So, with the release of Bad Robot’s awesome World War II horror film Overlord, which pits U.S. soldiers against Nazi zombies, I thought it’d be fun to revisit some of my favorite genre mashups of all time. Warning: lots of descriptors inbound. Let’s get to it!
Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
This Chinese hit from uber-talented director and star Stephen Chow is an absolutely brilliant period gangster/martial arts comedy mashup that even has a dance scene thrown in for good measure. Chow had already proven himself a master of the mashup with the success of his previous film, the kung fu/sports comedy Shaolin Soccer (2001), but Kung Fu Hustle is his masterpiece. In it, Sing (played by Chow) is a wannabe gangster that ends up helping a ragtag group of martial arts experts fight the infamous Axe Gang, who want to take over the slum in which they live. If you have yet to see Kung Fu Hustle, what are you waiting for? It’s hard to remember a more delightful movie watching experience. And I never say “delightful”.
Shaun of the Dead (2004)
So, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Shaun of the Dead on this list. Dubbed “the world’s first rom-zom-com”, or romantic comedy with zombies, Shaun of the Dead marks the feature film debut of director Edgar Wright, who wrote it along with star Simon Pegg. The film also stars Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz, Attack the Block), Kate Ashfield (Late Night Shopping, This Little Life), Lucy Davis (Wonder Woman, The Office), and the great Dylan Moran (Black Books, Calvary). You’ve seen it. You love it. Time to go watch it again.
Take three of the era’s funniest comedic actors, mix it with some science-fiction, add a little bit of horror, and you’ve got the granddaddy of all high-concept blockbuster mashups. I know I’m definitely not the only person that counts this among their all-time favorite movies. Like me, I’m sure you’ve lost count of how many times you’ve seen this classic. When I was a kid, my little sister taped over my VHS copy of Ghostbusters with The Hugga Bunch and I about lost my shit. So I did what any sane older brother would do: I taped over her copy of Alice in Wonderland (the TV movie from 1985 – she LOVED that movie) with episodes of The Real Ghostbusters cartoon. TAKE THAT, ANDREA.
The Guest (2014)
Screenwriter Simon Barrett described the film he wrote and which Adam Wingard directed as the Terminator and/or Michael Myers meet the post-war family drama. I didn’t *quite* think that initially, but, in retrospect, that does sum it up pretty well. When I first saw The Guest, I told my friends it reminded of those stalker suspense-thrillers from the’90s (think Pacific Heights or Single White Female), until it turned into some kind of Bourne Identity super-soldier action flick. Since I kinda like my description, I’m gonna go ahead and say it’s all of those things. Dan Stevens (Legion, Apostle), one of the hardest working actors out there today, plays a creepy ex-soldier just back from Afghanistan who convinces the grieving family of a fallen comrade to let him stay with them. Then people start dying. Check it out if you haven’t. And when you’re done with that, be sure to watch Wingard’s excellent slasher-movie-with-a-twist You’re Next, which was also written by Barrett.
This gem from director Joe Wright is another movie that successfully combines the super-soldier action genre with something else. In this case, it’s a teenage coming-of-age tale. Wright himself likens it to a dark fairy tale in that a child leaves their forest cabin, undergoes rites of passage, and meets evil which has to be overcome. Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, Mary Queen of Scots) plays 15-year-old Hanna, who was raised alone in the woods by her father, Erik Heller, an ex-CIA operative played by Eric Bana (Star Trek, Chopper). All of Hanna’s life has been spent training for the day when she would leave home to kill the woman who drove them into exile, a CIA officer named Marissa Wiegler, played by Cate Blanchett (Thor: Ragnarok, The Lord of the Rings). Wright adds a visual artistry that elevates it above other action movies, making it a truly unique film. One of the highlights is a scene that follows Bana’s character from a bus station down into a subway where he fights a group of agents that have been tailing him, all in a single shot. The music is great, too, and you’ll find yourself whistling a tune or two from it for a looooong time afterwards. It’s a great friggin’ movie.
Honorable mentions: Blade Runner, Cabin in the Woods, Bone Tomahawk, From Dusk Till Dawn, Westworld, Shaolin Soccer, Hot Fuzz, Outland, Iron Sky, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story