Let’s be real for a moment: horror has a bad rap. There’s endless sequels to franchises that have been dead since the 80s (I’m looking at you, Hellraiser: Judgment). Really uninspired, sometimes borderline hilarious rip-offs such as The Bye-Bye Man. Or even yet another formulaic, albeit serviceable theatrical film of the week by way of Jason Blum and co.
These films and their ilk have their place on our screens. The formula can and does often work. And sometimes, you just want to throw on something from Netflix to fall asleep to – or in my case, turn on something to procrastinate to.
However, there have been some really outstanding horror films in the past years. Some beyond the typical formula. Some that subvert it. And some that make you think.
The aforementioned is the precise specialty of distribution and production company A24.
A24 and the Horror Zeitgeist (the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time).
They’re behind some of the most masterful films in the genre in recent years. From Robert Egger’s The VVitch to Ari Aster’s Hereditary, A24’s brand of horror films is entirely unique. The horror, essentially, is not the main attraction; instead, it is the wholly human element in . The VVitch, for example, builds on terror through the intricate relationships of its Puritan family. Green Room focuses on its ragtag band of punk rockers as they survive a Nazi-infested venue. It Comes at Night explores just exactly how far a father would go to protect his family – even if the domestic order becomes entirely corrupted. Hereditary is a meditation on grief, loss, mental illness, and how it can tear apart a family.
These plots seem pretty basic – and honestly kind of generic. What differentiates the A24 horror film is its focus on the narrative and characters. They do not come second to the traditional set pieces that the genre is well known for. These set-pieces (the colloquial “holy shit” moments) are there in most of A24’s catalog. However, the set-pieces make sense thematically. They’re built up to and not randomly thrown in for shock value (case in point, anytime Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers comes back for a final scare). There is more emotional weight when these set pieces occur.
The shrieking death of the damsel-in-distress who has been mostly on the screen as eye-candy is not going to be super emotionally gripping – in fact, it always reminds me of the opening of the original Scary Movie.
But seeing a realistic character with a strong, sympathetic arc completely snapping? That’s some damn fine horror.
Throughout the decades, the horror genre has seen some heavyweight heralds of terror: Universal and their timeless take on classic monsters, Hammer with all their garish, seductive throwbacks, the sex and goofy gore from iconic 80s slashers, and whatever the hell constitutes “gore porn” nowadays. But the current herald of the horror zeitgeist is most definitely A24 and their collection of intelligent, gripping, and incredibly terrifying films.
A24 will be releasing Ari Aster’s next twisted film Midsommar on July 3rd, 2019. Dubbed “Wizard of Oz for perverts”, the film focuses on the emotional turmoil of a couple as they stay in a Swedish village during a midsummer pagan festival. If it’s anything like Hereditary, we got another cult-classic on our hands. Check out the new trailer here OR
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