Sunday, July 27, 2014

Multiple Genres - How to make it really work

I am a bit embarrassed to admit - I watched the movie Frankenstein’s Army over the weekend. Was it good? No. It was very reminiscent of those classic B-grade monster movies I used to watch every Saturday night with my father on Son of Svengoolie. (I know - only you Chicago folks will fully understand that, but every town had their “creature feature”.)

So, at its core, this movie was a monster movie, on the verge of being a horror movie. But it was so much more than that. It was set during World War II and was also effectively a found footage movie. Now you might say that monster, horror and found footage are all the same genre, but I don’t think so. At least the other found footage movies I’ve seen in the horror genre dealt with a single evil menace, so the “army” aspect (there being a bunch of these monsters) I think makes it enough of a difference.

So what? Why should you as a GM care at all about this schlocky movie? Because they did such a good job of combining the genres. The platoon of Russian soldiers was perfectly WWII movie genre. You could say they were so true to the genre that it was clichĂ©, but that’s why it worked. They didn’t have to spend time getting into the characters of guys you knew were going to die, because they standard WWII army movie platoon guys. Just here they were Russian, with the standard non-American played as a Pole. The found footage aspect had a legitimate reason (as legitimate as monster movies need for plot devices), and was played well, though I kept getting surprised that after being assaulted by zombies with scythe arms, the guy filming was still alive. I thought the blades would have shredded him from the way they seemed to be attacking, but whatever.

So - basic monster movie with WWII and found footage angles; maybe that kicks off something in your brain on how to combine genres for your game, but it didn’t stop there. The monsters were reasonably well thought out. One had a huge dome-helmet-turret on its head that prevented them from crushing its brain, which everyone knows it the way to kill a zombie. Another had a spiked diver’s helmet on. So they thought through the standard zombie flick monsters and advanced the genre itself by coming up with new angles on keeping the monsters from becoming too easy to kill by bullets. I loved it! It crossed three genres together perfectly while still being (slightly) innovative in its own base genre.

I don’t actually recommend anyone waste the time to watch this movie, but I am so energized by the fact that there are people out there doing what I always preach - cross genres to make the old new again, without spending extra time reinventing the wheel. I don’t pretend to say that they got the idea from me, but I will go with “great minds think alike”!

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