When modern audiences enter their local multiplex, they expect an experience between 90 and 120 minutes, but the occasional feature makes news by going way over that limit. Sometimes, however, making a film shorter than the average feature can have a huge impact on its pacing, especially in the world of horror.


Modern films tend to go on a bit longer than they should. This can weaken the flow and make an otherwise solid piece of cinema feel unwieldy or overblown. Refusing to cut down a long story could hurt any genre, but it can be lethal to horror. That's why horror movies that keep brevity in mind should be celebrated.

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Don't Breathe

Runtime: 88 Minutes

Fede Álvarez's 2016 horror-thriller subverts the home invasion subgenre to create a grim and shocking roller coaster ride. The film follows a trio of young criminals who break into homes to make enough cash to get by. They select a blind veteran as their newest target, only to discover that he's an immensely deadly threat with a series of dark secrets just beneath the surface. The film is tense and brutal. Its pace is rapid-fire, escalating from its simple start to multiple huge changes in direction in a matter of minutes. This film could not have sustained two hours, the sequel failed to handle the 100-minute runtime it received. It's meant to be breathless, and it delivers on the promise of the title with pulse-pounding moment-to-moment action.

Child's Play

Runtime: 87 Minutes

Looking back at the original1988 film, it's hard to believe that this franchise is alive and well almost 35 years later. It's an extremely simple film with no fat that establishes its premise in its title and plays it out without frills. Chucky is still around today, but the film that started it all is a tight slasher classic. Brad Dourif stars as serial killer Charles Lee Ray, who finds himself shot and bleeding out after a confrontation with a dedicated cop. To save his life, he uses his mastery of voodoo magic to transfer his immortal soul into a nearby talking doll. When that doll is given to a local six-year-old, Chucky must use his new cover to continue his spree and claim a new body. The franchise marches on, but the original succeeded on the excellent creative vision of Fright Night director Tom Holland (no, not that one,) which helped make it a hit.

We're All Going to the World's Fair

Runtime: 86 Minutes

Jane Schoenbrun's recent coming-of-age horror film has to be seen to be believed. It follows Anna Cobb as Casey, a lonely teenager who turns to the internet for community and fame. It's a hallucinogenic and bizarre film that explores sincere and strange topics through an absurdist eye. Over their career, Schoenbrun has proven themselves as one of the preeminent voices on the strange and wonderful landscape of the internet, and their first feature film is a testament to that vision. After a short theatrical run, We're All Going to the World's Fair went away for a little while, but fans can finally find it on HBO Max and see what this one-of-a-kind piece of horror cinema is all about.

Under the Shadow

Runtime: 84 Minutes

This Persian-language psychological horror film demands to be seen for its unique premise alone. It takes place in Tehran amid the 1980 Iran-Iraq War. The film centers on Narges Rashidi as Shideh, a former medical student trapped in her home by a missile strike. While there, something malicious seems to rise and terrorize the shelter and its residents. Shideh is forced to confront the possibility that her PTSD is wreaking havoc on her perception of reality or the presence of a malevolent spirit that could be even more deadly. This Iranian feminist period horror film is a rare treat that is executed with an impressive level of intelligence and tension. Under the Shadow received rave reviews upon release, but it still remains under the radar to most audiences. More people should seek out this unique film, it's a powerful piece of filmmaking assembled from some rarely-used pieces.


Runtime: 78 Minutes

The found footage subgenre overplayed its hand over the few years of its popularity, but there are certainly some standouts. One of the best examples of found footage horror is this Spanish nightmare that spawned three sequels. The film follows a reporter and her cameraman as they cover an emerging disease outbreak in an apartment complex. It's technically a zombie film, but it feels so much more immediate, thrilling, and brutal than the average tale of writhing undead. The 2008 American remake, Quarantine, robbed the film of most of what made it special, but the original is an outstanding horror experience. [•REC] is a near-perfect example of fast-paced immediate horror that should serve as an example to future filmmakers. In some scary stories, less is more.

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