No movie genre’s ever dead. They can vanish for years, go into prolonged dormancy, but genres that strike a chord with one generation tend to experience some kind of resurrection. Just look at the murder mystery, which was absent from the big screen for years before Murder on the Orient Express and especially Knives Out gave it a significant jolt of life. Don’t forget how the live-action musical appeared to be a relic of the past before Chicago blew up the box office and dominated the Oscars. If you can reimagine how a vintage genre can be relevant for today’s audience, they can be given a whole new lease on life.
With 2022 shaping up to be the first year when movie theaters are open 365 days and 52 weeks a year, it’s more imperative than ever to consider what other genres need a comeback on the big screen. Reviving these dormant forms of mainstream-appealing storytelling could be a great way to pack movie theaters full of new stories while proving once again that good filmmaking in any genre never goes totally out of style. Seven currently dormant genres seem especially ripe for a revival on the big screen, one that could prove how a good genre of cinematic entertainment is never out of fashion.
Noir was a beloved staple of Hollywood filmmaking throughout the 1940s and 1950s, with these grim projects being the perfect vehicle to comment on societal injustices in movies within the restrictive framework of the Hays Code. The neo-noir was built by filmmakers who grew up on these noirs and decided to take the core hallmarks of this genre to the next level. Today, the neo-noir hasn’t totally vanished, thanks to the presence of modern films like Nightmare Alley and Reminiscence, but it’s become far scarcer. Part of the problem here is that the tropes of the noir (the hard-boiled male detective protagonist, the cinematography, the narration) have become so familiar that, under the wrong circumstances, they lack impact or identity.
That’s a shame since noir can be a fascinating tool, especially for providing a cinematic reflection of the chaos of the real world. Given all the horrors unfolding in the modern political landscape, a new incarnation of the noir feels like it could be more relevant than ever before. One thing that could help the genre get a new lease on life is by setting more of these titles in the here and now rather than in the distant past or future. Rooting new noirs in the turmoil of the 2020s, rather than just setting them in the era in which noirs originally became popular, could help the genre be as relevant and captivating to modern moviegoers as it was to 1940s cinema fans.
Turn on the TV and you can find any number of courtroom dramas filling up airtime. Competition from these programs led to the courtroom drama becoming an endangered species in movie theaters in the 2010s, with The Lincoln Lawyer and Just Mercy being the rare major new entries in the genre. Though they’re in a current state of decline, it’s hard to imagine a genre responsible for all-time classic movies like Anatomy of a Murder just vanishing entirely from the big screen.
A potential savior for the courtroom drama could be on the horizon thanks to Hollywood’s favorite concept: nostalgia. It takes about 30 years for old pop culture properties to be ripe for nostalgic tributes, hence why the 2010s were dominated by odes to the 1980s. This means the 2020s could be the perfect time for homages to the 1990s, when courtroom dramas, especially ones based on the works of John Grisham, ran rampant at multiplexes. Cashing in on this potential nostalgia could give the courtroom drama a new lease on life and a chance to prove its worth as a big-screen attraction.
It’s no surprise that the erotic thriller died out thanks to 1990s misfires like Striptease. Add in the looming presence of the internet, which made nudity and other erotic content infinitely more accessible, and the erotic thriller got lost in the sands of time. Hollywood’s modern shift away from sex-heavy movies has further compounded problems with getting erotic thrillers off the ground. However, absence makes the heart grow fonder and the erotic thriller seems to be primed for a big comeback.
What could really make the erotic thriller stand out in 2022 is by leaning into new forms of sexuality and sexual expression compared to entries in the genre from the 1980s and 1990s. Let’s see what erotic thrillers look like from the perspective of queer filmmakers of color or perhaps a subversive entry in the genre that provides an empathetic gaze onto sex workers. Just because the way people consume or express sexuality in the modern era doesn’t mean the erotic thriller has to vanish. It just means it’s time for an exciting evolution of the genre, one that can do something special.
What’s old is new again. That adage seems perfect for the screwball comedy, a form of humorous filmmaking that was most popular in the 1930s. These films were all about playing on societal expectations of gender roles, economic stereotypes, and other rigid norms that keep people boxed in. While it may have been at its peak popularity nearly a century ago, the screwball comedy feels like the perfect vehicle for the modern world.
American society circa. 2022 is all about challenging the status quo, particularly in terms of the concept of gender even being a thing. The screwball comedy could garner a new lease on life by embracing non-binary and other creative voices outside the traditional gender binary. These artists could inhabit the kind of freewheeling and subversive roles Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand inhabited in classic entries in the genre. While challenging conventions of society, these films can also provide the sort of over-the-top laughs and sharp dialogue that few genres do as well as the screwball comedy. What’s old is new again and the core details of the screwball comedy could feel perfectly new again in the hands of the proper modern artists.
All art is political and the same goes for movies. However, Hollywood hasn’t been quite as active in producing features that occupy the political drama genre in the last decade, partially because of the decreasing presence of the mid-budget movie as well as box office woes for modern entries like The Ides of March. Though it can be understandable to want to go to the movie theater to escape from wall-to-wall political coverage on our TV’s, movies have often been a great way to process the political zeitgeist of the here and now, we shouldn’t lose that experience.
Bringing back the political drama would also be a great way to confront urgently relevant issues facing America today, such as the dwindling presence of unions or hardships faced by immigrants and asylum seekers. Topics usually dominated by documentaries could be great fodder for modern entries in the political drama. Plus, the increase in visible political activism among the general populace in recent years, especially in younger demographics, suggests there’s a desire to confront rather than ignore problems plaguing the world today. Resurrecting the political drama would be a great way to accomplish that task.
For a while after the first three Paranormal Activity installments, the found-footage movie seemed to have cemented itself as a new fixture of Hollywood genre storytelling. However, this style of filmmaking quickly turned into a parody of itself and by the mid-2010s, had all but vanished from movie theaters. It’s easy to see why given how these films grew more famous for nauseous shaky-cam than intriguing storylines, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t possibilities lurking within the found-footage film world.
In the years since found-footage movies went out of style, technology has only gotten more prominent in the lives of everyday people. Surely there are compelling stories to be wrung out of this fact that could only be told through cameras on phones, laptops, and other modern marvels. Heck, the pandemic has only increased people’s reliance on screen-based communication, which would seemingly make films told through amateurish filming techniques all the more relevant. Just because the found-footage movie could be bad doesn’t mean it’s devoid of interesting relevant possibilities.
Body horror is a strain of horror storytelling that’s as squirm-inducing as it is fascinating. These movies tap into such specific fears over our bodies, with such concerns rendered through over-the-top imagery that couldn’t exist in any other genre. Famously connected to the likes of David Cronenberg, body horror hasn’t been as prevalent in the modern landscape of horror. 21st-century scary fare has been often more preoccupied with remakes, found-footage titles, and supernatural features rather than gooey chill fests navigating frustrations with the human body.
However, Julia Ducournau, through her works Raw and Titane, has not only kept body horror alive but shown all the possibilities it still carries. Rather than rehash what veterans of the genre have done before, Ducournau’s projects are vividly imaginative and idiosyncratic in delivering body horror imagery that’s as disturbing as it is metaphorically rich. If she can create something new in this genre, surely other artists can too. Bringing back the body horror movie as a staple of scary cinema would unleash so many opportunities for scenes dripping with nightmare fuel. However, it would also usher in more chances for filmmakers to ruminate the fleshy vessels we call our bodies in unforgettable ways.