Artful scares : A24 and the elevated horror cycle

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Brannan, Alexander Joseph

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One notable cycle of production in horror cinema in the 2010s was so-called “elevated horror.” The independent company A24 has contributed heavily to this cycle. This project argues that A24 employs the aesthetic of elevated horror as part of its house style. One of A24’s major corporate mandates is to “bridge the gap” between the art-house and the multiplex. Thus, it works to market its films to both the art-house cinephile audience and the casual, mainstream cinemagoer. This thesis examines the marketing, branding, and distribution strategies underlying A24’s pursuit of its target markets, focusing specifically on the company’s horror products. Using the films Under the Skin (d. Glazer, 2013), The Witch (d. Eggers, 2016), and Midsommar (d. Aster, 2019) as case studies, the thesis presents these strategies at pivotal moments in the company’s development from a newcomer to a notable player in American independent cinema. In doing so, I present the parallel histories of A24 and the elevated horror cycle and provide evidence for an interdependence between the two. The project has a particular emphasis on the narrative, stylistic, and generic components of elevated horror film texts; the marketing, distribution, and branding practices of A24; and the discourses of critical reception regarding the elevated horror cycle which circulated in the popular and trade presses.


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