[Review] We Got a Dog [Popcorn Frights]: A Pair of Surprises Spells Unnerving Dread in This Tight Horror Short

Writer/director Ryan Valdez’s short film We Got a Dog packs a lot of eeriness into its brief running time. Morgan (Morgan Taylor) is flustered that her boyfriend Mason (Mason Conrad) is running late at his bartending job, but he assures her on a phone call that he will be home as soon as he can. Imagine her surprise, then, when she gets home, and he is waiting there for her, and he has another surprise for her — he tells her that he brought home a dog for them.

This being a horror short, readers might guess that something is amiss, and they would be right. Valdez, who was the cinematographer on The Virus, Eaters, and Day of the Mummy, slowly reveals one odd incident after another — from strange sounds in another room to visual oddities that happen so quickly you might miss them if you’re not watching closely — as he constantly builds mystery and dread. 

Despite being just over 5 minutes long, the slow reveals make the short feel much longer, in the best possible ways. The story is simple, lean and mean, but highly effective. The set design, like the story itself, is rather simple, but it is the something enigmatic lurking just beyond the kitchen in which much of the short is set that provides an unsettling feeling. 

Well acted and directed with some goosebumps-inducing special effects, We Got a Dog, winner of this year’s Scariest Short Film Prize at Popcorn Frights, comes strongly recommended.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

We Got a Dog screened as part of Popcorn Frights, which took place as a hybrid event, in person in Miami and Fort Lauderdale and with a virtual program online, from August 11–August 21, 2022. For more information, visit https://popcornfrights.com/.

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.