What Defines A24’s Slate of Horror Movies?

Green Room

Punk rock and Nazis! Green Room’s premise feels like the logline for a perfect B-movie, and in a way it is. But given the A24 touch, Jeremy Saulnier ultraviolent horror film gains an extra layer of depth.

Following a punk rock band who get trapped in an isolated music venue run by neo-Nazi skinheads, Green Room is the perfect subversion of the home invasion movie. Instead of showing our heroes while trying to ward off invaders on their home turf, it brings the out-of-town punk band into foreign territory that none of them know how to navigate and pits them against white supremacists — led by a terrifying Patrick Stewart, no less.

I’m no expert on the ‘70s exploitation films from which Green Room takes its inspiration, but I do know a lot about Lifetime home invasion movies! And honestly they’re not that different — both are schlocky, pulpy allegories for white flight and the pervading fear that the even the suburbs aren’t a safe haven from the horrors of the world. Except one is a lot more gory.

Green Room doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top bloodshed of its grindhouse predecessors — in fact, it makes a deliberate move toward as much carnage as possible, with the skinheads eschewing guns for messier machetes. It’s a shocking departure from the A24 films I’d seen before (and I’ll admit, I had to hide behind my pillows more than a few times because there’s just so much blood). But one other thing sets Green Room apart from its A24 counterparts: it has a happy ending. Kind of. True to its name, Green Room is a taut, contained story that offers a light at the end of the tunnel for its surviving characters: a triumph over their obviously evil enemies.

“It’s funny, you were so scary at night…” Anton Yelchin’s Pat says to Stewart’s skinhead leader Darcy, delirious from blood loss and the death of his friends. But the light of the sun only reveals that Darcy and his cohorts for the weary, oh-so-human people whose mistakes inevitably led them to this bloodbath. I guess in a way it is in line with the running themes of A24 horror: it exposes the banality of evil.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter

The Blackcoat’s Daughter gets the eerie mood right, but falls apart in the third act. Oz Perkins’ supernatural drama follows two prep school students — one a buttoned-up loner, the other a charismatic popular girl — who are left stranded at the school when both their parents fail to pick them up for winter break. While Rose, the popular one, sneaks off with her boyfriend, Kat finds herself experiencing visions and encounters with a strange demonic presence.

Watching The Blackcoat’s Daughter, I felt the film was a thematic lead-in to Hereditary, this year’s movie that pulls off the metaphors for grief and fate so much. Meanwhile, in The Blackcoat’s Daughter, I feel like the metaphor gets lost — despite the deft performances from Kiernan Shipka, Lucy Boynton, and Emma Roberts. I will say that Lucy Boynton remains a criminally underrated actress who steals every movie she’s in as the fragile but ultimately vulnerable femme fatale.

Hereditary

Finally, we come to Hereditary. I’ll admit that even having become a bonafide “horror fan,” I was terrified at the prospect of watching Hereditary. And it delivered, enveloping me in an unsettling, dread-filled experience.

Plenty has already been written about Ari Aster’s horrific portrait of a family unraveling after being struck by grief. I don’t really need to touch on the movie’s depiction of familial demons turned real, nor do I need to gush about Toni Collette’s unhinged and instantly iconic performance as a grief-stricken mother who becomes possessed by regret and resentment against her family. (But I can say that I have been haunted by nightmares of Toni Collette attacking me for weeks after I saw this movie.)

It feels fitting that Hereditary is the latest and greatest film to come out of the pantheon of A24 films (though I may put The Witch a smidge above it). It feels like a realization of everything that A24 has been building toward: a sickly, foreboding atmosphere that threatens to swallow you whole, an allegory for grief or humanity’s worst impulses, and a strange abiding fixation on Satanism.

Final Thoughts

So, what do A24 films have in common? At first glance, little except perhaps low Cinemascores. But the one thing they do seem to share is an affinity for existential dread and putting forward humanity and its vices as the most evil of monsters. (Or maybe someone at A24 really worships Satan.) And I think it’s a combination of these movies’ abstract themes and their visually stunning cinematography that A24 has managed to tap into a new wave of horror fans.

Watching all these films for this column, I can’t say that A24 is changing horror films in any way. But I think it is changing the way many people see horror. They are by no means doing something revolutionary by merging prestige with panic. It’s been done before — often to critical acclaim with films like The Exorcist, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby, and countless others. Horror has always been a genre that deserves to be taken seriously. But this wave of A24 movies is making the argument louder and clearer than ever.

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