Monday, December 5, 2022

Ranking A24’s Horror Films

By Josh Williams 

​A24 has skyrocketed into the public eye in the past few years. Producing some of the most acclaimed independent films to date it is clear that they show no sign of slowing down. They distribute a wide variety of films across a wide variety of genres and for the most part are rather successful. A24 has even seen some awards love over their years up to and including a Best Picture win for Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight.”

A24 is clearly a studio that celebrates diversity, originality, and passion when it comes to cinema. One specific genre that A24 is seemingly becoming more and more known for is horror. They have been behind some of the most exciting horror films over the past few years such as, “The Witch,” “It Comes At Night,” “Green Room,” and now, “Hereditary.” So with “Hereditary” releasing this week, we here at Next Best Picture figured we would take a look at the horror films in which A24 has produced.

So with that said here is our ranking of all of A24’s horror films!

Runner-Up: “Tusk” (2014)

Tusk ​Kevin Smith’s oddball attempt at a body horror film lands at the bottom of our list. “Tusk” is a film with a lot of drive and heart behind its story but can never truly muster anything memorable. Following an arrogant podcast host named Wallace Bryton, played by Justin Long, who travels to Canada to interview a mysterious introverted old man named Howard Howe, played by the late Michael Parks. Upon his arrival at Howe’s residence, Bryton discovers a rather interesting interest of Howe’s. He is obsessed with Walruses. Yeah, you guessed where this is headed…After the interview, Howe traps Bryton in his home and begins the process of turning him into a walrus. “Tusk” attempts to ride the wave of its off the wall and interesting story content to a glorious finish but it sadly does not. The writing of the film is downright ridiculous in several areas of the film that we can’t really take any of the risks seriously. The body horror element starts off intriguing much like the story itself but begins to fizzle out as the film continues. “Tusk” is a film that will probably end up being a cult hit in a few years and even will be considered one of those amazing b-horror movies. But in terms of what A24 is releasing in the horror genre, the depth of the film is more than a bit shallow. 

10. “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” (2015)

The Blackcoat's Daughter ​”The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is a rather traditional horror film. Following a straight-forward story and littered with predictable scares and set-ups, the film is actually still rather enjoyable. Even though we have definitely seen these tropes before time and time again, it still is executed in a respectable and tense manner. The scares in “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” crescendo into the payoff that is the third act. When two boarding school students are left behind at the school over winter break, they must battle a mysterious evil that enters the school. Students Kat (Kiernan Shipka) and Rose (Lucy Boynton) have heard rumors that the nuns within their boarding school are all Satanists. Over the course of the winter break, the girls must battle demonic possession from the Satanists nuns while oddly teaming up with an escaped mental patient named Joan (Emma Roberts). The film’s story is just as predictable as it sounds but the film is excellently made. Gorgeously shot and filled with wonderful performances from the ensemble, “The Blackcoat’s Daughter” is a rather traditional style horror film that does not try to show off in anyway. It sticks to its simple script and focuses on making the film as good as it possibly can be given its limited scope.

9. “Life After Beth” (2014)

Life After Beth ​”Life After Beth” is a film desperately trying to cling to something poetic and profound but sadly fails to do so. While the story sets up a lot of great comedic moments and has some good performances from Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan, the film falls a little flat in terms of substance. It has a striking visual style and offers up some interesting questions about character and the decisions these specific characters make but it never really arrives at an answer. After suffering a fatal snake bite on a hike, Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza) somehow rises from the dead. Although she isn’t the same as she was when she was previously alive. Her boyfriend, Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan) discovers her resurrection and attempts to rekindle the romance they had before her death. He slowly comes to realize that she is not who she once was and he must face that reality. The film’s overall premise is a pretty solid one and is decently executed as the movie focuses more on the script and the performances than spectacle. The chemistry shared between Plaza and DeHaan is definitely enticing and is what makes a majority of the film interesting. While the film is a bit simple, it still would be fun to see more horror films fall into this sub-genre.

8. “Krisha” (2015)

Krisha ​Trey Edward Shults’ debut film is one that gets nowhere near enough credit that it deserves. “Krisha” is a psychological horror film that analyzes the ins and outs of addiction and how that affects not only the addict but the ones who surround the addict. After not having seen her family for over a decade, Krisha (Krisha Fairchild) returns to Thanksgiving dinner but past demons threaten the environment of the holiday. Shults has crafted only two feature films in his career but good lord has the man mastered anxiety driven filmmaking. “Krisha” and his sophomore film “It Comes At Night” focus solely on how to traumatize the audience the same way the characters are being traumatized. His camera acts with such omniscience that we almost forget we’re watching a film. All of his events happen at such a precise moment in time that they feel preordained, and obviously, they are it’s a movie, but in a different kind of way. In a spiritual way almost, events unfold in “Krisha” more like this was destined to happen or else these characters could not continue living their lives. Events don’t happen for the sake of the plot or the script but for the sake of the characters and their own individual journeys. Shults has figured out how to put all of his focus on the characters and put his audience into their shoes so that we can feel the terror that they feel. “Krisha” turns this strategy up to eleven and delivers a terrifying experience for the viewer that is relatable on so many humanistic levels. The writing is crisp, the direction is sharp, the performances are downright brilliant, and of course, the characters are a horrifying reflection of ourselves.

