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10 Horror Films That Changed the Genre

You'd know that monster anywhere, wouldn't you? © Bettmann/Corbis
You'd know that monster anywhere, wouldn't you? © Bettmann/Corbis

Encouraged by the success of its "Dracula" adaption, Universal Studios adapted Mary Shelley's classic, gothic novel "Frankenstein" in 1931. "Frankenstein" became a major hit for the studio, and Boris Karloff, with his square-headed monster makeup, became a horror icon [source: Allen].

Karloff's subsequent role as the title character in "The Mummy" cemented Universal's reputation as a horror studio, creating a team of creatures (Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and the Mummy) that would become known as the Universal Monsters. Both Karloff and "Dracula" star Bela Lugosi were pivotal to the studio's horror releases throughout the 1930s. In the 1940s, Lon Chaney Jr. added the Wolf Man to the Universal Monster team and rekindled the studio's horror success. The Gill-man from 1954's "Creature from the Black Lagoon" rounded out the Universal Monster roster. Although the studio made many horror films that did not include these monsters, the many sequels, remakes and spinoffs formed the bedrock of Universal's horror reputation.

What was it about these monsters that changed the horror genre? They weren't just successful movies. The Universal Monsters became pop culture icons in a way no other horror characters had before. You could find them on lunchboxes, Halloween costumes, toys and more [source: Browne and Browne]. Every child in America, and many around the world, knew and loved them. The pop culture success of creatures like Godzilla and Freddy Krueger belong to that same phenomenon.