The Realistic Terror of A24

By Zoë Alter (Reporter, ‘23)

A24 has made a big name for itself among the film industry for its lengthy movies laden with imagery and complex plots, particularly their horror films: Hereditary, Midsommar, and The Witch. These are only three of the many psychological thrillers that the company has produced, but they seem to fall more directly under the generally accepted title of “horror” than the others. All three of these films have the usual film style and elements of a horror film: gore, jumpscares, monsters, ghosts, etc. However, when you dive deeper into the actual meaning of the film, you find that they all have a more realistic and scary meaning.

Hereditary, to briefly recap, is the story of a family moving into a new house and shortly after suffering the tragic loss of their youngest daughter. Stricken by grief, the family falls apart, and soon the mother turns to the supernatural—and, as always, this goes utterly wrong, as dark secrets of the past become uncovered. During the first watch, it seems to be a typical supernatural film: it has the old house, the crazy grandmother, and the figures that appear and disappear in the dark. It is sufficiently terrifying, the last twenty minutes being enough to elicit several screams. During the second watch, it becomes even more interesting, however. The true realistic horror of the film, the part that could happen to nearly anyone, is the loss of a sibling or child. This is emphasized by the famous dialogue, in which the mother, played by Toni Collette, explodes at her family in a fit of grief and guilt. Everything in this film comes from the true horror of grief and freak accidents, making it that much more horrific to watch.

The next film to review is Midsommar. Midsommar is the story of a woman whose family has died of a tragic accident years prior. The majority of the movie takes place on a vacation in rural Sweden with her deadbeat boyfriend, a vacation that takes a hostile turn as they find themselves entrapped in a pagan cult. The obvious horrors are the lengthy psychological scenes and extremely explicit gore, but the deeper level of terror arises from seeing how quickly a fragile person can be gaslighted and indoctrinated to follow a cult-like mindset. This makes one take a closer look at the society that we live in and makes one understand just how easy it is for someone to be morally manipulated into committing terrible crimes. The ending is not your “typical” horror ending of despair. Instead, it has an even more gut-wrenching ending where you realize that there is no saving this woman from the manipulation that has happened in her mind.

Last, but most definitely not least, is The Witch. To put it simply, The Witch is a film about religious horror: the antagonist is literally the Devil. Taking place in a small cottage where a Puritan family lives, just far enough away from a town that they are isolated, a young girl named Thomasin (Anya Taylor) is held responsible for the disappearance of her baby brother, Samuel. Unable to bear the trauma of losing Samuel, Thomasin’s family resorts to believing that she is a witch. Soon, the devil and an actual witch of the woods make appearances and wreak havoc. This film is laden with jump scares, suspense, and death. The true horror of this movie is more obvious than all the others, though: religious rigidity leading to the ostracization and death of others. It makes one take a deep look into colonial religions, and even modern ones, and how the murder of the innocent on the basis of “sin” is exacted and backed up by religious covenant.