With the release of Men on May 24, and Bodies Bodies Bodies scheduled for August 5, celebrated indie studio A24 looks to add several more well-regarded horror films to their canon of contemporary classics. Indeed, as with many of their previous horror releases, Men is already “Certified Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes with a score of 82%. And Bodies Bodies Bodies boasts an early review score of 93% on the site.
Given the critical success earlier this year of X, as well as the smash success of their non-horror film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, 2022 appears to be another banner year for the studio, especially on the horror front. Considering that they’ve produced and/or distributed so many films in just the last few years, it’s been an impressive run of cinematic quality overall. Here are the best A24 horror films according to Rotten Tomatoes.
A small film that makes effective use of its dark and brooding setting, The Hole in the Ground (directed by Lee Cronin) tells the story of a single mother (Seána Kerslake) who escapes an abusive relationship and moves with her son (James Quinn Markey) to the Irish countryside. When she discovers a huge sinkhole in the deep woods near her new home, she suspects it may be the cause of her son’s unsettling personality changes.
Critics appreciated the performances and the atmosphere of the film, which creates effective haunted house dread by isolating mother and child in a drafty old fixer-upper. The special effects involving the hole are subpar, especially at the climax, but the film works overall, not least because of its chilling final scene.
Midsommar stars Florence Pugh (Black Widow, Fighting with My Family) as a troubled young woman who accompanies a group of narcissistic American grad students to a summer festival way out in the Swedish boonies. When the students encounter behavior that escalates from disturbing to sinister, they must decide if they are in the midst of “cultural differences” or a criminal cult.
Few sequences in any movie are more horrifying than the first ten minutes of Midsommar, especially in the slowly dawning way director Ari Aster stages it. As such, the film feels a bit anticlimactic for the rest of its (long) running time. But critics appreciated the performances — especially by Pugh, who is surely on her way to becoming one of the great actors of her generation — along with the filmmaking. It’s one thing to scare viewers with things that go bump in the night, but Midsommar is singularly effective in unfolding its horrors in the broad, bright daylight of a place where the sun never sets.
Another small film set in a rural area (this time in Iceland) populated with just a few isolated characters. The movie stars Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) as María, who lives on a sheep farm with her husband, Ingvar (Hilmir Snær Guðnason). The couple has lost a child, but in classic fairy tale fashion, they are one day blessed with the unexpected arrival of a new one. The child is threatened when Ingvar’s good-for-nothing brother, Pétur (Björn Hlynur Haraldsson), drops in unannounced on their idyllic new family existence.
Whether or not Lamb works depends upon the extent to which individual viewers buy the central conceit (not to be spoiled here!), which may seem comical to some, even despite the solid special effects involving the horror and fantasy elements. For those who do accept the premise, Lamb is a strangely moving fable about loss and regret and the sometimes shocking measures parents take to protect their children.
Directed by Trey Edward Shults, It Comes as Night stars Joel Edgerton as a man trying to survive with his family in the woods after the onset of a global plague. Standard post-apocalyptic action occurs with the family defending their turf and trying to figure out whom they can trust and what may be lurking in the forest.
Critics appreciated the strong performances and the way the creepy setting evokes claustrophobia and paranoia but found the story a little thin overall. Despite the strong story world, there’s just not enough happening in the plot.
Hereditary made a big splash upon its release, with critics calling it one of the best horror movies in years, praising the work of debut writer/director Ari Aster and the performances, especially that of Toni Collette. The Sixth Sense actress plays an artist and mom who must process the grief of losing her daughter in a tragic accident while dealing with supernatural spirits that encroach upon the household. The movie drew comparisons to horror classics such as Rosemary’s Baby and The Exorcist for marrying horror elements with psychological realism.
Aster is successful in creating some indelible imagery — the severed head crawling with ants is one that will live in your horror closet for years — though perhaps the cult ritual ending is something of a letdown, introducing material that Aster more successfully dramatizes in Midsommar.
Unable to temper his sins of pride, a Puritan man (Ralph Ineson) chooses exile from his New England village, circa 1630, and attempts to make a go of it with his family on their new farm. A year later, cut off from their community, the family faces starvation, despite incessant prayer. Worse, their children start disappearing into the scary woods nearby. Is one or more of the children a witch? Is there something to the idea that a goat nicknamed Black Phillip is possessed by the devil? (His name is Black Phillip, just saying…)
Critics praised Robert Eggers’ stunning evocation of early America before civilization took root, a setting that makes the evil lurking deep in the forest feel all the more convincing. The Witch made a star of Anya Taylor-Joy, who plays the family’s eldest daughter, Thomasin. Her limited options in the face of unfair accusations echo what women still often face 400 years later.
Green Room features no supernatural elements, but it may be the most unsettling film on this list nonetheless. The movie dramatizes the horrors that unfold after members of a punk band witness a murder while playing a small venue deep in the Oregon backwoods. The drug dealers and white supremacist meth-heads who populate the area have no intention of letting the musicians leave, forcing them to fight their way out.
If hyper-violence isn’t your thing, stay away from this movie. But for those who can stomach the graphic content, Green Room (directed by Jeremy Saulnier) is a taut survival story in a unique setting that boasts strong performances from Alia Shawkat, Imogen Poots, and the late Anton Yelchin. Critics especially appreciated Sir Patrick Stewart, playing against type as a criminal shot-caller who has no problem ordering people to be eaten by dogs, among other fun things.
With its 50% RT audience score, this one is definitely more appreciated by critics than viewers, and it’s easy to see why. In Fabric, about a lonely woman (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who comes into possession of a haunted dress, is arty and surreal. It plays like a cross between early David Cronenberg movies like Scanners and Videodrome and a couple of jammed-together episodes of Black Mirror. It’s also very English, and some of the cultural references and satirical targets might be lost on American viewers.
Still, the movie is nothing if not original. Critics appreciated the anti-consumerist social consciousness, hypnotic visuals, and willingness to be weird. In Fabric is sure to wind up in college film courses where eager scholars will unpack its layers of symbols.
Saint Maud (directed by Rose Glass) equates religion with mental illness, and not subtly. The story follows a young nurse (Morfydd Clark) living on the North Yorkshire Coast who loses her job at a hospital after an incident that involves a bloody corpse, a dank operating room, and cockroaches. She thereafter embraces Christianity and takes up a position as a hospice nurse caring for Amanda, a retired American dancer (Jennifer Ehle). Amanda wants to fill her last days with good old-fashioned hedonism, and is only temporarily willing to tolerate Maud’s increasing efforts to get her to follow a more devout path.
Though the movie hints at supernatural possibilities, the true horror lies in the way that Maud’s untreated mental illness allows religious visions to overcome her en route to a grisly climax. Critics praised Glass’ deftness in generating creepy suspense and the psychological effects of religious fanaticism. Despite its dour setting, Saint Maud also exhibits some arresting filmmaking, revealing the director as a true artist with her camera.
Celebrated horror director Ti West (The House of the Devil, Triggerman), returned to his feature film roots to make this slasher flick about a group of young filmmakers and actors (played by Jenna Ortega and Mia Goth, among others) who travel to a creepy Texas farm to make a porn film but end up fighting for their lives.
Given his pedigree as a horror guru, no one should have been surprised that West was not interested in making a straightforward slasher pic, and X is a veritable catalog of references to films like Psycho and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. While critics appreciated the way the director interrogates our cultural obsession with youthful beauty, audiences found the highbrow ideas prevented the movie from being more viscerally frightening. As such, the movie’s 95% Tomatometer rating is considerably higher than its 75% audience score. For knowledgeable fans of the genre, though, X is a treat.
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