There are few production companies doing more for independent cinema in the contemporary industry than A24, bringing some of the finest small-budget projects to the forefront of public view, with the company now ubiquitous with cinema’s most exciting arthouse releases. Building an impressive library of truly challenging titles, A24 are becoming the adversaries of Disney, ploughing for industry change, rather than feeding off its embarrassment of commercial riches.
A24 have made such evolutions through a wide range of genres and styles, tackling the coming of age comedy in Ladybird, the western is First Cow and even Arthurian legend in The Green Knight. It is in the genre of horror, however, that the company has arguably made the biggest contribution, helping to elevate modern genre films to embody so much more than their big-budget compadres.
Bringing eerie low-budget psychological horror into the mainstream, A24 has helped to usher in a new era for the genre in which horror is a tool for Jordan Peele to make a statement about modern America in Get Out or by Jennifer Kent to speak of the burden of depression in 2014’s The Babadook.
Inspiring revolutionary horror tales that knock on the door of comedy, as well as dark thrillers that question their own genre, A24 is constantly evolving the horror genre. Let’s take a look at their ten greatest horror films to date.
The 10 best A24 horror movies:
10. The Monster (Bryan Bertino, 2016)
As lean and as straightforward as its own name suggests, director Bryan Bertino illustrates just why simplicity can be so effective, as while The Monster may not reinvent the genre, it does bring some interesting new ideas to the table.
Contextualised within a road trip movie, The Monster follows a mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan) and daughter Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) whose journey is interrupted when they hit an animal whilst driving. Lying vulnerable in the middle of nowhere, the mother and daughter duo await help whilst a beast lurks in the forest nearby. Well-realised with help from a particularly strong backstory of alcoholism and parental responsibility, The Monster is a solid template of beastly horror.
9. The Hole in the Ground (Lee Cronin, 2019)
After the classic likes of The Omen and Village Of The Damned, you would have thought that the stereotype of the creepy child had run its course, though Lee Cronin’s The Hole in the Ground proved otherwise.
Telling the story of a single mother Sarah (Seána Kerslake) who lives with her son Chris (James Quinn Markey) in rural Ireland, The Hole in the Ground takes a turn when the son disappears and returns acting noticeably different. Spiralling into a psychological nightmare, Cronin torments the audience with a surprisingly corkscrewing story that twists and turns away from expectation, delivering a sinister tale spiked with horrifying visuals.
8. In Fabric (Peter Strickland, 2018)
A deeply unsettling horror comedy with a truly innovative edge, In Fabric, from Berberian Sound Studio and The Duke of Burgundy director Peter Strickland, is a strange and wonderful genre-bender.
Rooted in the realms of surreal British comedy akin to The Mighty Boosh, In Fabric is the haunting story of a bewitched red dress from a mysterious department store owned by a coven of strange witches. As the dress is passed from person to person, horror and comedy heighten simultaneously, leading to one significant moment involving Steve Oram, Julian Barratt and a discussion about washing machines. You’ve never seen anything like this.
7. It Comes at Night (Trey Edward Shults, 2017)
Disappointing fans upon its release thanks to a dodgy marketing campaign, once the flurry of fury settled down following the release of It Comes at Night, its true quality as a unique mystery thriller shined through.
Whilst many audiences were expecting a physical beast, or at the very least some paranormal activity, It Comes at Night was instead a smart, subtle analysis of the fragility of human sanity. Brimming with tension, the characters of It Comes at Night bunker up inside a rural home against a sinister, unknown force and drive themselves insane with the fear of the unknown and the trauma of their new life. It’s a bleak, riveting watch.
6. Green Room (Jeremy Saulnier, 2015)
As much a rip-roaring thriller as it is a grimy, claustrophobic horror, Green Room is a masterfully shot adrenaline rush of tension, featuring Patrick Stewart as a terrifying neo-nazi with a ruthless spirit.
Holding a punk band hostage after they witnessed a murder from within his own punk music venue, Stewart appears opposite the late Anton Yelchin, as well as Imogen Poots, Alia Shawkat and Joe Cole. Forcing a fight for survival by holding the group hostage within the grubby confines of the venue’s green room, Stewart’s antagonist fuels a terrifying film that will leave you sweaty-palmed and eager for a breather.
5. Saint maud (Rose Glass, 2020)
A quiet character study with a loud, and brutal excavation of faith, the tale of Saint maud, is the debut film from British filmmaker Rose Glass, an incredible entrance into the landscape of cinema that will leave you stunned in pensive reflection.
The central figure of Rose Glass’ biting film, Maud (Morfydd Clark) is a fragile skeleton and a pious nurse, God’s lonely woman, carrying out her medical duties whilst ‘saving souls’ in the process. Once she is assigned to her new patient Amanda (Jennifer Ehle) things start to change for the worse, however. With loneliness permeating from the very root of the film, asking how an individual is supposed to identify with a world that fails to reciprocate any of your values. It’s a brutal but also heartbreaking contemporary horror classic.
4. Climax (Gaspar Noé, 2018)
Horror spans many subjective definitions and whilst Climax may not adhere to traditional blood-splattering themes, the environment of hopelessness and dread it creates is truly impressive.
With a background in new French extremity, Gaspar Noé brings similar themes of futility to this strange image of a psychedelic hell. Climax is the definition of a bad trip, following a group of energetic, drug-fuelled dance students to a world of psychological torment. Punctuated with a dark, intense soundtrack, Gaspar Noé continues in his ability to seize the attention of his audiences with provocative and stunning idiosyncratic filmmaking.
3. Midsummer (Ari Aster, 2019)
The idea of a breakup being the backdrop for horror is no new concept, having been explored in Andrzej Żuławski’s Possession among many other classics. What is new, however, is concealing such terror behind the veil of folk horror, creating a strikingly unique horror hybrid.
Following a group of friends who head for a Swedish retreat in the countryside, Midsummer spirals into a terrifying claustrophobic horror that messes with the mind and twists the perception of reality. Speaking about the film, Ari Aster said in discussion with YouTube channel Birth.Movies.Death, “I just wanted to write a breakup movie, and I saw a way of marrying the breakup movie that I was having at the time with the structure of a folk horror film”.
2. The Witch (Robert Eggers, 2015)
Having a considerable impact on contemporary cinema, Robert Eggers’ The Witch helped to usher folk horror back into the mainstream with a subtle, atmospheric tale of terror and mounting dread set in the middle ages.
The dreaded countryside fairy-tale, perpetuating solitary paranoia in 1630s New England, stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson and Kate Dickie. Where folk-tales of witches were once shot in muddy, cheap grain, Eggers adopts a sharp resolution with fantastic cinematography making use of the limitations of natural light to tell a frighteningly realistic take on an ancient evil. Whilst The Witch owes a lot to The Wicker Man and other folk horror classics it also does well to forge its own path of terror.
1. Hereditary (Ari Aster, 2018)
A game-changer when it comes to the contemporary horror genre, 2018s Hereditary brought brains to the classic horror tale, with the story itself not too extraordinary, but the execution, revolutionary.
Horrifically hopeless, dread is built upon within an intense hotbed of guilt, envy and regret with help from fantastic performances across the board, specifically from Toni Collette. That car scene is, as a single entity, an example of horror at its very best. Aster’s follow-up Midsommar would cement his prominence in the contemporary horror genre, lacing his bleak narratives with strong subtextual emotion.
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From Ari Aster to Robert Eggers: The 10 best A24 horror movies so far