In its 74th year, the Berlin Film Festival not only showcased the most earnest and emotionally charged films of the past year but also unleashed a lineup of genre heavy-hitters. From the spine-tingling allure of folk horror to Sci-Fi thrillers to mind-bending journeys between worlds, both real and imagined, these features and shorts promise to leave you captivated. Here are the nine most exciting genre films from Berlinale (plus a few honorable mentions).

  • Cuckoo (2024) NEON

    Written and Directed by: Tilman Singer (Luz, El Fin del Mundo)

    Starring: Hunter Schafer, Dan Stevens, Jessica Henwick, Marton Csókás, Jan Bluthardt, Mila Lieu

    Gretchen (Schafer) travels to the German Alps with her father Luis (Csókás), stepmother Beth (Henwick), and step-sister Alma (Lieu). In the resort town where they are staying, she hears strange noises and is plagued by frightening visions of a woman chasing her. Gretchen is drawn into a conspiracy involving bizarre experiments by the resort's owner that echoes back generations…

    Its World Premiere on February 16th did not disappoint. The sound design team consists of Jeff Pits, Odin Benitez, Jonas Lux, Steffen Pfauth, and Torsten Zumhof, and they deserve every flower imaginable. It's chilling what sensory overload they invoke.

    Cuckoo pulls in several themes of loss and the tragedy of reluctantly blending a family, which leaves Gretchen ripe for sorting out a heinous and deadly mystery.

    Don't skip if you love: Grief horror, folk horror, psychological horror.

  • A Different Man (2024) A24

    Written and Directed by Aaron Schimberg (Chained for Life)

    Starring: Sebastian Stan, Renate Reinsve, Adam Pearson

    Ambitious New York actor Edward (Stan) undergoes a radical surgical procedure to drastically transform his appearance. As a result, a lot of things change in his life – and yet everything remains disturbingly the same. Even though he may have changed outwardly and can start a new life, he is still who he is and not who he wants to be. Then he misses out on the role of a lifetime, created by his former neighbor Ingrid (Reinsve), and his new dream face turns into a nightmare as an invasive man named Oswald (Pearson) enters his life.

    This film reunites Pearson and Schimberg. You can see glimmers of Chained for Life in A Different Man, and nothing rings truer here than the phrase, "Be careful what you wish for. The film challenges the perception of beauty, societal expectations, and self-esteem and what we would do if we were granted our every wish.

    Don't skip if you love: Tense stakes, body horror, secondhand embarrassment.

  • Love Lies Bleeding (2024) A24

    Written by Rose Glass and Weronika Tofilska, Directed by Rose Glass (Saint Maud, Room 55)

    Starring: Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jenna Malone

    Gym manager Lou (Stewart) falls for Jackie (O'Brian), a bodybuilder who is passing through town en route to a competition in Las Vegas.

    A24 came out swinging this year! Rose Glass gave us some of the most beautiful and torturous scenes in this twisted love story bound in blood, guns, body horror, gym sweat, and good 'ol dysfunctional family values. Harris and Franco are almost unrecognizable in this, which makes the story's world seem all the more raw and raucous, and Stewart and O'Brian's chemistry is ridiculously sexy.

    Don't skip if you love: queer horror, revenge horror, neo-noir, erotic horror.

  • I Saw the TV Glow (2024) A24

    Written and Directed by: Jane Schoenbrun (We're All Going to the World's Fair)

    Starring: Justice Smith (Owen), Brigette Lundy-Paine (Maddy), Ian Foreman (Young Owen), Fred Durst (Frank), Danielle Deadwyler (Brenda), Helena Howard (Isabel)

    Teenager Owen (Foreman) is just trying to make it through life in the suburbs when his classmate Maddy (Lundy-Paine) introduces him to a mysterious late-night TV show – a vision of a supernatural world beneath their own. In the pale glow of the TV, Owen's (Smith) view of reality begins to crack.

    A remarkable work of heartbreaking nostalgia for a life not realized or nurtured. This film, which had its International Premiere at Berlinale on February 20th, is such an incredible testament to how formative the television shows we grew up on are and how those pieces and those people that surround you at that time never leave you, displaying the tender bond between two queer teens. Schoenbrun had stated, "…I think, especially in our media-saturated environment, we're looking to the glow of the screen and we're looking to fiction to help define our understanding of reality."

    Don't skip if you love: '90s nostalgia, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, queer horror, body horror, Sci-Fi horror.

