Midsommar meditates on the idea of starting over again with nothing and no one to turn to in a foreign country, Tusk ponders the idea of morphing into an irreversible creature, and the newest flick Talk to Me uses possession as a metaphor for teenagers filling their time with drugs.
A24, the popular production company, sells stories that blend genres and expound on creepy themes and chilling ideas. Though not all A24 films fall into the horror category, the best ones demonstrate a creep factor. Here are 15 of the most terrifying A24 movies.
1. Tusk (2014)
The polarizing director, Kevin Smith, created a masterclass in disturbia during this 2014 A24 special. Tusk sets the viewer up with an unlikeable protagonist who meets a horrifying, unimaginable fate. No matter how much you adore Justin Long, you can't bring yourself to like his character, at least until he assumes his new identity. Wallace (Justin Long) hosts a popular podcast, The Not-See Party, which entertains the hobbies of strange people. Wallace traverses to Canada to follow a lead and discovers a reclusive man with a viral story.
Once Wallace arrives, tension boils, and soon, the viewer learns that the recluse has a bizarre fascination with walruses. He loves walruses so much he surgically changes Wallace into a walrus, complete with tusks. A state Wallace can never escape.
2. Climax (2018)
Gaspar Noe specializes in colorful cinematography and challenging viewer's ideas and opinions. Climax serves as an escapade into the bright world of dance when it meets a dangerous laced punch. Noe formulated his story around a true story from the 90s, where a dance group imbibed a drink laced with LSD, but as Noe does, he reached into his imagination to enhance the story with deranged details. The film starts at the end, with an individual trudging through the snow and credits rolling over the frame.
The French dance group begins to notice strange occurrences and hallucinations emanating from the group, and the blame game commences. One viewer describes this film as a “feature-length anxiety attack.”
3. Under the Skin (2013)
Under the Skin utilizes silence to its advantage. Scarlett Johannson attacks the role of an otherworldly creature sent to Earth to find naive men and let them satiate her hunger. Johannson's character floats through the screen, entrancing each male victim she meets with her looks and sweet conversation. Once lured into her black box, she slowly immerses them in black goop as they realize their impending death.
The camera crew filmed many scenes with hidden cameras in popular locations like shopping malls and busy streets. Since the filming took place in Scotland with hidden cameras, no one believed Johannson was roaming through society.
4. The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017)
Barry Keoghan is one of the most underrated actors in the industry. The Killing of a Sacred Deer follows a heart surgeon, Steven, who befriends an estranged kid, Martin. Little does Steven know, he operated on Martin's father, who passed away during surgery. Martin institutes his acts of revenge by befriending the family and starting a relationship with Steven's daughter.
The actors' line delivery borders on comical, furthering the discomfort the watcher feels. Film enthusiasts don't know how to react to Martin's bizarre behavior, so they laugh it off with a nervous giggle. Plus, this movie has one of the most disturbing spaghetti scenes in recent cinematic history.
5. Saint Maud (2020)
Saint Maud metaphorizes childlike naivete in a horrifying manner. A young nurse, Maud, finds her way to Christianity after a patient dies in her care. Her new client, Amanda, challenges her beliefs, so Maud assumes God sent her to Amanda to save her soul. Since Amanda is on her deathbed, she humors herself with Maud's devotion, leading Maud to think Amanda feels the holy spirit's presence.
Maud begins to notice a recurring woman accompanying Amanda, and she condemns her for taking and tempting Amanda away from God. The disciple hits Amanda for betraying the holy one, and Amanda fires Maud. Her state of unemployment launches her spiral and pleading with God. She begs him for a sign and hallucinates him telling her to prove her faith.
The final image of Saint Maud sears itself into your brain. Maud dons holy garb and lathers herself in acetone before lighting the flame. She sees a holy image filled with angel wings and bright light, but the viewer sees a charred woman burning herself alive.
6. Hereditary (2018)
Critics deemed Hereditary one of the scariest movies ever made upon release. Some may disagree, but the more you watch the film, the deeper the subject matter burrows under your skin. Hereditary follows a family immersed in grief. After their maternal grandmother dies, Charlie, the daughter, continues some of her strange behaviors, including mutilating birds, drawing scary images, and frequently making a clicking noise with her tongue, an annoying yet significant vocal effect.
