The 13th Floor

Check Out These Early Student Films Made by Iconic Genre Directors

I went to film school, and it was there that I learned I should never, ever become a director. As such, my short films will never see the light of day. Luckily, that is not the case for more talented filmmakers.

Thanks to the internet, you can find practically anything these days — including the student films and first shorts created by some of the most talented genre directors in the world.

Here’s a curious collection of eight such early projects from filmmakers who went on to become legends of the genre…

Tim Burton — “Stalk of the Celery Monster” (1979)


Though just a fragment of this animated opus exists online, it still has all the earmarks of Tim Burton’s distinctive style. This is one of his early student films, made while he was studying at Cal Arts.

David Cronenberg — “Transfer” (1966)

Best known for his body horror, David Cronenberg’s first film is a strange little slice of life involving a psychiatrist and his patient.

Sam Raimi — “Clockwork” (1978)

Everyone knows about Sam Raimi’s “Within the Woods,” the prototype for THE EVIL DEAD. But before that, he made “Clockwork,” about a rich woman being stalked by a serial killer.

Scott Spiegel — “Attack of the Helping Hand” (1979)

Frequent Raimi collaborator Scott Spiegel (who wrote EVIL DEAD 2 and directed HOSTEL 3) shot this six minutes of lunacy in 1979, about a woman being tormented by a murderous Hamburger Helper mascot as she tries to cook dinner. Starring Linda Quiroz (STRYKER’S WAR), Sam Raimi appears as a milkman who (spoiler alert!) is killed by the five-fingered psycho. Raimi helped shoot the short… along with some guy named Bruce Campbell.

Matt Reeves — “Mr. Petrified Forrest” (1992)

Matt Reeves (CLOVERFIELD, LET ME IN) shot “Mr. Petrified Forrest” as part of his Masters’ thesis at USC. In it, a man traces the steps leading up to his sudden, accidental death. Fun fact: J.J. Abrams wrote the score, and built the crashed plane. Be on the lookout for Greg Grunberg (BIG ASS SPIDER!) who plays the limo driver. He also produced the short.

Eli Roth — “Restaurant Dogs” (1994)


Eli Roth’s masterpiece of absurdity was hated by his professors, loved by the Student Academy Awards, and breaks pretty much every copyright law in the book.

Ti West — “Prey” (2001)


In his first short film, HOUSE OF THE DEVIL director Ti West pits a couple of kids against a bloodthirsty creature on a snowy day.

James Wan — “Saw” (2003)

Sometimes called “SAW 0.5,” this is the original short that helped get James Wan the funding to make the full-length feature which made him an overnight sensation.


Enjoying this article?

Sign up for our newsletter now and soon you’ll get the best stuff from in your inbox.

There was an error in your submission. Please re-type your email address.


Thanks for signing up to our newsletter.
We’ll send you a confirmation email shortly.