Genre Study

Roy Yoo   MSTU1001 Essay: Genre and The Orphanage (2009)
Antonio Banoya’s debut feature film, The Orphanage (2007), is certainly a part of the supernatural horror genre. Yet, why is this so? What makes it a supernatural horror and who decides? Approaches to genre criticism are many and varied, but are predominantly concerned with the definition of genre itself, the classification of different films into genres and the cultural implications of genre. Two of these are particularly intriguing when applied to The Orphanage; these are the aesthetic and the ‘family resemblances’ approaches, as defined by Jane Stadler and Kelly McWilliam (235-7). From these perspectives it is possible to discern what makes The Orphanage a supernatural horror, but also what defines genre itself. Certainly, the aesthetic approach has its advantages. However, as will become evident, the ‘family resemblances’ approach, although certainly not all-encompassing, is more effective for this purpose.
Broadly, genre acts as a means of classifying texts into recognisable groups and sub-groups by emphasising similarities and dissimilarities between them and other texts (Stadler and McWilliam 218; Watson 151; Trbic 104). As Stadler and McWilliam assert, in Screen Media, this process of categorisation “is both contextual and intertextual, because it is an articulation of one text’s relation to other texts, in terms of their shared features” (219). The shared features of genres are often referred to as genre conventions, an exceedingly broad term encompassing elements ranging from the textual, in terms of plot, style, setting and iconography, to the extra-textual, such as the envisaged response and composition of the audience (Trbic 107; Stadler and McWilliam 219). These conventions interact with the audience in that they can relate to and understand the text at a deeper level, having seen numerous films with similar conventions. This is particularly useful in terms of supernatural horror films that...