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Abdul Koiyus

U26 Film Studies

Genre Theory
“Genre may be viewed in terms of film form with each genre having charateristic features of style”1

Genre theory is a critical way of thinking about film. It is based off of similarities in the narrative
elements found or how the audiences emotional response to the film. Basic genres include
Documentary or Fiction, this is where sub-genres would have unfolded, such as docufiction and or
docudrama. There are other subgenres too which could include courtroom and trial-focused dramas
which are known as legal drama. Different types of fiction which could seem like they are not related
can also be used to form a hybrid subgenre. Such as a crime comedy which is found in some of the
Hot Fuzz movies. Another popular combination can be action and comedy films.

Although there are combinations of genre’s found in movies, there are also movies focused on only
just one particular genre. There are many different types of examples in many different genres from
romance to horror. A very typical film for its genre that focuses mainly on scaring you or giving you
the shivers is the movie Friday the 13th. This is a very traditional movie for it’s genre, the things you
would expect to see from an horror movie will be seen in this movie. We see the main character
Jason Voorhees who drowned as a boy, as the killer or the person who motivates the murders.

Genre has specific conventions that it follows but they aren’t exactly neccassary. What is more
important is how they vary between different ones. For example an action movie may have bits of
an adventure movie in aswell so they may vary with eachother to have the best effect on the
audience. When a genre repeats itself It’s not expected that it will attract much of an audience, it
needs to develop gradually with an audience. Steve Neale says “difference is absolutely essential to
the economy of genre”2. When looking at media texts they are often depicted by conventions of
more than one genre.

One text may belong to different genres and could possibly belong to different countries and times
aswell. For example with Western movies they are usually set in a particular time such as the early
1900s. To define a genre you should begin to look at the expectations of the genre which means
looking at what is expected. When looking at the genre of romance you would expect to see two
lovers or when looking at an action movie to see explosions or guns.

When looking at a film, you would have to recognise what genre the film belongs to. Doing this
would make it easier to make judgements based on the reality status of the film itself and in other
words whether it is fictional or non-fictional. When putting a genre together with a text it will usually
set up expectactions for the viewer. These could be challenged within individual texts. For example a
action movie in which an explosion would happen would occur when the tension builds up.

Looking at an action movie and the conventions you would expect would just come to you naturally.
When I think of an action movie the conventions of guns, explosions and fighting come to mind and
a director especially known for creating these types of movies that have these types of conventions
is Michael Bay. He not only just uses one genre though, most of his movies are hybrids in which they
can be action, adventure or sci-fi and we see this distinctly in a series of films he has created. These
films are the Transformers series. From these movies we get an in-depth view of the conventions of
the genre action because we see loads of explosions occuring in multiple parts of the films, same

1
Sarah Casey Benyahia, Freddie Gaffney, John White (2008). Film Studies AS. 2nd ed. london: AS. 102-103.
2
Neale, S. (2014). Steve Neale's Theory of Repetition & Difference.Available:
https://prezi.com/3ewc87yoxddt/steve-neales-theory-of-repetition-difference/. Last accessed 3rd march
2018.
Abdul Koiyus
U26 Film Studies

with the guns. “When you find it difficult to slot a film into a specific category it may be because it is
a hybrid genre”3. When looking at one of the latest Transformer movie’s cast, we see the star/main
character is Mark Wahlberg, When we see this american actor/businessman we expect the movie to
be full of guns and explosions because from what we may know he is all about the stunts. It is not all
necessarily about the genre although rather it can be about the casting too and what we would
expect from them. The movie Transformers: The Last Knight is about us humans being at war with
the robots and now that Optimus Prime is gone, now it is the secrets of the past that can save the
future.

Looking at a movie which strictly defines one genre and the conventions you would expect to see is,
James Wan’s, Insidious. I think that this movie is a great example of a strictly Horror movie because
you see what you expect to find in a horror movie such as the scary antagonist’s we see in this film.
When we think about a Horror movie, we think about darkness, tragedy and distress. We see plenty
of repetition used in Horror movies such as when we see a scary scene, we expect another scary
moment to be on it’s way and this is how repition is used in a Horror type of movie. Most of James
Wan’s movies are focused on the genre’s of horror, thriller or action, but he mainly focuses on the
films of horror. He has produced many Horror movies from the saw series to the Conjuring movies.
Insidious is one of the traditional movies that focuses on one genre and I think that’s what makes it
unique. The main character of the movie is Patrick Wilson, he participates in many Horror films and
has made a name for himself in them. When coming across his name you are just instantly thinking
about the Insidious series of films. The budget for this movie was 1.5 million and it received a total of
97 million across the world.

3
Jo Harland, Nick Timmons (2006). AS FILM Studies. london: Jo Harland . 203-205.