How A24 Has Been a Pioneer in Modern Horror The Talks Today
In recent years, A24, an American independent entertainment company which was founded in 2012 by Daniel Katz, David Fenkel and John Hodges, has been behind some of the best movies and TV shows of the decade. From Lady Bird to Moonlight and Everything Everywhere All At Once, the company has been the distributor and sometimes the production company of some of the most phenomenal and groundbreaking TV shows and films.
In relation to A24’s horror films, it is very much clear that they have not only been successful in terms of the audience feedback and viewership, but they have also brought out new lenses to the genre. Interestingly, A24 has also been the distributor of Ari Aster’s horror films, Hereditary and Midsommar, as well as the upcoming horror comedy featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Beau Is Afraid. In addition to these Aster films, A24 has also been the distributors of The Witch, The Lighthouse, It Comes at Night, X, and Pearl, among other major horror hits. This establishes that this company has been pioneering in modern horror. The question is how, and we attempt to answer that.
Some of the Most Twisted Stories
For those who are familiar with A24’s horror films, it is obvious that the company has their own version of horror stories. Generally, horror films would heavily focus on the supernatural elements like ghosts haunting the characters or the summoning of devils. Due to this, these films tend to be more concerned with scaring the viewers, rather than sending out powerful messages. In fact, this has been a main concept of the horror genre for the past years. However, in the modern age, the horror genre has been used to invoke important messages and leave the viewers with much to think about. The scare comes from a place of the human characters’ ability to indulge or get involved with ideologies or events that seem very unnatural. A good example of this would be Jordan Peele’s horror films Get Out, Us and Nope, which all focus on the society and not ghosts.
A24 horrors take it a step further and combines these supernatural elements with some of the most twisted horror stories. Both Midsommar and Hereditary focus on the blind faiths of humans while tapping into the theme of cults, which allows the stories to bring in the supernatural element to the story. The Witch takes a similar approach. However, these films also delve deep into human bonds. In Alex Garland’s debut film Ex Machina, it is the evolution of Artificial Intelligence and man’s obsession with it the film tries to focus on. What makes these films twisted is how they seem very real while also coming off as unnatural. The cult obsession in Hereditary and Midsommar might be uncommon, but it also tells the story of our deep dark thoughts that justifies the gruesome acts and sacrifices of humans.
Not Afraid to Tap Into Grotesque
Most of A24 films can be quite graphic, so much so that they are clearly not for the faint of heart. Some of these films can also be mentally taxing and leave the viewers confused and creeped out for days. Nonetheless, it is also these elements that allow these films to emphasize on the dark nature of the stories. Garland’s 2022 horror film, Men, taps into body horror and brings out some visually traumatizing scenes. In one particular scene we see the naked man giving birth to the man with a woman’s mask, who then gives birth to the vicar, and so on. As Anthony Orlando points out, the way in which they “all crawl out of each bodily orifice is a level of body horror typically seen in a Cronenberg movie”
The way in which A24 popularizes arthouse horror is another reason why these films are able to add in this layer of bizarreness. Called “elevated horror” by film critics, these films take classic horror genre motifs and juxtapose them “within an arthouse feature film style”. What makes A24 horrors stand out is its ability to capture the viewer’s attention through its visuals and make it an immersive experience. Yes, it can be horrifying, but at the same time it also says a lot about the film. The constant use of naked people, the heavy focus on twisted bodies, and the incorporation of dark elements like crows and blood, these motifs are closely connected to the stories and the messages. Moreover, A24 does not limit these films to a specific time frame or a generation. While The Witch takes place in the 1630s, both Midsommar and Hereditary take place in the present day. Bodies Bodies Bodies focuses on Gen Z. Interestingly, there seems to be a horror film for everybody.
Strong Female Leads
A24 horror films have also brought out some of the best female leads of this century. Florence Pugh’s performance in Midsommar is regarded as her big break. Dani’s role starts off as someone who is going through so much trauma and pain caused by loss, while her distant boyfriend is seemingly trying to avoid her. However, the character ends up surpassing everyone’s expectations and being the “Queen” of a cult. Pugh’s delivery of Dani’s character is undeniably one of the best performances of her career. Similarly, Anya Taylor Joy’s performance in The Witch, Toni Collette’s performance in Hereditary, Noomi Rapace’s performance in Lamb and Mia Goth’s role as Pearl, all these delivered some shocking female leads, in turn, breaking gender stereotypes. These performances also stepped away from the typical feminine rage which showcases women weeping and portrayed the powerful feminine rage.
Literal Portrayal of Real Emotions
The protagonists of these A24 horrors might come off as evil, but at the same time there is a sense of relatability. Pearl’s obsession with fame is something that can be connected to society’s obsession with influencers. Annie’s obsession with connecting with the dead, in Hereditary, can be seen as one way in which humans cope with grief. Thus, there seems to be a certain level of connections to these characters.
A key reason why these characters come off as relatable is the way in which the actors visually portray the emotions. Their embodiment of grief, trauma, loss and rejection is something that people might feel internally. The fact that these films were able to visually represent these emotions elevates the horror genre further and brings out films that tap into the humane emotions to invoke fear among the viewers.