A horror movie that centres on the passing of a vengeful curse to a teenage ingenue during sex, it has been singled out for its unexpected maturity, its complex teenage characters and its refusal to lower itself to cheap, shlocky jump scares.
Arriving in the same vintage as well-received underpant-wetters like You’re Next and The Babadook, It Follows may well been seen in years to come as part of a vanguard of smart, erudite horror movies that credited their audience with enough imagination to turn it upon themselves to lingering, scary effect.
The history of horror movies is peppered with sudden, explosive big-bangs when something new and immensely successful arrives and sends the genre hurtling down a jagged new direction. Horror has always been the bedfellow of exploitation, with producers ever keen to wring every last cent out of this famously replicable genre with its pleasing history of low budget to high profit ratios.
This is a list of films that, like the Monoliths from 2001, appeared out of nowhere to channel the evolution of horror movies towards new paths and proved that audiences always need new and innovative ways to scare themselves witless.
There had been horror movies before, of course. F.W. Murneau’s Nosferatu can make a claim to be the first, and Lon Chaney had sportingly brutalised his own face with agonising make-up effects to scare millions of silent movie fans for years, but nothing had quite the same world-stopping effect as this, the first of Universal’s classic horror movie cycle.
Taken in isolation, Todd Browning’s film is actually a pretty mixed bag. The opening third, set in Transylvania is so instantly iconic (its chills intensified by the lack of a music score) that its imagery became part of the fabric of 20th century culture. Bela Lugosi’s speech-mangling Count is the definitive incarnation of Bram Stoker’s vampire, even today – sorry, Luke Evans. Yet once the action moves to London, the film reverts to its stage-play origins and it becomes an over-acted, over-mannered country house mystery.
Nonetheless, Dracula’s phenomenal success cast a shadow over the entire film industry for well over a decade.
Frankenstein (1931), The Island of Lost Souls (1932), The Raven (1935), The Wolf Man (1941)