Every movie follows a specific genre. In most cases, a movie actually follows two genres where one genre defines the story and the second genre defines how that story is told.
In “Anna and the Apocalypse,” the main genre is a horror story about a zombie apocalypse that takes over a small English town. The secondary genre is comedy. As a result, the story is a horror story told with a comedic background, which you can see in this video showing the hero (Anna) cheerfully singing about her new life while the world falls apart around her.
The key to any story is consistency. If your story is a comedy, you can’t suddenly get serious and go long stretches without laughs. If your story is an action thriller, you can’t have an hour of dialogue with no action.
The latest “Fantastic Four” remake made this huge mistake. It’s a superhero action movie so you’d expect to see super heroes fighting. Nope. There’s no fighting until the last ten minutes of the movie and by then it’s too little and too late.
When writing your screenplay, identify the two main genres of your story such as a horror/comedy like “Anna and the Apocalypse” or a horror/mystery like “Alien.”
Ideally, each Act must display one iconic scene that captures the two genres of your story. For example, “Star Wars” is a science fiction/action thriller so every Act has one iconic scene that captures both genres:
- Act I — Darth Vader’s ship chases and captures Princess Leia’s ship
- Act IIa — Storm troopers fire lasers at Luke and Hans as they escape in the Millennium Falcon
- Act IIb — Storm troopers fire lasers at Luke and Hans as they run around the Death Star
- Act III — Rebel fighters try to blow up the Death Star before it can destroy the rebel base
“Star Wars” promises action with a science fiction flavor and each Act delivers such a major scene.
“Anna and the Apocalypse” promises a horror comedy story and it too delivers in each Act as follows:
- Act I — Zombies take over the world as the hero sings and dances about her joy of life
- Act IIa — The hero is trapped in a bowling alley and has to fight her way out
- Act IIb — The hero fights her way through a Christmas tree farm, killing zombies along the way
- Act III — The hero fights zombies in her school to reunite with her dad
“Anna and the Apocalypse” promises horror with humor and it delivers in each Act.
“The Fantastic Four” remake promises superhero action and fails to deliver it until the final Act, which makes it disappointing.
The lessons is clear. If your story promises a certain genre, then you better deliver that expectation in each Act. Failing to do that will create an incomplete and unsatisfying story.