Charlie and her brother Peter attend a high-school party together after their mom forces Peter to bring Charlie. At the shindig, Charlie consumes her biggest allergy, nuts. The nut residue sends Charlie into anaphylactic shock, so her brother carries her out of the party, throws her in the car, and rushes her home.
As he speeds down the road, Charlie leans out of the window for air, and her head and a pole collide, beheading her. Then, the film delves into its tangled, mangled web of grief, lies, and demonic cult involvement.
Zola doesn't fit the horror category, but the real-life events that transpired in the film are horrifying, especially since the writers based the film on a true Twitter thread. A Detroit-based waitress and part-time stripper meets a fellow stripper at her diner one night. The girl, Stefani, quickly befriends Zola and invites her on their Floridian excursion. Stefani says the two can make $5,000 at a Tampa club each night. Zola needs the money, so she takes her up on the offer despite not knowing anything about this woman.
Zola and Stefani journey to Florida with Stefani's boyfriend, Derrek, and a mysterious guy named X. Upon arrival, the two dance at the club and do not make $5,000. Zola voices her frustration and learns that X and Stefani uploaded explicit photos of the girls selling their bodies to random men. Zola gathers her belongings and tries to leave, but X refuses to let her go. Zola finds herself trapped in nightmare-fueled Florida, where she doesn't own her body.
8. Talk to Me (2022)
Talk to Me is an Australian psychological horror film directed by brothers Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou about a group of friends who shake hands with demons. In place of a Ouija board, this gaggle of teenagers brings an embalmed hand to parties to evoke passed-on spirits. The only rule is to follow the rules. You must light a candle, grab the hand, say “I let you in” to the demon, invite the demon into your body for 90 seconds with the phrase “Talk to Me,” and then blow the candle out to wave off the spirit.
On the anniversary of her mother's death, Mia asks her friends for a try with the hand. The gathering of friends passes the hand around, dipping in and out of possession and cracking jokes the whole time. Near the end of the night, Mia's best friend's brother, Riley, asks for a turn. No one wants to let the kid participate, but Mia caves in, letting him experience the euphoria for a shorter time. However, Mia recognizes the spirit Riley conjures as her mom. Everyone implores him to stop, but Mia holds out, hoping to speak to her mom for a bit longer.
The spirit bewitches Riley and causes him to thrash his head on a wall and suffer multiple traumatic head injuries. The friends discover that they invited a demon into their group and never blew out the candle.
9. Beau is Afraid (2023)
Ari Aster moved away from his psychological terror tales to a manifestation of fears through a black-comedic lens. Beau lives a fearful life in a crime-ridden city and dwells in a crummy apartment. Beau prepares for his father's death anniversary and sets aside his luggage and keys to ensure he catches his flight. Someone steals his belongings, so he phones his mom and explains the situation. As Beau attempts to find his luggage and keys, a neighbor locks him out of his apartment and receives a call detailing his mother's recent death.
Overcome with grief, Beau aimlessly runs through the city as a truck knocks him out. When he wakes up, he wears a matching pajama set in a home belonging to two eclectic strangers. Their child treats Beau with an attitude and drinks paint to immolate herself. The parents blame Beau, and he takes off sprinting through the woods, diving deeper into his nightmare. The film illustrates what would happen if all of Beau's fears came true.
10. Green Room (2015)
Green Room capitalizes on the idea that no one knows anyone. It portrays a realistic scenario surrounding a modern punk band making their living. A struggling band receives word that a venue canceled their upcoming gig, so they do what most money-hungry bands would and find a new gig despite the location.
They book a gig opening for an NSBM (Nationalist Socialist Black Metal) band, which contradicts the band's sentiments. The band ends their set, and Pat returns to the green room to gather the band's belongings. He notices a corpse (Emily) as he stumbles upon the bloodied hands of the perpetrator. He tries to flee from the attackers, but the bar owners capture him and the remaining band members and stick them in the green room as they plan their deaths.
