More often than not, short films stay short films, and the filmmakers either never get the chance to expand upon them or simply have no interest in doing so. But every once in a while, short films grow up to become big, beautiful features, and it’s those feature films with small beginnings that we’re here to talk about today.
You’ll notice that we’ve included each of the shorts down below, so feel free to watch ’em as you read!
THE EVIL DEAD
After making a handful of low-budget short films together, friends Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell decided to go bigger in the late 1970s, and make their very first feature length horror film. Of course, they didn’t exactly have enough money to do that, so they headed out to a friend’s farmhouse and made a 30-minute short called Within the Woods, essentially to show potential investors what they were capable of. Made on a budget of less than $2,000, the short film generated the attention they hoped that it would. Just a few years later, the idea of an evil force overtaking a group of friends in a remote cabin was expanded upon in The Evil Dead – one of the most beloved horror movies of all time.
TRICK ‘R TREAT
It was in 1996, while at film school in New York, that Michael Dougherty (Krampus) made a four-minute animated short film called Season’s Greetings – a delightfully creepy and atmospheric tale about a young boy trick or treating on Halloween night. Dressed in orange footy pajamas and wearing a burlap sack on his head, the short was our very first introduction to the lovable protector of Halloween known as Sam, who came to life a decade later in Trick ‘r Treat and instantly became a fan-favorite icon of the holiday. We love you, Sam. So very much.
In 2003, a bizarre seven-minute film called Rare Exports Inc. made its way onto the internet, written and directed by Jalmari Helander. The short followed three men as they hunted down a naked Santa Claus, and it became such a hit online that Helander expanded upon the idea for another short a couple years later, called Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions. Seven years after the original short was made, Rare Exports became a feature film, with Helander himself turning the boldly original idea into a truly magical fantasy adventure.
It was in 2001 that Leigh Whannell wrote the screenplay for Saw, which he and James Wan shopped around in their home country of Australia. Having no luck, the two moved to Los Angeles and decided to pluck out a scene from the script and bring it to life, hopeful that a visual aid would help sell their idea. Running just under ten minutes, the original Saw short starred Whannell as a man who gets kidnapped and locked in the infamous reverse bear trap – the role that Shawnee Smith ended up playing in the film. With the interest of producers piqued by the short, Wan and Whannell were given $1 million and 18 days to turn it into a feature, which grossed over $100 million worldwide and spawned six sequels.
In 2006, with a few shorts under his belt, Paul Solet came up with the idea for Grace, a twisted tale about a baby that needs a little bit more than formula and mother’s milk to stay alive. Realizing he didn’t have enough money to turn the idea into a feature, Solet instead adapted the opening scenes from the script into a five-minute short, taking it to the festival circuit in a bid to generate interest. Solet, who would walk around convention halls at the time carrying the dead baby prop from the short, caught the attention of Hatchet writer/director Adam Green, whose company Ariescope Pictures produced and released the feature-length expansion of Grace in 2009.