7. “Enemy” (2014)

Enemy ​Denis Villeneuve’s “Enemy” is an adaptation of the novel titled “The Double” by Jose Saramago which involves a man discovering that there is another person in the world who looks exactly like him. The two do not know of one another prior to the meeting and upon their first interaction, their lives become altered forever. “Enemy” is a film that is crafted with such a haunting complexion that it is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is frightening about it. Is it the use of spiders as a symbol for the characters adultery and regrets? Is it the sickening yellow tone that taints the entire film? Is it the inability to guess what time period the film takes place in? “Enemy” is littered front to back with different metaphors and symbols that are complex and profound in a way that spark a lot of questions. What hurts “Enemy” is its inability to arrive at some form of comfort within the content of the film. There is so much that is stuffed into the story that it becomes overwhelming at points. While it is enjoyable to try and figure out an answer to the questions asked, the point may be that there is no wrong answer in terms of what these images mean. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the two men who look exactly alike and he is stunning (As always) in this role. He plays both sides of the spectrum so perfectly: the awkward and nervous college professor and the eccentric and colorful actor. Both characters are polar opposites and Gyllenhaal plays them flawlessly. Stunning to look at and well acted, “Enemy” is a mind trip from start to finish. Plus, it has one of the most insane and unforgettable endings to a film ever. 

6. “Under The Skin” (2013)

Under The Skin ​A24 seems to really enjoy being behind movies that ask a lot of questions but don’t give us a lot of answers. Jonathan Glazer’s “Under The Skin” is a film that fits perfectly into this subsection of film that A24 is obsessed with. “Under The Skin” surrounds an alien entity that inhabits the host of a young woman on Earth, whom of which is played by Scarlett Johansson. This entity wanders through Scotland in search of men so that it may seduce them into an otherworldly dimension. As the alien continues its hunt for these men it slowly begins to come to terms with its existence as a human being considering that is who it has chosen as a host. The entity begins experiencing some terrifying consequences due to the life it is choosing to live. “Under The Skin” poses a lot of interesting comments on existence as a whole and what we are meant to do with our lives while we are here for this life. What I found impressive from Glazer was his ability to make us connect with a character that is so stoic. Johansson plays the role so incredibly well that we are constantly reminded that it is an alien inhabiting her body but then at times she is able to shift the momentum in order to make us feel like we are seeing the alien transform into an actual human. On top of this, the score from Mica Levi is quite literally one for the ages. The score is just as haunting and perplexing as the film itself. Glazer crafts an entirely new layer of depth that forces us to dive even further into these questions and the results are fascinating.

5. “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” (2017)

The Killing Of A Sacred Deer Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos has only crafted three feature films, all of which focus on a story that is about something rather unusual. Lanthimos’ stories are meant to be about how humans react to this estranged world around them, however, the world is only estranged to us as an audience. To the characters, everything going on around them is completely normal and Lanthimos approaches telling these stories in such an odd way we can’t help but be won over by his take on humanity. “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” is a film that follows that same process and is possibly the most unusual of all of his films. Not only is the dialogue between characters choppy and thin that we have to piece together a lot of what the characters are actually trying to say but the visuals are also utilized to confuse us even further. Just about every shot in the film is static and all of the angles are taken to the absolute extreme. Instead of typical wide shots, we get extreme wide shots and the same goes for close-ups. Whether it be of characters, landscapes, or objects in a room, everything is exaggerated when put on screen. The plot of “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” is a bit difficult to describe but it eventually boils down to Dr. Steven Murphy (Colin Farrel) must choose one of his children to murder so that the rest of his family may live out their lives or else the entire family will die horrific deaths. “The Killing Of A Sacred Deer” is petrifying in more ways than one and to a level where it becomes difficult to not only keep up with the horrors happening on screen but to keep watching all together. It flows uncomfortably between scenes constantly searching for different ways to try and terrorize you as an audience member all the while making its commentary on society and our place within it.

4. “Green Room” (2015)

Green Room ​Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore film “Green Room” is a violent punk rock survival-horror film that is filled with a kickass soundtrack, some crazy over the top murders, and a realistic sense of dread for these young kids way in over their heads on the unluckiest night of their lives. “Green Room” is pretty straightforward in its execution but it is immensely enjoyable from start to finish especially if you are a fan of punk rock. When a band called The Ain’t Rights plays a gig in Oregon they become witness to a murder inside of the venue. The venue is owned and operated primarily by a group of white supremacists who are now in charge of making sure that The Ain’t Rights do not say anything about the murder. But instead of handling it like a normal business, they attempt to kill each member of the band to ensure total and utter silence. “Green Room” does not really attempt to change the genre in any way or do anything groundbreaking, but it is expertly well made. The look of the film is saturated and bold, giving it a much more alive feel, like punk music itself. The soundtrack features a lot of classic punk rock songs like The Dead Kennedy’s “Nazi Punks Fuck Off.” While the film is a joy to watch, it is also immensely disturbing. The way that some of the murders and violence happens is blunt and pulls no punches. The violence is potent and used as an effective scare tactic to remind us of the nature of the film we’re watching. It is easily one of the more grizzly films in recent memory that doesn’t actually try to glorify the violence but rather make you afraid of its impending arrival.

