plot summary: A farmer caring for her dying mother has her prayers answered from above.
Angels is another hard sci-fi short, and one that has a pretty interesting premise. Since the plot summary is vague, I will be as well, in terms of plot. Director Samantha Aldana is among a handful of directors that actually have a feature film under their belt. I can certainly tell, as the short is shot extremely well and Aldana has a clear and consistent vision. Mood is achieved to max effect using natural lighting, allowing the natural landscape to provide production value which is utilized to perfection. Having said that, I do think this would have worked as a feature better, as I felt like I wanted more by the end.
Disposal (9 mins 7 seconds)
Plot summary: Tensions arise at a family party when a man discovers evidence of his wife’s infidelity.
Writer/director Luka Wilson’s short Disposal is brilliant because it perfectly boils down the horror to a painfully intimate small scale. This, in my mind, really does make for a great springboard for something that feels more impactful and thought provoking. Without giving anything away, I will say the true terror of this film is the societal pressures forcing you to be something you’re not. The plotting is extremely clever, and all the pieces work together like a Swiss watch. By the end, I didn’t feel like there was more to say. In fact, the ambiguous ending is a stroke of genius.
The Heritage (11 mins 45 seconds)
Plot summary: A man makes a gargantuan discovery when meeting his biological father for the first time.
Director Andrew Rutter truly pulls zero punches in what is far and away the most absurd and dark short. I love when a piece of media can take something pretty mundane and twist it into a Lovecraftian nightmare. On a technical level, the film is well shot and directed with solid special effects work, especially given budget limitations. If are you a fan of pitch-black comedy that doesn’t shy away from the grotesque, The Heritage is for you.
Fracture (8 mins 17 seconds)
Plot summary: Is Marcus really an astronaut working on a remote planet, or an institutionalized mental health patient?
As the plot summary suggests, Fracture is presented as hard science fiction, yet it is ambiguous in its execution. This may divide some viewers; however, I love when a film feature or short can do this in a clever way. Indeed, it is smartly written, incredibly moving and thought provoking. Director Jon K. Jones constructs a beautifully shot, haunting and palpable work that, with any luck could be a feature film or limited series.
Bad Rabbit (7 mins 34 seconds)
Plot summary: A timid woman finally stands up to her cruel, elderly mother with encouragement from a deranged new friend, Bad Rabbit.
Following the same kind of lunacy as The Heritage, Bad Rabbit is another surreal, and complete pitch-black horror, comedy. Kate Nash and Rebekka Johnson do double duty as directors and stars and, on both fronts, they do a gleefully wicked job. While the comedy aspects may be too broad for some, I have to applaud the duo for taking a wacky premise and fully committing to it. Think Drop Dead Fred aimed squarely at adults and much more macabre. I also love how rich and beautiful the film looks, with locales really aiding in giving this a more expensive and bigger look.
Sleep Study (10 mins 14 seconds)
Plot summary: A restless new mother confronts a dangerous terror whenever she tries to sleep.
Sleep Study has to be by far the most jarring short film out of the bunch. Director Natalie Metzger does a fine job at not only making a visually gorgeous movie, but also, she clearly knows how to build solid tension. Without talking about the finale, I just will say that it’s set-up is cleverly paid off, while also being one of the more devastating in this group. I am glad that Metzger committed to this bleak premise and, unlike some shorts it never felt unsatisfying. The only thing I might dig this for is, the dream-attack scene is a bit clunky. Otherwise, Sleep Study is chilling and extremely well made.
Go to Bed Raymond (6 mins 50 seconds)
Plot summary: When your kid tells you there’s someone in his room, you might want to listen.
Go to Bed Raymond is another short film which checks off horror tropes in the best ways. Creepy kid, check! Moody lighting and a foreboding atmosphere, check and double check. Director Nikki Taylor-Roberts really knows exactly how to craft a spooky and uncomfortable short from the very first seconds of the film. Then, as things go on, things only get weirder and more unnerving. Without spoiling it, the ending does have an impact that is both satisfying from a storytelling sense, but also, it’s impactful. Taylor-Roberts also throws in some social commentary, but in a way that never feels preachy.
The Kapre (6 mins 44 seconds)
Plot summary: Two unsuspecting Americans awaken a large and legendary creature while camping in an enchanted Philippine Forest.
The Kapre might be the biggest short film in terms of both size and scope. Clearly, this film looks like it had a decent budget, and it was really fun to see a mini creature-feature. Director Carlo Ledesma is brilliant in how he takes a very interesting cultural mythological creature and not only educates on this legend but entertains as well. I certainly want to now learn more about the kapre. Everything is on point here from the visuals including special effects to the bombastic action sequence that is feature film worthy. This really is the most cinematic short, and I think it would make a cool feature film.
Alone with Him (4 mins 43 seconds)
Plot summary: Trapped in a catastrophic car accident during a snowstorm, a pregnant woman struggles to free herself.
Alone with Him is very effective in putting us the viewer in an unnerving, disorienting and claustrophobic frame of mind. Director Marcus Okami is successful on how he ratchets up the tension in a realistic way, yet manages to bring the surreal in the form of an unseen motivating force. This is a well-made short film, though it does leave me wanting a bit more in terms of story and background information. Some mystery is fine, sure, but this feels slightly underwritten. Still, the atmosphere and acting go a long way in selling this chilling, ice cold film.
Trespassers (6 mins 6 seconds)
Plot summary: In their old family home, a woman and her young son are attacked by invaders who are unaware of what’s hiding in the walls.
Trespassers hits the ground running with a super tense home invasion scenario that quickly evolves into something more horrific and unexpected. I want to keep things vague because I do think the third act reveal is very nicely done. The direction, visuals and palpable atmosphere all work extreme well in service of the story. This is yet another film that is fantastic, but, at the same time is such a solid idea that it needs to be expanded upon. Bite size, yes, but I was hungry for more.
Ride or Die (7 mins 09 seconds)
Plot summary: It’s literally “ride-or-die” for newly licensed teen driver Jemma and her friends.
Our last short is a tense, yet darkly funny one, which I think is apt to close out this wonderful collection of films. Directors Minsun Park and Teddy Tenenbaum take something as mundane as a teenager learning to drive and craft a scary and interesting fright fest. Certain elements don’t make sense, and I chalk this up to the time limitation. It’s a very satisfying and tense film however, and once again, I think this would be great as a feature length film. Ride or Die is a nice blend of horror and comedy that is the perfect book end to the season’s short films.
Big film nerd and TCM Obsessed. Author of The Ultimate Guide to Strange Cinema from Schiffer Publishing. Resume includes: AMC’s The Bite, Scream Magazine etc. Love all kinds of movies and television and have interviewed a wide range of actors, writers, producers and directors. I currently am a regular co-host on the podcast The Humanoids from the Deep Dive and have a second book in the works from Bear Manor.