While there are filmmakers who specialize in short films, there are many others who use the format as a proof of concept to capture funding for a feature length. Originally existing as works under 40 minutes, the following 13 films got their starts as shorts.


One of the most famous short-to-feature-films within the horror genre, the Saw franchise got its start with a 10 minute short. Hashing out the basic skeleton of the plot that gave way to eight films, the original benefited immensely from an extension. It also starred writer Leigh Whannell, who remained one of the main actors in the feature.

The Babadook

With meager origins as a black-and-white short called Monster, The Babadook was able to drive its message home with more character development. Monster does a lot with just 10 minutes and clearly warranted expansion.


While the full-length film was created in Tim Burton’s iconic stop-motion animation, the short it was based off of was live action. Released in 1984 through Disney, the short far preceded its feature counterpart. Both films are endearing, a little spooky, and suitable for family audiences.


Clocking in around two and a half minutes, the Mama short may not seem like much but it was enough to catch Guillermo del Toro’s eye. Brother and sister duo, Andy and Barbara Muschietti, fleshed out the ominous maternal figure in the 2013 feature starring Jessica Chastain.


The Oculus short is a low-budget, minimal flick that explains the centerpiece of the feature: the mirror. Writer/director Mike Flanagan was on board for both iterations of the film, and also went on to do Absentia, Ouija: Origin of Evil, and Hush.

Lights Out

The 2013 short is in the same vein as the Mama short: short, sweet, and terrifying. The full length evolves the entity in question into a hereditary hellion frequently misdiagnosed as a mental disorder.

District 9

Aliens descend on Johannesburg in this allegory for Apartheid. Besides the well-crafted commentary, the creation of the aliens was visually stunning. The short reads as a news bulletin, working well as a stand-alone piece, while the feature is more of a mockumentary.


Included on the Asian short film compilation Three… Extremes, Dumplings tells the tale of Mrs. Li who discovers a local chef’s dumplings promise to bring youth to those who eat them. The ingredients in these potent treats is what squarely places this in the realm of horror. Expanded after the short found success, the full length includes more death and infidelity than its initial counterpart.


Ju-on’s precursor was not one short, but two. Katasumi is about two schoolgirls taking care of their class pet when one of the girls undergoes some terrifying physical changes. 4444444444 is about a young man who finds a cell phone and receives strange calls on it. The feature film takes some of its iconic imagery from these shorts.

Hobo With A Shotgun

This 2011 cult film got its beginnings as a contest submission. Robert Rodriguez asked for trailers to use before his then-upcoming film Grindhouse, a common practice in his exploitation films. Director Jason Eisener submitted a low budget two minute trailer inspired by his friend goofing around with an airsoft gun, and won. Catching the attention of investors, Eisener was able to pursue his desire to create a full length film.


Teen angst has a new meaning, thanks to writer/director Richard Bates Jr. Teenager Pauline dreams of blood baths (literally) and being a self-taught surgeon, but her mother has other ideas. Both films culminate in gruesome and emotionally conflicting climaxes that make these must-sees.

When A Stranger Calls

No one expected the short, entitled The Sitter, when it was released in 1977 to contain one of the most iconic scenes in horror movie history. The urban legend is expounded upon in the psychological horror full length and modernized in the 2006 remake.

The Evil Dead

This legendary franchise got its beginning as a 32-minute film entitled Within the Woods. Raimi cast Bruce Campbell and Ellen Sandweiss, the former becoming the face of the films. Released three years prior to the feature, the short screened before a midnight Rocky Horror Picture Show showing in Detroit.

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Maggie Iken

Maggie Iken

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