3. “It Comes At Night” (2017)

It Comes At Night ​Underrated and underappreciated at almost every level,  “It Comes At Night” is only Trey Edward Shults’ sophomore project and it is immaculate. All the films on this list have been scary or frightening for specific reasons. Violence, the crisis of existence, discovering someone is in the world that looks exactly like you, all horrifying things that would shake us to our core if we had to deal with them. “It Comes At Night” focuses on something that feels a bit more universal: the horror of the unknown. Set in a post-apocalyptic type backdrop, “It Comes At Night” focuses mainly on a family that is trying desperately to survive in a now unfamiliar world. Some sort of disease has been spreading among the world and making humans fatally ill. The horror of this comes from everything we know about this disease, which is absolutely nothing. Shults does not give us a single piece of the pie in this film but rather leaves a small trail of crumbs. We follow these crumbs hoping to discover what is actually going on but we never find out. The editing of “It Comes At Night” is methodical and the main source of our terror. The way that certain scenes play out and the length at which they play out is soul-shaking, especially during a few key dream sequences. Shults either holds too long on moments or not long enough to where our anxiety is driven right over the edge. “It Comes At Night” sets out to terrorize its audience with minimalism and asks us to have empathy for this family unit which is desperately trying to survive, culminating in a climax that is both horrific and emotionally devastating. A terrifying horror film that never explains the “it” in its own title, there’s a reason that people responded poorly to the film’s marketing but that doesn’t take away from what “It Comes At Night” ultimately is.

2. “The Witch” (2015)

The Witch ​Robert Eggers period piece horror film “The Witch” is the kind of horror film that lands among the ranks of some of the greatest horror movies ever made. Just about everything that “The Witch” sets out to do, it succeeds in. From its set design to its costume, performances, dialogue and more. It is a true accomplishment for any filmmaker making their directorial debut. Following a family who is kicked out of their colony in New England and is forced to move out onto a farm that is surrounded by a vast wilderness. Upon their arrival at this farm, they begin to experience supernatural events, following the mysterious disappearance of their newborn child. This family is then torn apart by evil forces surrounding them that seem to be manifesting from a witch living in the forest. “The Witch“, like many other films on this list, is impeccably crafted. “The Witch” captures all of the authentic details of its time period in terms of its production while keeping the scope very minimal. The natural lighting with its cinematography adds an extra level of realism to the story, the performances from the ensemble are genuine and executed with passion and determination, and the scares are meant to haunt you for the rest of your life. Focusing on religion, a subject matter that is important to a vast group of people, allows Eggers to combine our fears of the unknown with our over-reliance on religion’s comfort. Not only do the scenes between the actors feel real but they are meant to scare you on a deeper level instead of a visceral one: a spiritual level that if done correctly, will leave your soul shaken. 

1. “Hereditary” (2018)

Hereditary ​Now I know what you’re thinking, “How is it that the latest film from A24 has made the top of this list? You are just riding the hype.” But hear me out because I felt the exact same way about the reactions from critics when reviews first started dropping for “Hereditary” out of Sundance (Even from our own Editor In Chief, Matt Neglia). If there is one thing I could pass on to everyone about this film that gives absolutely nothing about the plot away, it would be to believe the hype. But not so much the hype that this is the scariest movie ever made, or the scariest since “The Exorcist.” Claims such as these are not completely accurate. Instead, you must ask yourself what it is you are looking for from horror films. Are you looking for traditional jump scares? Or are you looking to be disturbed? “Hereditary” and many of the other films on this list are trying to do the later instead of the former. This directorial debut from Ari Aster is flawlessly made. It’s disturbing, soul-shaking, trauma-inducing, skin-crawling, every phrase you can think of. It is a slow burn that builds into an absolutely jaw-dropping finale that will leave you struggling to breathe as you walk back to your car. It is effective as a drama and as a horror film presenting some of the most disturbing and upsetting images ever put on screen. The sounds that are engraved within the film are just as haunting as the visuals and it creates such a brutal environment to be in for two hours where is there is no remorse for the Graham family. It also features an all-time great performance from Toni Collette that absolutely deserves all of the awards recognition critics are begging for. Janet Leigh, Mia Farrow, and Ellen Burstyn…Toni Collette deserves to join the rank of groundbreaking female performances in a horror film.  Don’t watch a single trailer, don’t read a single review until you have seen the film. It works absolutely best when you have a minimal amount of information about the project. Director Ari Aster has created something unique and soul-crushing that will go on to have a lasting legacy. Watch it. As soon as possible.

So what did you think of our list? What is your favorite A24 horror film? Have you seen “Hereditary” yet? If so, what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments section below. You can follow Josh and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @josh_williams09

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