Since its founding in 2012, New York-based entertainment company A24 has swiftly made a name for itself as a reliable source for quality cinema, especially horror. Now when you see that A24 logo pop up, you just know you’re in for a good time. Hell, this brand is so cool, it even has its own line of genre-based scented candles, inspired by “fangs, glowing eyes, remote lakeside cabins, foreboding shadows on walls, bloody knives, low-angle staircase shots, dilapidated houses silhouetted on a hill, [and] black cats.” While we wait in anticipation for the latest upcoming films from A24, including 2020's Saint Maud, let’s turn down the lights, light a spooky candle to set the ambience, and rank A24’s 13 best horror movies in descending order.
13. Life After Beth
For almost 20 years now, beginning with the 2003 release of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, filmmakers have been pushing the zombie envelope just about every way they can. Zombie fever is starting to taper, but there are some death rattles here and there. Case in point: 2014’s Life After Beth, starring Aubrey Plaza as a girl who returns from the dead with a lust for, you guessed it, brains and guts and everything in between. Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly star as Beth’s parents, and while the film isn’t particularly innovative in terms of the ongoing zombie fascination, it’s still a fun movie to watch on a Sunday afternoon.
12. The Monster
Zoe Kazan (The Big Sick) takes on the role of a terrified woman in this film about—as the title suggests—a horrifying monster. A mother (Kazan) and her young daughter (Ella Ballentine) hit something while driving down a dark road. While they wait for help, they’re confronted by a hideous monster, in a tease-and-reveal style reminiscent of films such as Signs and A Quiet Place.
This is a movie that is truly deserving of the descriptor Kafkaesque. Enemy stars Jake Gyllenhaal as a college professor who is bored with his daily routine. In a delightfully strange twist of events, he comes to find that he has a doppelgänger. The other man’s life is much more exciting than his, and he begins to obsess over meeting him. Once the two come together, they tempt each other into some pretty poor decision-making. Without giving too much away, it’s impossible not to mention that this film has one of the most delightfully unexpected endings. It’s well worth watching just for the last few minutes.
10. Green Room
This will strike a particularly jarring chord with anyone who’s spent the night in an unfamiliar small town. The film centers on a band playing a show in a grim part of the Pacific Northwest. They witness something terrible there, and suffer greatly for it. A side takeaway from this is to reconsider messing with band members…lifting all that gear night after night makes them stronger than they look.
9. The Hole In The Ground
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: children are terrifying. One of the newer horror releases from A24, this flick follows a mother who lives in a remote part of Ireland with her young son. When a sinkhole opens up behind their house, the boy begins to act very odd, and the mother begins to question if he is actually the child she gave birth to. Fun fact for all you entomophobes out there: there’s a lot of bug eating in this one.
For some horror fans, there’s nothing more exciting than a film that perfectly combines pop culture, humor, and legitimately creepy visuals and sounds. Tusk, in all of its icky but effective absurdity, has it all. A young podcaster, played by Justin Long, takes a trip to Canada for a story, and ends up a changed man—in more ways than one. For viewers who want to watch The Human Centipede but have yet to do so, this is a good alternative that’s in the same wheelhouse, but involves far less fecal matter.
7. It Comes At Night
Discussing a movie about a contagious outbreak seems particularly anxiety-inducing right now, but there’s something to be said for facing your fears. A husband, wife, and son are holed up in a house, and doing everything they can to stay out of harm's way. When outsiders come knocking for help, they reluctantly let them in, suspecting (rightfully so) that they’ve ultimately let the enemy right into their place of refuge.
6. The Lighthouse
This is one of the only films that comes to mind that can make a person believe they can actually smell what they’re seeing. Directed by Robert Eggers, who also brought us The Witch, the film stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as flatulent drunks employed to oversee the ins and outs of a lighthouse. Shot in black and white, watching this film is a stomach-clenching experience in every way imaginable. You’ll want a stiff drink and a hot bath afterwards. And you’ll never look at a seagull the same way again.
5. The Killing of A Sacred Deer
When a teenage boy named Martin (Barry Keoghan) loses his father, he craves closeness and understanding with the surgeon (Colin Farrell) who was attending the man’s surgery at his time of death. At first, the surgeon and his wife (Nicole Kidman) feel for the boy, but when his needs become more and more intrusive, they back away. Letting his facade drop once he’s shunned, Martin takes his calculated, otherworldly grief out on the surgeon’s family in one final and irreversible act of revenge.
Horror films don’t usually roll out their biggest scares in broad daylight, but this one wants to make sure you don’t miss a single gory detail. Still reeling from the recent loss of her sister via suicide, Dani (Florence Pugh) travels to Sweden with her terribly selfish boyfriend Christian. There, she finds herself holding court at the midsummer gathering of a cult. The tagline for this one should read “The head-squishiest film of 2019.”
3. The Blackcoat’s Daughter
Written and directed by Oz Perkins, the son of Anthony Perkins (otherwise known as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho), this is one of the best movies that hardly anyone seems to have seen. Played by Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Kat is a soft-spoken student who, along with one other girl (Emma Roberts), stays behind at her Catholic boarding school during winter break.
From the first frame, Shipka performs her role with an understated quality that is chilling before anything chilling even happens. Similar to The Witch, this has some of the best “evil speak” dialogue in any movie that readily comes to mind. For example, the statement “you smell good,” shouldn’t be terrifying—and yet, here we are. See how creepy it is for yourself at the earliest opportunity.
2. The Witch
Here we have a film so dark, so effective, so ice cold that the Satanic Temple gave it a stamp of approval. If that isn’t good PR, then what is? Robert Eggers’ 2015 directorial debut follows a shunned family living in 1630s New England. The clan fears evil, all while living (deliciously) with a whole lot of it right under their noses.
Films have been known to make turns of phrase go viral, but what about single note sounds? Hereditary, directed by Ari Aster and starring Toni Collette, changed the look and sound of horror forever with its 2018 release. Smart, surprising, and even funny at times, no other film can beat it. The story deals with grief and how it manifests in different ways within a family.
As the layers of the Graham family are chipped away, a hierarchy of stunning evil is revealed, and real life becomes hard to distinguish from the otherworld. The plot builds and builds to such a suspenseful degree that your tensed body will ache after watching it, while your mind will spend weeks, months going over and over what you’ve seen. There’s really no other film out there quite like Hereditary.
Featured still from "The Blackcoat's Daughter" via A24