As the semester draws to a close, many students are looking ahead to the summer—sipping iced tea under the warm sun, floating along in a pool, cherishing the moments without midterms. Even standing in line for hours at Canada’s Wonderland doesn’t seem too bad right now. Growing up, while everyone else roasted marshmallows by the fire and lost their voices at a Taylor Swift concert, I spent my summer nights with my cousin, staying up late, watching horror movies.
Over the past few summers, some of the best in horror have come from one indie studio in New York City. Its name is A24. It’s a small film production and distribution company, and it’s quickly disrupting Hollywood. Although not exclusively a horror distributor, A24 has spearheaded the genre’s renaissance, making late-night movie nights all the more memorable.
Founded in 2012 by fresh-faced producers Daniel Katz, David Fenkel, and John Hodges, A24 had a humble beginning distributing lower-budget films such as Spring Breakers and The Spectacular Now. These and other early releases drew small audience numbers and minimal box office success, but the company had something unique. Behind the scenes, A24 was developing a cult-like following for its now-trademark colour palettes, inventive filmmaking, and surrealist storylines, opening the company’s door to Hollywood.
Over the next few years, A24 had success premiering its films at the Cannes Film Festival, which helped attract Hollywood A-listers to try art-house projects. Lenny Abrahamson’s Room (2015) marked A24’s first breakthrough in the world of Academy Awards, with actress Brie Larson winning Best Actress for her role of Ma.
As A24 gained recognition, in 2016, the studio became a worldwide name in the industry. That year saw the release of Moonlight, written and directed by Barry Jenkins, which took home the Golden Globe for Drama Motion Picture and the Oscar for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
Although A24 laid the foundation for modern horror, Ari Aster’s breakthrough, Hereditary, cemented the studio’s status as genre king in 2018. The film presents the sorrow and terror of a grieving family and the family’s relationship to supernaturalism, rather than a tale of fictional monsters. Two years later, Aster directed a sophomore feature, Midsommar, which follows Florence Pugh on a horrifying adventure in a Swedish commune, drawing inspiration from a mysterious and ancient pagan cult.
Aster challenges the genre of horror, by suggesting horror can be present in our everyday life, erasing the fallaciousness often presented in other horror films. Alongside Aster’s catalogue are other modern horror gems such as Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night (2017), Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017), and Robert Eggers’ The Witch (2015) and The Lighthouse (2019),
It’s increasingly important for independent studios such as A24 to produce films, especially in our current Disney monoculture. One dominating voice in Hollywood is detrimental to film, where a certain formula is used repeatedly for monetary success. Minority, art-house voices should always be a priority for fresh perspectives on social commentary. A24 allows for diversity in the world of cinema, by giving smaller screenwriters the platform to express themselves and access to well-deserved recognition in media.
This year is set to be an exciting one for A24 with the highly anticipated July release of the ominous King Arthur-inspired, The Green Knight. Other 2021 titles include Minari, an understated immigration story of a Korean family, Zola, a movie inspired by a zany Twitter thread, and Pleasure (2021), a damning critique of the porn industry. Whatever movie piques your interest—whether horror, mystery, or surrealist genre bender—there’s plenty of fodder for your upcoming summer movie nights.