8 genre mashups that actually work

With so many movies deciding to mix up their references lately, we take a look back at some of the great genre mash-ups in film...
With the release of Cowboys and Aliens, Kill List and upcoming delights like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it seems the genre mash-up is the order of the day. Personally, we'd take the blending of some unique ideas over a straight-up remake any day of the week, so these on the nose reimaginings can often be very welcome. Some thought Cowboys and Aliens went to pot once the ETs arrived, but other interesting pairings have fared much better in blending their ideas together. Here are some examples of the most successful, interesting, or era defining mash-ups we've seen...

Blade Runner
Starting with Fritz Lang’s seminal silent masterpiece Metropolis, film noir and science fiction have had a very close relationship over the years. This makes sense, as sci-fi has often been the genre most sensitive to public mood - different takes on the film type falling in and out of favour across the decades. Just as musicals traditionally represent times of economic struggle, sci-fi noir strives to explore the dark underbelly of our modern society.
Post-apocalyptic worlds filled with bleak cityscapes and ambiguous protagonists litter the best examples of the genre to this day, from films like Terminator and Twelve Monkeys to Children of Men and Minority Report. But it’s Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner that truly defines the sub-genre, remaining a cult classic and many people’s example of the perfect sci-fi.

Ridley Scott's Alien is referred to as a horror movie just as often as it's referred to as sci-fi. Though it wasn't the first time extra-terrestrial imagery had been used to scare its audience, Alien is the master, and has body shock horror and suspense to rival the scariest scary movie. It's a shame the subsequent Alien vs. Predator movies took away most of their visceral power in favour of the standard teen pic conventions, but re-watching the original is guaranteed to still send shivers down your spine.

Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearlis just a family friendly action-adventure for it’s first third, before ghostly shipmates and cursed treasure come into play, elevating the film from charming romp to all-conquering blockbuster. Fantasy was combined with the seemingly dead swashbuckler genre, and the coupling was like lightning in a
bottle back in 2003.
The fun might have almost entirely burnt out of the franchise by now, so it’s hard to remember just how fresh Pirates felt when it emerged out of nowhere among all the other summer blockbusters. Johnny Depp’s performance might be what people were talking about on their way out of the cinema, but it was the combination of spooky fantasy imagery and good family fun that gave it the success it ultimately acheived.

Battle Los Angeles
While Battle Los Angeles didn't do too well this year, anyone can admit it had some nifty ideas on how to combine alien invasion sci-fi with the war movie. Arguably, the trailer executed this better than the film, but as generic and dull as it ultimately was, the central concept was effective enough in theory. The film's strong point was pitching its marines amidst the invasion, making it more about them than their situation or environment.

Shaun of the Dead
While some people might still think that Simon Pegg invented the horror/comedy genre mash up, it’s actually a long-standing Hollywood tradition going back to the days of Evil Dead 2, The Lost Boys and Gremlins. Of course, there are also those horror B-movies that are so bad they take on new meaning as spoofs, but a combination of intention and execution are key to success here.
So Pegg’s Shaun of the Dead does deserve its place at the top of the horror/comedy genre, and has arguably inspired more recent efforts like Zombieland and his and Edgar Wright’s own Hot Fuzz. Combining genuine frights and laugh-out-loud moments, often in the same scene, Shaun of the Dead manages to spoof the zombie invasion sub-genre while retaining an air of love and affection.

The Blair Witch Project
So, every horror sub-genre worth its salt has pilfered the documentary mash-up from Blair Witch Project, making it worthy of an entire genre in itself. Even though it wasn't strictly the first to use the technique to elicit chills, the film was a revelation at the time of release, and the publicity trail made great use of the found footage idea central to the movie's spookiness. Since then we've had countless imitators like Cloverfield, REC, The Last Exorcism and Paranormal Activity, to varying results.

Star Wars
A mash-up that George Lucas made his own when he unleashed the monster that was Star Wars in the ‘70s, the space western has since popped up periodically over the years between Lucas’s first and second trilogies. While the legacy may now be all but trashed, it has influenced some of the more interesting Hollywood output in recent memory, even if it’s not always in the right way.
For every Empire Strikes Back and Serenity, there’s a Wild Wild West or Jonah Hex, so it’s understandable why they’re so few and far between. Disregarding that Will Smith-headed disaster, Serenity brought the sub-genre back to life, even if not enough people saw it to warrant a sequel. The latest to enter the basket is Cowboys and Aliens, which also sadly failed to set the world alight.

A heist movie inside the mind? That's certainly a brain-boggling idea, and audiences agreed in their thousands. Although director Christopher Nolan had built up his reputation with films like Memento and The Dark Knight, no one expected a summer blockbuster with a confusing original concept would capture the public imagination (and their money) so widely. People love a heist movie, and the genius of Inception was the futuristic twist it gave to that well-worn genre. An all star cast to match the Oceans films also helped of course.

on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 09:59