A24 is the film production company behind some of the most amazing films to be released in the past few years. The name behind the Oscar award-winning movies Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022) and The Whale (2022). The producers of some of my favourite films of all time namely, Lady Bird (2017) and 20th Century Women (2016). They’re also the company responsible for Euphoria if that’s your thing. A24 is famous for its artistic horror films known for being psychologically disturbing and mind-bending.
Psychological horror films are my favourite genre to indulge in, and I’m a sucker for anything arthouse related. These days I almost exclusively look to A24 to find a good nightmare-inducing fever dream. So, without further ado, here is a list of my top 5 favourite A24 horror films to help you traumatise your friends at your next movie night:
1. Hereditary (2018)
If you know anything about A24 horror films, I’m sure you anticipated this one making the list. I know it’s an obvious choice, but truly, it’s brilliant (and not overrated in the slightest, you can fight me on that). The plot follows an already disconnected family as they attempt to cope with grief. It focuses mostly on the mother and the complex layers of guilt she feels – guilt for the death of her daughter and guilt for her cynical view on motherhood and the complexities of her love for her children and her simultaneous aversion to connecting with them. Oh yeah, there’s also some satanic ritual stuff thrown in there too, if that’s what you’re into.
This was one of the only horror movies I’ve ever watched that legitimately filled me with an overwhelming sense of dread and left me feeling disturbed for the next few days. And as someone who enjoys horror, that’s a big accomplishment. Well done, Hereditary! The scariest part for me wasn’t the supernatural element (although it does lend itself to a lot of the disturbing imagery in the film), but rather the degradation of the family, and the raw depictions of loss, grief, and true emotional anguish. The film is uncomfortable, in the way a good horror should be, and executed perfectly. Stylistically it’s brilliant with the use of symbolism, imagery, cinematography, and sound to enhance the overall experience. The acting is phenomenal, to say the least. The potential for thematic analysis on this film is honestly endless, making the film student in me extremely happy. Overall, I’d recommend this film to anyone, even if it just serves as the blueprint for what a good psychological horror is supposed to look like.
2. Midsommar (2019)
Another obvious choice, I know, but bear with me! If you’re unfamiliar, Midsommar follows Dani, who struggles to cope with immense family trauma, while simultaneously trying to maintain a relationship with the world’s worst boyfriend. Like Hereditary, Midsommar deals with loss and grief on an extreme scale and has very disturbing and graphic depictions of death that leave both Dani and the film’s audience traumatised. The first time I watched this film my jaw was on the floor, because the shock value just kept getting more intense. As soon as you think they’ve gotten as disturbing as they can, they throw in something else that’ll make your skin crawl.
While Hereditary stylistically is dark and dull, Midsommar takes place entirely in daylight, surrounded by vibrant colours, and somehow still executes a terrifying and ghastly atmosphere without the use of pathetic fallacy. The film is littered with easter eggs, subtle symbolism as well as foreshadowing, which one can appreciate in its fullest after more than one viewing of the film. It is worth a watch (or a re-watch!) and 100% effective in disturbing your friends at a movie night – I can confirm from experience.
3. Saint Maud (2019)
I can’t lie, it took me a while to figure out whether or not I liked this one. After careful contemplation though, I decided that it is worth a recommendation. The film follows a young nurse, Maud, who after a troubled past has converted to Roman Catholicism and becomes determined to save the soul of her patient. She believes she speaks to God through the bugs in the walls, and when she speaks to Him…she climaxes. Yes, in a sexual sense. No, I’m not kidding. She’s quite a complicated character.
This movie has both psychological and body horror elements which make for a terrorizing watch. I had to watch it in two sittings situated a week apart because of the grotesque and violent imagery. Trigger warning, there is a fair amount of self-injury inflicted by Maud throughout the film, both physically and psychologically. The cinematography in this film is beautiful, it’s rich with symbolism and uses jump scares effectively for our viewing pleasure. I would definitely recommend this one.
4. The Witch (2015)
Like Saint Maud, this one took a while to grow on me before I decided I liked it. The film takes place in 1630s New England and follows a Puritan family who are down on their luck and are suffering greatly. They believe that evil forces are responsible for their dying crops and other mysterious activities and that the evil has come from within their family and is responsible for the disintegration of their ‘loving’ family dynamic. The film is great to watch if you’re into all things witchy, satanic ritual-esque, or supernatural. The film also gives the impression of a realistic historical setting and pays great attention to accurate historical details and portraying the religious superstitions at the time, and its authenticity contributes to the feeling of immersion and active engagement.
The film tackles the raging religious trauma of the century concerning the fear of witches (and by extension, women who disobey patriarchy), and somehow this dated religious symbolism still triggers the religious trauma of this generation, making it a highly uneasy watch. It tackles issues to do with patriarchy and how patriarchal oppression is while providing representation of 1630s sexism making it a very thought-provoking watch. I think I was bored for most of it because of the slow-paced nature of it until all the tension that’s been built up finally explodes in the final act, which is both highly disturbing and liberating to watch. I’d highly recommend it if you’re a fan of slow-paced historical-based cinema.
5. Pearl (2022)
I don’t see a lot of hype for this film, but it’s one of my favourites due to the main character being so unhinged and psychologically disturbed, yet somehow so charismatic and funny. The slasher film takes place in 1918 Texas and follows Pearl, the title villain who desperately craves fame and will do anything to make sure she gets it. Pearl’s character was first introduced to A24 audiences via the slasher film X (2022) and was such a deranged and intriguing character that audiences were desperate for her backstory – which was provided to us via Pearl (2022). Who wouldn’t want to know more about a sexually frustrated, violent (and not to mention, truly grotesque) old woman who is so jealous of the sexual prime of the youth that she can’t help but kill them?
I’d say this film also makes for an effective daylight horror, as much of the film takes place in the daytime, and it aesthetically mimics the Technicolour era of musical theatre films along the likes of The Wizard of Oz (1939), creating a conflicting environment when this cheerful backdrop is the stage for Pearl’s murderous and torturous activities. This contradiction makes the film that much more disturbing and serves to provide the audience with insight into Pearl and her delusions of having a good life filled with love and fame amongst the historical background of the influenza pandemic. I can’t recommend this movie more – it’ll leave you grossed out by the gore while simultaneously laughing, and honestly, you can’t help but love Pearl’s character and her never-ending enthusiasm and determination.
That’s it for the list of my favourite A24 horror films that I’ve seen thus far! I can’t wait to expand on this list and see what the future of the company has to offer. See you all in the cinemas for the next release, you’ll find me in the front row.