The Genre Cycle Essay

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Film scholars around the world agree that all genres of film are part of the “genre cycle”. This cycle contains four different stages that a specific genre goes through. These stages are: primitive, classic, revisionist, and parody. Each stage that the genre goes through brings something different to that genre’s meaning and what the audience expects. I believe that looking at the horror genre will be the most beneficial since it has clearly gone through each stage.

The first stage of the genre cycle is called the primitive stage. During this stage of the cycle, the genre of horror is very new. Filmmakers are trying to decide what makes a horror film a horror film, while audience are figuring out what they should expect every time
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They share the same genre values with the filmmakers. For instance, look at John Carpenter’s Halloween. By the time this film came out audiences knew what to expect when seeing this. This movie would surly have blood, suspenseful moments, and an emotional undertow; it did not disappoint. By the time this movie was released, in comparison to Dracula¸ it was often expected that the ending leave you wondering whether or not the “bad guy” was actually dead. In particular, at the end of Halloween, Dr. Samuel Loomis stabs Michael six times in the chest and Michael falls off the balcony. However, when Loomis looks over the edge of the balcony Michael or his body is anywhere to be found and you can then hear Michael breathing heavily in the background.

The third stage of the genre cycle is the revisionist stage. During this stage the genre is unclear and less certain in its values. Genre conventions are also switched up to question popular belief. Essentially, filmmakers try to switch up the genre by adding elements of psychological thrillers or even making the supposed “good guy” an actual “bad guy” or just not as saint-like usual “good guys” are. A fantastic example of this is Mikael Håfström’s The Rite. With this film, the main character is going to school to become a priest, but it is oddly twisted because he is in fact a skeptic of his own faith.

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