Genre Research Analysis

What is genre?

Genre is the word used in the film industry to describe various categories that films, and TV shows, can be put into. Examples of genres include Horror, Comedy and Action. Each genre has its own unique characteristics which allow it to be recognized as a particular genre. Furthermore films in a particular genre such as horror all have similarities like jump scares and a weapon. On the other hand films in the action genre would have similarities like a tall, muscular hero and massive Hollywood fight scenes with big explosions. Due to the differences with the different genres it causes some genres to be more important than others. For example recently action films are very popular whereas musicals are not. Although if I was writing this 50 years ago the opposite would probably be true.

Benefits of genre;

A major benefit of genre’s is that it offers the audience an expectation. In other words the audience will know what to expect from a film in a particular genre. For example i know that when i go to watch an action film, there are going to be big fight scenes, chases across cities and unrealistic hollywood drama. An example of this is the Fast and Furious franchise. The Fast and Furious franchise centres around a number of characters that are involved in illegal street racing and more recently bank heists. This series of films is a big hit with audiences across the world, this could be attributed to the big stars that have joined the cast, as well as the big stars that the franchise has made. Across the current 7 films, just under $3.9 Million has been made from the box office, from a total of around $759 million production budget.


scene from Fast and Furious 7(James Wan)


Whereas if i go to watch a horror film, the film will probably take place in a haunted/old house or an abandoned building. Also i know that the film could have haunted objects, supernatural beings or crazy murderers. A good example of this is The Conjuring(James Wan). The Conjuring is about a family of two parents and five children that move into a Rhode Island farm house and strange things start happening around it with ‘escalating nightmarish terror’. The family then contact paranormal investigators to examine the house. They discover a whole area steeped in a satanic haunting that is targeting the family wherever they go. The film was a hit with critics and audiences alike with an average score of 82%. The film made $318 million off a $20 million budget. I think the film was successful because the film is based on a true story, the films has no gore in it and the director is well known for being the director of Fast and Furious.


Also you could use a genre, like horror, to disguise a films real meaning. For example in the 1920’s it was illegal to be a homosexual so you obviously couldn’t display homosexuality in films. But if you disguised the plot of the story into the horror genre then the film could be shown. This is known as ‘queer horror’ and can be seen in the 1932 film The Old Dark House(James Whale). In the film there is a ‘scene that conveys a campy style with both men behaving as if they were effeminate caricatures’. This is when ‘Both men wear more make-up than Mary Shelley, they dress fancily, and they talk and act dramatically and hyper-sensitively, in an “unmanly” manner’.


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Having films put into genres is also a good strategy to use to reduce the risk of a film from failing. This is because different genres/sub-genres are popular at different times. So for example the comedy genre was the most popular genre in 2006 with   140 films produced, a total of around 32% of the market share. Whereas the adventure genre wasn’t as popular with only 32 films just over 19% market share. With genre’s, film makers know which genre of film is popular, and can therfor maximise profits whereas without genre’s they would most likely loose money on the majority of films. This can be seen in the times of the year when films are released, for example horror films are usually released either in the ‘dump months’ or in early October. This is because October is the month of Halloween so horror films would be expected to be more successful in this period.

Another good thing about genre is that over time it gradually changes. This is good because otherwise films with the same basis and plot would be released all the time and therfor there would be no reason to look back on films that were made 20 years ago for example. But as genre’s do typically change over time, there is a good reason to be looking back on films that were made decades ago to compare how different they are to films released now. For example the world renowned film that defined the horror genre, as well as Alfred Hitchcock’s career, Psycho, was released in 1960 and is still well known today and is still thought to be one of, if the best horror film to date. Another example is the film Zombieland(Ruben Fleischer), with was the first zombie film to break $100 million at the box office.

Problems of genre;

On the other hand there are also problems in putting films into genre’s. The main problem being that it limits films into a category. An example of this would be a films plot about ghosts would be classed as a supernatural horror film, therfor it would be strange and possibly ruin the movie if it were to branch into a drama as well. There are only around 130 such films, the most popular being Crimson Peak(Guillermo del Toro). Although the film is popular among the audience, as of yet it has only made just over $50 million with 5 days left in cinemas, from a production budget of $55 million. This shows that mixing genres is sometimes a bad idea and isn’t always a financially viable option. Although I think that if there were no genres, this film would be far more successful as there would be no restrictions on what would be considered a ‘normal’ film.


Also much like the benefit of genre’s offering expectations, people also expect different thing from a particular genre. For example the 3 students in my media class expect 3 different things from the horror genre. This being because we each have different preferences and various other things, so although we all like watching horror films, I might like a film that the others don’t, and vice versa. This can also be seen in how popular different genre’s of films are. For example the most popular genre in 2012 was action/adventure whereas musicals were among the worst performing genre. On the other hand in the 1930’s to 1950’s the opposite could be said. The most popular musical, according to The Guardian, is Oliver!(Carol Reed) Released on the 27th September, 1968. From a budget of only $10 million, the film apparently made around $77 million, a huge success for the time.

Genre of my film

The genre chosen for my film is horror. It is one of my favourite genre’s, and in my opinion is a genre that allows for a lot of creativity and freedom, unlike other genre’s. This is because there is a wide variety of potential plots from crazed murderers to a haunted Ouija board. Furthermore horror films can be easier to film as they don’t need to include as many characters and also you only need to have one or two settings, compared to an action films such as the Fast and Furious films where there are often too many locations than you can count.

