6 Once-Popular Movies Genres Hollywood Doesn't Make Anymore

Screw another superhero movie, when are we going to get the next 'Gosford Park'?
6 Once-Popular Movies Genres Hollywood Doesn't Make Anymore

As you know, genres are the delicious movie flavors we all stuff in our eyes and ears like a hobo's bindle-fodder. And just like food flavors, movies can mix and match genres to create new and exciting experiences. Also just like food flavors, a film can mix too many of them together and create a baffling cacophony in which all the genres cancel each other out. And finally, there are the times when a flavor becomes so copied and diluted that people start to forget what made them great in the first place, and we're left with the cinematic equivalent a of quirky fusion food truck serving Chipotle cabbage burritos or fucking salad pizza.

I guess what I'm saying is that it sure feels like we've left a few really awesome genres in the dust. And in the interest of starting a revival revolution (violence optional), I'm going to single some of them out right now. Let's raise a glass for these lost genres ...

We Haven't Had A Good Whodunnit Since 2001

What We Used To Have:

Clue, Rear Window, Ten Little Indians, Gosford Park ... fuck it, let's count Murder At 1600.

What We Have Now:

That new Murder On The Orient Express ... provided it doesn't blow a turd.

I should be clear about what I mean by "whodunnit," because the murder mystery genre can encompass a lot of things. At its purest, it takes place in a small location, preferably with characters who are unable to leave. There should be at least one mustache. Also, it's important to have an interesting cast of suspects, and enough evidence for the audience to at least feel like they can solve the mystery in question on their own. The last iteration of this formula that I recall has to be 2003's Identity, and the last non-garbage one is likely 2001's Gosford Park, which featured actors like Michael Gambon, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith, and Charles Dance in a Downton Abbey-like mansion where a fancy-pants murder has taken place.

Don't be mistaken, since this genre has dwindled, there are a lot of detective thrillers you might confuse for the same thing. Movies and TV shows like Se7en, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, True Detective, and The Killing are all wonderful, but often conclude with the killer being some background Waldo from a single scene we long forgot about. Other times, we get movies like Shutter Island, which start promising but end up betraying their genre for some crazy Fight Club ending.

See, the classic whodunnit, while having some twists and turns, doesn't need an outlandish narrative u-turn to be enjoyable. The appeal lies in the characters and tension of the environment. But as filmmakers kept making these movies, there was a weird pressure to force various third-act gimmicks to keep the premise fresh. A good example has to be Scream, which I would argue is a horror version of a whodunnit (complete with a mustache from Dewey). As they kept making sequels, the writers kept trying to make the final reveals more and more elaborate and twisty, making the killer impossible to determine ahead of time due to a lack of necessary information being given to the audience.

Of course! It was the lady we saw once in a previous scene, who it turns out is the mother of the killer from the first movie! It's so obvious now!

Even when we broaden our scope to the detective or murder mystery genre, there seems to be a real struggle to maintain momentum. Shows like True Detective and The Killing can't produce a good mystery beyond one season, despite having a formula that couldn't be more repeatable and entertaining. It's as if the writers are afraid that we'll get bored of simply having to solve a different mystery each time, and then psych themselves into steering the show off the rails and into whatever genre you'd call watching Vince Vaughn slowly die in the desert. Comedy, I guess?

And speaking of rails, there's hope in the form of the aforementioned new adaptation of Murder On The Orient Express, provided that the film doesn't end with the revelation that they're all in a dream or aliens or that the killer is secretly Kenneth Branagh's mustache.

Monster Movies Have Nearly Hit A Creative Standstill

What We Used To Have:

Alien, Predator, Jaws, They Live, The Fly, Tremors, The Thing, The Terminator, Pitch Black, Army Of Darkness, The Mummy (from 1999).

What We Have Now:

The Mummy (from 2017), Alien Covenant, Cloverfield, Underworld, Resident Evil. Giant monsters and zombies galore!

It would be reckless to say that there hasn't been a great new original monster in a while, as films like Attack The Block and The Babadook feature exactly that. But when you compare the last 20 years of the genre to the 20 years before that, it's clear that the well is drying pretty damn fast. The '70s through the '90s featured a grotesque renaissance of action/horror monsters, which ranged from everything to killer sharks to aliens to robots to Kevin-Bacon-hunting sand dicks, none of which were typical of what came before. Films like The Thing and Alien drew most of their horror from the sheer nightmare-inducing design of the titular threats. As of late, however, big-budget adventure/horror tends to be neither of those two things, containing unchallenging terror coupled with tensionless action.