  • The Devil's Bath (2024) SHUDDER

    Written and Directed by: Severin Fiala and Veronika Franz (Goodnight Mommy, The Lodge)

    Starring: Anja Plaschg (Agnes), David Scheid (Wolf), Maria Hofstätter (Mother-in-Law Gänglin)

    Upper Austria in 1750. A fish pond reflects the overcast sky. A deep, dark forest swallows the sunlight. On a hilltop, the corpse of a hanged woman. As an example. A warning. An omen? The deeply religious and highly sensitive Agnes (Plaschg) regards the dead woman with pity. But also with longing: she feels like a stranger in the world of her husband Wolf (Scheid), whom she has just married. It is an emotionally cold world consisting of work, chores, and expectations. Agnes increasingly withdraws into herself. Her internal prison becomes ever more oppressive, her melancholy more overwhelming. Soon, her only way out seems to be a shocking act of violence.

    The directors of Goodnight Mommy bring you another slow-burn horror film rife with folklore and ritual, of the expectations of the universe if we do all the right things with the best intentions. Poor Agnes goes from bad to worse as we follow her journey and all the fanaticism, ceremony and regional tales can't help her where she's headed. The ending onscreen epilogue speaks to the abhorrent mishandling of women's mental health and the horrifying lengths to relieve it.

    Don't skip if you love: folk horror, revenge horror, slow-burn horror.

  • Exhuma (2024) MCMC

    Written and Directed by: Jae-hyun Jang (Priests, Svaha: The Sixth Finger)

    Starring:

    Young shaman Hwa-rim and her partner and co-medium Bong-gil respond to a call for help from the USA, where the wealthy Park family, Korean exiles, is plagued by irritations: something is wrong with the family's descendants and the head of the family himself is hearing screams. The duo accepts the job – after all, it's well paid – and, along with a feng shui expert and an undertaker, they begin to exhume the ancestors' grave in the north of Gangwon-do province. In the process, something escapes from the coffin, people die, others prove to be obsessed, and the real problems haven't even started yet.

    Broken into chapters, Exhuma enters into chaos quickly and doesn't let up. Filled with characters who make the wrong choice out of pride and/or duty, the spirits are loud, relentless, and hungry. Jae-hyun Jang is no stranger to exploring religious cultism and supernatural folklore, and he's got another pulse-pounding hit here.

    Don't skip if you love: religious horror, supernatural folk horror, Ghostbusters.

  • Chime (2024)

    Written and Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Creepy, Pulse)

    Starring: Mutsuo Yoshioka, Tomoko Tabata, Ikkei Watanabe

    Matsuoka is a teacher at a culinary school. One day, his student Tashiro says something strange during class: "There's a noise, it's like a chime. Someone is sending me a message." The school administration warns Matsuoka that Tashiro is a little strange. Tashiro announces that half of his brain has been replaced by a machine, and resorts to drastic measures to prove it. A few days after this incident, a female student expresses discomfort at the sight of a whole chicken. Matsuoka is filled with a vague sense of unease. A strange horror starts to creep into his life, both at school and at home.

    Chime is such a wonderful and puzzling mid-length film of madness, paranoia, and sensorial discomfort. And there was nothing like seeing this in a theatre full of folks who were sorely unprepared for the material. Cue the Meryl Streep shouting gif: Kurosawa is back!!

    Don't skip if you love: Kurosawa, psychological horror, body horror, sound design, paranoia horror.

    And now for some honorable mentions:

  • Brief History of a Family (Thriller)

    Written and Directed by: Jianjie Lin (Gu)

    Starring: Zu Feng, Ke-Yu Guo, Sun Xilun, Lin Muran

    A middle-class family's fate becomes intertwined with their only son's enigmatic new friend in post-one-child policy China, putting unspoken secrets, unmet expectations, and untended emotions under the microscope.

    Don't Skip if you love: Psychological Thrillers, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Saltburn.

  • Another End (Sci-Fi)

    Written by Piero Messina, Giacomo Bendotti, Valentina Gaddi, and Sebastiano Melloni

    Directed by Piero Messina (The Wait)

    Set in a near-future when a new technology exists that can put the consciousness of a dead person back into a living body, in an attempt to ease the grief of separation, providing a little extra time to say goodbye.

    Don't skip if you love: Grief horror, Sci-Fi, romance horror

    To see genre slates grow at larger film festivals brings me such joy, and I was so happy to share the moments of film premieres with the filmmakers themselves.

    We journeyed through Cuckoo's haunting sound design and emotionally raw horror story; A Different Man challenges societal norms; Love Lies Bleeding offers a blood-laden love story; I Saw the TV Glow explores nostalgic bonds and finding your truth, while The Devil's Bath and Exhuma delve into folklore and horror. Kiyoshi Kurosawa's Chime is a puzzling journey into madness.

    You won't regret tapping into these films upon release!

    Check out our list of All The New Horror Movies We Can't Wait To Watch In 2024.

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