11. Midsommar (2019)
Grief fuels most horror movies today. Midsommar demonstrated a masterclass in a grief-filled horror flick thanks to Ari Aster's impeccable understanding of the subject of loss. Midsommar opens with Florence Pugh's character, Dani, reaching out to her estranged sister living with her parents. Dani harbors a strange feeling surrounding her sister, alerting her boyfriend that something is wrong. As usual, he brushes off her allegations and insists her sister is acting the way she usually does.
Well, Dani's intuition proved her right. Her sister set up a death trap for herself and her parents, leaving Dani as the remaining family member. The only person she can resort to is her unloving boyfriend. So, when her boyfriend's friend invites them on a trip to Sweden, she jumps at the opportunity. What they don't realize is they're visiting the European country for its special cult ceremony involving human sacrifice and the crowning of a new queen.
12. Waves (2019)
The plot of Waves follows an all-star wrestling student, Tyler, who enjoys his life, friends, and girlfriend but cannot satisfy his father's expectations when it comes to wrestling. The wrestler suffers a debilitating injury that threatens his high school and college wrestling career, but he disobeys the doctor's orders and continues to wrestle with the severe injury, which ends in an even worse injury.
As Tyler quits wrestling, his girlfriend, Alexis, informs him that she is pregnant, which causes further uproar, considering the two disagree about what to do with the child. Alexis ends the relationship and turns to her family for support, while Tyler slips into a hazy reality filled with drugs and alcohol. Tyler stalks Alexis on social media and leans into his jealousy when he sees her cozying up to another guy.
In a drunken stupor, Tyler drives to the house party and corners Alexis in the garage. The two dissolve into a violent match, ending with Alexis falling backward and cracking her head open as she falls to the ground. Tyler sprints from the scene, but the police find him and arrest him on a charge of second-degree murder. Tyler pleads guilty in court and faces up to 30 years in federal prison.
The film jumps to the perspective of Emily, Tyler's sister. She meanders through her brother's sentence with quiet guilt until she meets Luke, one of Tyler's former wrestling teammates. The two speak about the accident and examine Emily's guilt as her parents place blame on each other and Tyler wanes in prison.
13. Ex Machina (2014)
An intelligent programmer, Caleb, wins a contest where he visits the CEO, Nathan, of his company's home for a week. The vacation provides insights into the company's new direction and Nathan's passion project, a humanoid robot named Ava. Nathan informs Caleb of his eventual role in the Turing test, an examination determining how well robots understand emotion and thought.
Ava demonstrates high levels of intelligence and knows how to use her technology to shut down the security cameras, prohibiting Nathan from witnessing secret interactions between her and Caleb. Nathan notices a bond growing between him and Ava, and he brainstorms the best way to help her escape so they can live together sans surveillance, but can Caleb fully trust the robot? This meditation on artificial intelligence instigates a spooky conversation, what with today's implementation of self-driving cars and robot waiters.
14. First Reformed (2017)
First Reformed centers around a pastor, Ernst, dealing with wavering faith, the recent loss of his son, and declining churchgoers. He turns to literature to point him in the right direction, and this cry for help sends him to an evangelical megachurch where he meets Mary. Mary's husband, Michael, is a climate rights activist, and he believes his existence and his future child's existence will contribute to the Earth's unavoidable doom. Ernst meets up with Mary's husband, Michael, hoping to inject him with hope and a newfound desire to continue to live, considering he made an explosive vest. Ernst takes the vest, and Michael tricks the pastor by asking him to meet at a local park. When Ernst arrives, he sees Michael's lifeless body and begins to research the issues that led to the end of Michael's life and debate if he belongs in the world.
15. Men (2022)
Jessie Buckley's character, Harper, runs from her deceased husband in Alex Garland's revolutionary 2022 film. Harper retreats to the English countryside for a cleansing vacation away from the darkness following her husband's death. The owner of the countryside manor borders on the eccentric side, but Harper ignores his behavior and settles into her temporary home. She explores the gorgeous outdoors until she spots a naked man stalking her. She sprints through a tunnel and flees from the man, at least for the night.
Harper experiences numerous frightening scenarios involving older, middle-aged, and young men who all assume her thoughts and actions killed her husband. Men torment and haunt Harper throughout the runtime, as the viewer yearns for her retribution until she receives a heavy payoff with one of the most disturbing birth scenes in horror.