Alien Covenant and the new Mummy failed to invoke a single moment of fear or excitement from most audiences, and your typical monster falls in the category of either "giant beast" or "rehashed folklore". In other words, it's either Godzilla ...

6 Once-Popular Movies Genres Hollywood Doesn't Make Anymore
Paramount Pictures

... or a zombie ...

6 Once-Popular Movies Genres Hollywood Doesn't Make Anymore
Universal Pictures

... even if those names aren't specifically used.

I refuse to accept that we've run out of ideas. A company like Universal spent nearly 100 years creating unspeakable monsters with the early Frankenstein and Wolfman films, right on through Jaws, The Thing, They Live, Tremors, Ghost Dad, Jurassic Park, Pitch Black, Slither ... only to start redoing those all over again in the 2010s.

What the shit, guys? This isn't to say that I don't enjoy seeing my childhood horrors come back in modern iterations, but most of the new films seem to have no idea what made the originals so appealing. The Thing was a favorite for its practical effects, so they made a dull CGI-filled version. The Terminator and Alien were beloved for their cat and mouse suspense, but the sequels inexplicably became obsessed with mythologies that no one asked for or wanted. The entire point of what made the Alien aliens scary is that we had no idea where they came from. So while it's powerfully erotic in a way that transcends sexuality, there's nothing scary or gripping or narratively satisfying about watching Michael Fassbender make out with himself. Save that for an arthouse film about twins or one of my confusing dreams.

Big-Budget Romantic Epics Used To Be A Thing

What We Used To Have:

Titanic, Gone With The Wind, Doctor Zhivago.

What We Have Now:

Avatar, I guess?

I'm a big stupid fan of Doctor Zhivago. The movie is like four hours long, cost a fortune, spans 50 years and several wars, and is primarily focused on the love between two people. The revelation of the film, without spoiling it, is centered on a single object representing the relationship of the main characters. There's no goddamn way such a film would exist today, for somewhere down the line, we decided that long-term boning and dramatic emotional connections weren't enough to get us into theaters, even when that romance features all sorts of fun genocide and even a boss supervillain train.

Heck, the last example of this that I can really think of is Titanic, which at its heart (of the ocean) is the story of two sexy kids sharing a brief moment of passion together, while still flavored with cutaways to CGI people ragdolling off of giant propellers. Since then, no studio is willing to throw money at serious romance unless it's an indie movie or paired with a second genre like La La Land. Once you cross the $50 million mark, love is just the quick breath taken between superhero beatdowns.

It kind of sucks, right? For a lot of us, love is one of the most intense life experiences you can have (next to sweet, sweet meth). You throw a fancy party and get to have all sorts of gross sex. But movies can rarely sustain themselves on romance unless you throw in vampires or handcuffs.

It's especially weird that the closest modern examples we have -- Titanic and Avatar -- were made by James Cameron, a man with all the understanding of human emotion of the Terminators he so iconically created (or ripped off from Harlan Ellison, whatever). The future director of Avatar 5 is truly our era's Lord Byron.

While I get that Hollywood doesn't want to take the risk of dumping millions into love stories, it's kind of baffling when you consider that some of the highest-grossing movies ever, like Gone With The Wind, were all exactly that. I mean, shit, Lady And The Tramp was the second-biggest moneymaker of the 1950s, and that film is about dogs giving fuck-me eyes over a plate of trash spaghetti.

The Devil Doesn't Show Up In Horror Movies Anymore

What We Used To Have:

The Omen, The Exorcist, Rosemary's Baby, Angel Heart, The Devil's Advocate, The Ninth Gate, The Prophecy ... let's throw in The Devil And Max Devlin.

What We Have Now:

Devil, The Witch, The Exorcism Of Emily Rose wasn't bad. Was Constantine recent? Jesus, that was more than ten years ago.

The beauty of the Devil as a character is that literally any actor can play him and it would be interesting. Patrick Stewart? Hell yes. Judi Dench? Of course. Melissa Joan Hart? I don't see why not. The only setback is that modern horror seems to rarely invite ol' Luce to their scare jamboree anymore. Which, like with romance epics, is baffling when you consider that some of the most iconic films of the genre are biblically flavored.

The lack is especially frustrating considering that Satan the ultimate horror movie villain, because he gives zero wiggle room in which to escape. You can't go hide in a closet from omnipotent evil. You can't put a banana in the tailpipe of his Honda Fit and giggle when he tries to drive after you. In the universes of stories like The Exorcist or The Omen, the Dark Lord is an absolute. He's a force of nature that's inescapable and all-encompassing, like the air we breathe or the Beyhive. If Satan wants to pull a Final Destination-style hit, you best believe it'll happen.