Horror conventions:

Setting- Usually the setting for the horror genre is typically isolated places, as well as abandoned houses, dark streets etc. Pretty much anything that connotes being alone, likewise it could be a location that has a dark history such as prisons and insane asylums. An example of this is the horror film Ouija, which is set in an old house that has the spirits if a family that had previously lived there. Having settings like this allow you to have endless possibilities in terms of the storyline and plot of the film. Therefore it allows you to create a film that has possibly not been done before. Although doing this would be very risky as it could be a film that no one would want to watch.

th60DL4NAXColour- The colours most commonly used in horror films are black and red, this is linked with death, blood and danger etc. The lighting is often dark, meaning that low key lighting is mostly used to create dark atmospheres and shadows. These dark colour’s generally connote mostly negative things and are used in most, of not all films in the horror genre. Furthermore dark colour’s like the ones used can also aid in the mysteriousness of horror films. For example you could have a dark scene to mask the identity of someone. Furthermore in a paranormal sub genre film having dark colour’s could make the audience think that a ghost or spirit could be hiding in the darkness.

Props- In certain series of films the props used become iconic, such as knives and axes. Also religious and supernatural icons such as the cross and Ouija board are also common. The different weapons are iconic in different sub genres of horror films. For example in the Paranormal sub genre with films such as The exorcists religious props such as the cross become iconic. On the other hand War films would obviously have a lot of guns. This can be seen in the 1998 film Saving Private Ryan, the film was awarded for its accurate portrayal of the Omaha beach landings. During this sequence a lot of guns, grenades and other explosives were used. An example of this is the iconic knife prop from the Halloween films. The weapon was the basis for the film and its subsequent sequels and because of this became one of the most iconic weapons of the horror genre.

Sound- There is a huge variety of music that is used in horror films but they all have some common aspects. These include the use of isolated instruments and the extreme and sudden change in pitch and tone, to make the scene more intense. Depending on the instrument used both slow and fast paced music can add tension to a scene. This is mostly done when something bad or unexpected is going to happen. Also there are common sound effects that are universally used in horror films include. These can range from church bells and echoed voices to crows and doors creaking.

Costume- usually the protagonist of a horror film usually wears everyday casual clothes as they are supposed to portray everyday people such as the people watching the film. Whereas the antagonist will probably be wearing dark clothing and a mask, or other iconic costumes such as prison clothes or bloodied clothing. On the other hand people in horror films also wear casual clothes. This is so the audience can relate to the characters in the film more so the audience is more emotionally invested in the film, as well as being more emotionally connected with the characters. Occasionally the costumes of characters become iconic with the film. Especially in horror films other parts of the costume such as masks also become iconic.

The history of horror:

   This video explains a lot about the history of horror, it’s very detailed and helpful.

Horror first originated from the adaptation of gothic horror literature. The most famous gothic writers include Edgar Allen Poe, Mary Shelley and Bram Stoker. The first depiction of horror in films was in some silent shorts created by the film pioneer Georges Méliès in 1896, the most popular and best known being Le Manoir du Diable. Which is sometimes credited as being the first ever horror film. Around 1910, Edison Studios created a film version of Frankenstein, following the film adaptation of the novel Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 1908.

During the first world war there was an influx of German film makers that hugely influenced films in the horror genre. Mainly a film called The Man Who Laughs(Robert Wiene) was a hugely influential film at the time. Then Hollywood came in and took over the industry, namely Universal, With there first hit film Dracula(Tod Browning). Quickly followed by Frankenstein   (James Whale)and The Old Dark House(James Whale) This is when the word Horror became more commonplace.

In the 1950’s there was a huge advance in technology, this then changed the tone of horror films away from Gothic towards more contemporary concerns. This is when the UK became a huge producer of horror films. The Hammer Company was the first to solely focus on Horror films. Later in the 1950’s and 1960’s the slasher genre was created and then was sealed with Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

Example’s in the horror genre:

George Romero- In my opinion a pioneer in the horror genre because he has pretty much dedicated his life to producing horror films and has created some of the best horror films to date. An example of this is the 1978 films Dawn of the Dead. This film had a production budget of only $500,000 and in total made over $55 million and was named one of the top cult films by Entertainment Weekly in 2003. In total he has won 12 out of 16 award nominations.

Robert Englund- Born in 1947 and has appeared in 135 horror films and starred in 4 TV series. He has won 4 out of 10 award nominations and starred in films such as Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddy v Jason.

                             My example of a horror film:

MV5BMTM3NjA1NDMyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMDQzNDMzOQ@@._V1_SX214_AL_The Conjuring is one of my favourite horror films, this is because I think the plot of the film is excellent. Also the film has a lot of the characteristics of a modern horror film. For example the film takes place in a ‘dilapidated’ farmhouse, which is ‘steeped in a satanic haunting’ due to the farmhouse’s dark history. To try to solve the problem the family contact paranormal investigators who in turn contact the catholic church for permission to conduct an exorcism.

This film was released on July 19th 2013 and was directed by James Wan. As I previously said the film was a hit with critics and audiences alike with an average score of 82%. The film made $318 million off a $20 million budget. It was a big budget film and therefore got a big return, no thanks to the great advertising placements by 20th century fox. The TV ads for the film, which mostly aired in the evening, apparently ‘traumatised’ a lot of people. In turn the press of this clever marketing ploy dug up a lot of free advertising across social media and even on various popular websites such as Entertainment Weekly.



2001>present-Fast and Furious franchise (James Wan)

2013-The Conjuring (James Wan)

1960-Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)

1932-The Old Dark House (James Whale)

2007-Paranormal Activity (Oren Pelli)

1978-Halloween (John Carpenter)

2015-Crimson Peak (Guillermo del Toro)

1968-Oliver! (Carol Reed)

1931-Dracula (Tod Browning)

1928-The Man Who Laughs (Robert Wiene)

1931-Frankenstein ( James Whale)

1932-The Old Dark House (James Whale)

1960- Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock)

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