A24 have been one of the most acclaimed studios around since they were founded back in 2012, in particular they have been noted for their work in the independent horror sphere. That is why for Halloween this year I’m looking at their filmography and picking out 10 of their best horror films. Well I’m not going to claim to have seen every single film A24 has released over their life, but I have seen enough to compile this list, although some of these are certainly getting more towards the thriller side of things. Anyway here are the Top 10 A24 Horror Films.
Honorable Mention: A Ghost Story – A Ghost Story only counts as an honorable mention on this list, because it is very hard to classify it as a horror film, despite the fact that ghost stories are traditionally the purview of the horror genre. In truth, A Ghost Story is a drama film focused on grief. time, and memory. It is the kind of film that many will absolutely hate, but for those who can get into its offbeat sensibilities it’s genuinely fantastic, with an incredible performance from Rooney Mara. But anyway, onto the list proper.
10) Midsommar – We’re kicking off this list with Ari Aster’s second film, Midsommar. It was a bold move for Ari Aster to make a horror movie set in bright sunshine and open green fields, which is about as far removed from the usual dark and claustrophobic setting of most horror films. I’m not certain that every decision in Midsommar completely pays off, but the ballsy thought behind the film certainly makes it worthy of respect. Florence Pugh is absolutely fantastic in the lead, delivering yet another wonderful performance since her breakthrough in Lady MacBeth, and the supporting cast is all really strong. This film didn’t resonate with me like Hereditary did (more on that later) but I certainly appreciate what Aster tried to do, and there were some stunning moments.
9) Climax – Ok, so A24 weren’t heavily involved with Climax, but did distribute it in the US, so it qualifies for this list. Much like Midsommar this isn’t a film anyone can come away from saying they were bored or that it was unoriginal. Gaspar Noé is a provocative filmmaker, and in Climax he created something really interesting and different. When the film descends into the psychological horror that takes over the second half of the run time it may not have worked for me, but I’ve heard positive things from too many people to completely write it off. Following a dance troupe who succumb to paranoia and violent urges after consuming drug laced sangria. The film certainly captures that trip, and delivers a memorable and dizzying experience.
8) The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Yorgos Lanthimos makes very strange films. Lanthimos brings a unique style to his directing, giving the whole film a strange air, particularly when mirrored with the deliberately stilted acting style. All of this leads to a genuinely disturbing adaptation of Euripides’ ‘Iphigenia in Aulis’, the kind of film that will stick around in your head for some time after, and for me that is a good indicator of a genuinely effective horror. The Killing of a Sacred Deer also features a creepy as hell performance by Barry Keoghan in what was really a breakthrough role for him.
7) It Comes At Night – It might have been divisive when it came out, but I will continue to bang the drum in support of It Comes At Night. I still think that this was mismarketed as some kind of creature feature, when in reality this is a ridiculously tense film about paranoia and how it tears the small cast of characters apart. Watching It Comes At Night in the cinema was one of the most gripping film experiences I have ever had, so much so I had to step out in the middle just to breath. This is a masterfully made film, and shows just how effective tension building without much release can be in a horror movie.
6) Under the Skin – Probably the least accessible of all these films Under the Skin is WEIRD. Following an alien woman, played by Scarlett Johansson, who prays on men across Scotland. Under the Skin brings together the high concept sci-fi of films like Blade Runner that question the nature of humanity, with a reversal of classic slasher with a woman hunting down victims. Shot on a small budget, particularly given the star power of Johansson, the rest of the cast were almost all people with no previous acting experience, yet despite this Under the Skin still works. The story is minimal, but it makes up for that with an emphasis on tone and mood, and some seriously weird and disturbing deaths.
5) The Lighthouse – A horror movie set on a lighthouse with mostly 19th Century nautical dialogue probably shouldn’t work, but under Robert Eggers’ direction it does. Following a pair of wickies who take a post at a remote lighthouse, The Lighthouse follows them as they slowly succumb to isolation and paranoia, sinking further and further into destructive behavior. Eggers took a lot of chances with The Lighthouse, but every one pays off and works with the bizarre monstrosity that he created, with both the decision to film in the black and white and the square aspect ratio really helping to enhance the tone that Eggers is going for.
4) Green Room – Green Room could easily be made as an action film. We follow a punk band as they get trapped in the green room of a venue owned by a local group of neo-Nazi skinheads, but Jeremy Saulnier instead turns this into a gritty and gripping horror movie. Like many of the films on this list Green Room relies on tension over jump scares, but Saulnier is not afraid to hit the audience with some hardcore blasts of violence. And Green Room benefits from an uncharacteristically terrifying performance from Patrick Stewart as their head of the Nazis. Not an easy watch, but a brilliant one.
3) The VVitch – A horror movie following a 17th Century Puritan family using language contemporary to the period probably shouldn’t work, but under Robert Eggers’ direction it does… wait, this sounds familiar. The VVitch is similar in many ways to Eggers’ follow up film, The Lighthouse, as the family succumbs to infighting, in this case over the fear that some amongst them are a witch. The big difference between Eggers’ two films is that in The VVitch there is very explicitly an external force that is a threat to the isolated cast of characters that is causing the growing paranoia, and ironically pushes daughter Thomasin to become the very thing they fear her to be. The VVitch was also the film that really gave Anya Taylor-Joy her breakthrough, and she has continued to be a superb actor in the horror genre and beyond.
2) Ex Machina – This one is definitely pushing the definition of horror, as it is certainly more of a Science Fiction Thriller, but it is my list, so I can include whatever I want, and I certainly want to include what I believe will be seen as one of the quintessential movies of the 2010s. Alex Garland’s small scale film uses its tiny cast and confined setting to perfection, slowly building up the tension and making us the viewer question the character’s and their motives. And as an examination of humanity and AI it stands right up there with Blade Runner as one of the all time greatest.
1) Hereditary – Ari Aster again. This time with his debut film Hereditary. A film so good I recently selected it for my pick for Halloween over on my podcast Nostalgia Bubble, despite it only coming out two years ago. I was never that interested in horror movies growing up, I cannot abide bad or generic horror films, unless I’m with a group of friends who I can mock the film with. Hereditary however pulled me into the world of horror, and encouraged me to revisit a number of classics and really embrace the genre. I think no film can sum up what A24 is doing with horror better than Hereditary. Ground the horror in a story of a family falling apart because of grief, we see how each member of the Graham family reacts differently, and how this slowly leads to growing tensions between them. And then the film explodes into cult orchestrated madness as the film moves into its final act. Hereditary contains some of the most shocking moments I’ve seen in film, and some of the most effective scares, at least in my opinion, and fully deserves its place atop this list.