The theory of novelty and repetition within genre films put forward by Steve Neale depicts that all genre films adhere to a particular set of codes and conventions, the repetition of which we can begin to associate various iconography with a particular genre. He also states that idea of novelty, where the audiences expectations are defied, keeps genres from become stale and a paint-by-numbers affair. To further explore this theory I have chosen to analyse the horror genre through three films, the original Japanese version of The Ring, Wolf Creek and the 1973 The Crazies.
Ring (1998) melds elements of horror together with elements from a crime mystery film. The main narrative focuses on a string of unexplained deaths with people whom are linked, with the only apparent cause for death centred on a rumour about a cursed video, which if watched will cause your death in a week. The film features many traditional genre codes and conventions. There is little music, and the small amount of music there is is mainly ambient and dissonant to give a dark and creepy effect. A lot of the film takes place in dark places, and the black and white grainy flashbacks add to the eeriness of the film, as they look heavily similar to the images seen within the aforementioned video. The story also ends with a Final Girl, whom at the film’s climax fully solves the mystery and sets off to protect her son. However, the presence of her son itself is a showcase of novelty, as usually in horror, the female final girl has no real responsibilities, yet here she is seen throughout the film protecting her child. Also, the “monster” is never really killed, and by the climax instead of being feared, is being pitied and understood. Also, she is seen as quite weak throughout the film, with most of the action and events occurring around her ex-husband who is accompanying her, which is especially apparent in the island segment.
On the subject of the Final Girl, at first Wolf Creek (2005) appears to have one sole survivor of the ordeal, a woman. However later the story shifts and there are two women running from their captor, but ultimately they die, leaving a man who was earlier presumed dead the one who escapes. This is very unlike modern day horrors where it usually a single girl who survives, but the director, knowing this convention, plays with what the audience is expecting over and over, constantly changing who the audience thinks will survive, which ultimately adds to the tension of the film. The soundtrack however is very similar to the genre convention, with silence mainly dominating the soundtrack, with music only in place to add tension to certain scenes. Most the film also takes place at night, and the omnipotent killer is present as the villain as well, and the genre convention of a small mystery or motive for the killer’s motive is also present in the scene where one of the female mains finds a video camera with his victims on it. However, by the end of the film, similar to Ring, the killer is still at large and has not suffered a defeat of any real kind. The plot however is very similar to many horror films; a killer takes some people captive in a secluded area at night, with no apparent hope of escape, and begins to pick them off one by one. The characters are also very common, with the weak passive female, the stronger more active one and the protective man, who is early on made useless. The characters show many comparisons and contrasts with those within Ring, with both having a weak and usually passive female, however the main male character, both of which are the love interest of the main female character, have widely different roles, as the male within Wolf Creek is deemed dead early on, making him of no use, whilst the male within The Ring is strong and both dominates and leads most of the film’s narrative.
This is very similar to The Crazies (1973), however within The Crazies there are more than one dominant male in the story. Also, the lack of a real obvious villain also adds novelty to the film, with the aggressors and “villains” being entities more than figures, here being both the armed forces and everyday people, and the inhumanity and aggression they have in common. For this reason, it is hard to chose which side is right, as the apparent main characters attempting to escape inflict many inhumane acts against those that oppose them, and those that oppose them are either trying to help or are merely following orders from a higher force. Also, whether the army men in control with leading the operation are truly bad people is also under scrutiny, with them become genuinely upset with the situation around them. The film, unlike most horror films that early on establish a clear good vs. bad binary opposite (see both Ring and Wolf Creek), constantly contradicts itself, giving no real indication as to which side you should be feeling sympathy for until the film’s climax, which adds to the sense of total chaos seen within the film and the situation it presents us. Once again, the soundtrack is minimal, with the only real sound being the sound of a military snare roll (once again playing on the idea of militarily control and the parallel of civilian and militarily aggression). Another novelty, is that unlike most horrors, in which only a small amount of people are shown to be directly affected by an the occurrence of the film’s events, whilst within The Crazies, an entire town and a few hundred soldiers are directly effected.
From this research it is easy to conclude that even within apparently pure and limited genres, there is a lot of room for movement within, and the similarities and contrasts of these three very different films, shows heavy and substantial proof for Steve Neale’s claims about the formation and lifespan of genres in the film media.