I love movies of all kinds – I’m really not picky. But one of my favorite things is when movies mash up genres. I don’t know if y’all have seen the trailer for this new thriller, but it’s coming out at Christmas (you know, assuming theaters are reopened). I love the idea of a thriller at Christmas – it takes two ideas that don’t usually belong together and makes a provocative movie out of them.
Check out the trailer:
Okay so, that is obviously not a new movie coming out. It’s the beloved, hilarious, musical Christmas comedy Elf recut as a thriller.
Which, in and of itself, is pretty hilarious. But, at the risk of ruining the joke by explaining it, I want to ask why recut movie trailers like this one are so entertaining.
First, this only works if you’ve seen Elf. If you don’t know the silly, heartwarming tone of the original, then this is at best a curiosity. Second, it matters that all the footage in the trailer is from the actual movie. Nothing’s made up here – it’s all about how the story is told.
And, for our purposes today, here’s what really matters: this trailer works because it messes with genre conventions. You know that Elf is a comedy. But you also know that this trailer is a thriller. How? It’s the music, the camera cuts. The tone. There are a dozen cues that tell you you’re watching something scary.
The reason this trailer is funny is because we have an intuitive sense of genre. We know when something is supposed to be funny or scary or educational or romantic. No one taught us these things, exactly. We didn’t take a class in genre. We just learned it by being exposed to the genres.
And our expectations of a genre lead us to interpret, even to judge as good or bad. For instance, I don’t know how many of you remember the romantic comedy The Break-Up (2006) starring Vince Vaughan and Jennifer Aniston but it’s about a couple who, well, breaks up. And at the end of the movie, they stay broken up.
A lot of people didn’t like this movie (even though, if you’ve ever been through a break-up, it rings really true). Why? Because the genre of romantic comedy is, well, a comedy. They’re supposed to end with a wedding, not a (metaphorical) funeral.
We’re beginning a journey through Scripture together. Over the summer, we’re going to explore the different genres of literature we find in the library of faith we call the Bible. And we’re going to learn how to read these ancient genres of literature such that we can hear God’s voice speaking to us, inviting the Spirit to transform us.