But at least he has an awesome sense of humor about it.

It's not so much about religion as it is the fear and powerlessness of dealing with the inevitable. The '70s and '80s seemed to realize this, and happily used Catholicism for source material. These days, we still get really good horror movies, but featuring B-list demons like "Bughuul" or "Valak." And instead of an unstoppable dark aura, the evil entities look like they play bass for high-concept goth bands:

6 Once-Popular Movies Genres Hollywood Doesn't Make Anymore
Gramercy Pictures

Nothing scarier than dressing like you're opening for ICP.

This is why I liked the films Devil and The Witch. Neither were popular, but at least they portrayed evil like a natural presence as opposed to a walking, talking boogeyman. Because who needs a dolled-up demon when Satan can haunt you through the vile gaze of an adorable bunny rabbit? That's what fucking hardcore looks like.

Slacker Hangout Comedies Keep Getting Older And Older

What We Used To Have:

Clerks, Animal House, Empire Records, PCU, Dazed And Confused, American Pie, Superbad, Dead Man On Campus, Ferris Bueller.

What We Have Now:

Old guys being old. The Hangover, 21 Jump Street, Neighbors, Dirty Grandpa.

Look, you're never too old to shotgun a Black Label behind a Lowes parking lot, but typically there's an age cutoff for when that kind of activity goes from being a wild streak to hitting rock bottom. I suspect this was why slacker comedies traditionally starred younger characters with a whole life ahead of them to potentially get their shit together. Even when featuring a 30-year-old John Belushi, these films are set around schools or hangout spots associated with party-down types of hip cats. I'm talking real groovy swingers.

But then we have a film like The Hangover, in which the crazy fun weirdo is played by a 40-year-old Zach Galifianakis and the characters range from a middle school teacher to a goddamn dentist. I get that part of the fun is seeing people normally associated with stuffy authority figures go bananas, but we kind of already saw that a few years before this, and the gimmick is wearing off real fast.

But for some reason, we kept seeing this as the decade went on. And the joke was the same each time: "Look how old these guys are!"

They even redid The Hangover with even older guys.

What the fuck is happening, Hollywood? Do teenagers not party anymore? Was there some marketing study which concluded that males 18-24 responded favorably to watching Kevin Kline go balls-deep? Since when did we trade the extremely entertaining act of watching young'uns get hammered with the extremely tiring joke that old folk can get down? It's as if the generation of young stoner actors died out after Jonah Hill, and all we have left are films made by those once-supple potheads about the perils of getting older.

I'm not saying we shouldn't have movies that deal with aging slackers (I really liked Clerks II, you guys), but rather that there needs to be another generation to carry that bong mantle behind them. Where are my millennial slacker comedies featuring people in their late teens and early 20s going around not buying things and getting blamed for ruining the economy? Have millennials killed the stoner comedy genre?

Dumb Spoof Comedies Forgot How To Actually Spoof Things

What We Used To Have:

The Naked Gun, Airplane, Austin Powers, Mel Brooks, Hot Shots, Don't Be A Menace To South Central While Drinking Your Juice In The Hood.

What We Have Now:

CHRIST. Vampires Suck, all those ______ Movies that came after Scary Movie, and the comedy stylings of Seth MacFarlane stealing David Zucker bits.

Scary Movie was a reasonably good film that started a terrible trend. You know in your heart what I speak of, for it haunts the dark corners of every Netflix and Hulu menu. Sometime in the early 2000s, filmmakers completely forgot what the point of a spoof was. Instead of parodying broad genres, like The Naked Gun did with detectives and Austin Powers did with spy films, people just started putting nouns in front of the word "movie" and shitting out 90 minutes of desperate actors recreating scenes from pop culture like your worst co-worker.

It's fucking terrible, you guys. And us chucklefucks who once enjoyed a good lowbrow spoof deserve better. A film like Austin Powers didn't just repeat James Bond scenes with funny voices; it created original jokes framed around a Bond setting (well, the first one did). Airplane! Isn't one long retelling of Zero Hour!, but rather a spoof of the disaster genre as a whole. They are all undoubtedly stupid movies, but surely we can demand that even our stupidest of movies be stupid in a competent way that makes us proud of liking stupid things. Surely we can at least come up with creative names for these comedic travesties beyond a Mad Libs title or humor-punching pun. Right?

SOME SAGAS JUST WON'T DIE. W J5 Vampires SIO 7 FR In Theaters Augustt 18
20th Century Fox

No, I guess not. And don't call me Shirley.

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