A 21st-century gamer takes an old-school detour in the delightful Scrambled.
Image: Vimeo

Got a minute? Got 10 minutes, more like? We’ve gathered 10 recent sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and animated shorts, ranging from low-budget efforts by emerging filmmakers to more professionally polished works. Two things they all have in common: They’re all very brief, and they’re all highly entertaining. Enjoy!


1) The Lake

This animated short by single-named filmmaker Gunner clocks in at just under two minutes—but it’s still quite evocative, using a rich black-and-blue palette (with a pop of white on that expressive eye) to depict a clandestine moonlight swim that takes a sudden, wondrous turn. [via Vimeo Staff Picks]

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2) Progress Bar

“This film was written by a human...however, the character Lexi’s dialogue was generated by AI.” With that opening text to prepare you, Peter McCoubrey’s film immediately dives into its tale of a single gal, her AI virtual assistant, and a customer-service rep wearily toiling for a dating app. The AI-scripted dialogue is clever, and it adds a layer of intrigue to Lexi’s snappy exchanges. But Progress Bar is more than just a gimmick—it shows a future that manages to stay hilariously mundane even with all the high-tech embellishments. What exactly does a “Frozen Pizza Nite” candle smell like, anyway?

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3) It Happened on Orchard Street

Scott Jeschke’s eerie short takes its time revealing exactly what happened on Orchard Street, but makes it clear from the very beginning that it was something very, very bad. Like, vengeance-from-beyond-the-grave bad. Even without any dialogue, the pieces of the puzzle still come together pretty fast—for the audience, that is. The hapless protagonist is not so lucky.

4) L1ZY

Like Progress Bar, this is another tale of an AI-powered personal assistant—but Lexi ain’t got nothing on L1ZY. In this dark comedy, a dorky suburban family excitedly activates their brand-new, AI-powered personal assistant (“It gets smarter the more we use it!”)—but soon finds the chipper device has turned itself into an invasive species that has gained waaaaay too much power over their lives. This short from directorial duo John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke (a.k.a. Ghost + Cow) was made in conjunction with Big Data, an electronic music project whose cheeky name suggests the Black Mirror vibes on display here are no accident. [via Short of the Week]

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5) Time Is a Place

A man and a woman have vivid dreams about each other—adorable, passionate, rolling-around-on-the-beach dreams—but they’ve never met in person. Or have they? As Tim Nackashi’s surreal Time Is a Place investigates, the deep connection they share spans a chasm they can seemingly never cross. The short isn’t quite long enough to dig too deeply into their dilemma, but it leaves quite the impression nonetheless. [via Dust]

6) Reverse

We’ve featured Josh Tanner’s films before (see: The Landing and The Rizzle), but his latest may be his most tense creation yet. Reverse takes a familiar horror movie set-up—a lone driver, a deserted parking garage, the eerie sense that something’s lurking in the shadows—and filters it through a car’s many high-tech sensors, which repeatedly assure our unassuming motorist (whose mood quickly escalates from “Meh...must be a glitch” to “HOLY CRAP!”) that he’s not as alone as he thinks he is.

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7) How Have You Been?

Heather Colbert’s short about a lonely, cave-dwelling creature who finds a friend just when it needs one the most also happens to be a music video for British singer-songwriter Tom Rosenthal. The hushed, pensive tune is lovely, but you’ll mostly be focused on the magical blend of drawn and stop-motion animation. [via Everything Animated]

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8) Mikus

From the horror-loving peeps who brought you Where Is It? and Your Date Is Here (both shorts previously featured on io9) comes Mikus, written and directed by Todd Spence and Zak White. If that thumbnail below is already making you uneasy, wait until you see the whole short—it runs just under four minutes and it builds to a hell of a finish. Without spoiling anything, it shares some themes with the most recent season of Channel Zero, The Dream Door, summarized quite well by its tagline: “Your childhood is a dangerous thing to forget.”

9) Scrambled

After a gum-snapping girl just misses her train, she plops down to fill the time with a game on her phone...that is, until a sweetly persistent toy from the dusty analog past catches her attention. If all Rubik’s Cubes were this adorable—the animation, overseen by writer/director Bastiaan Schravendeel, is simple but very effective—they never would’ve gone out of style. [via Short of the Week]

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10) Crave

Ensconced in a crumbling mansion, a mysterious man receives clients who’ve sought him out for a very specific purpose. To say much more would spoil the reveals in Carl Shanahan’s short, which thankfully lets the viewer connect the dots without over-explaining everything. But suffice to say Crave puts a new spin on a traditional horror monster—one that’s melancholy instead of malevolent.


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