10 Horror Films That Changed the Genre

'King Kong'
The king of giant movie monsters gets some stage time in New York City in 1933. Henry Guttmann/Moviepix/Getty Images

"King Kong" is the giant monster standing astride the horror world. The 1933 tale of a giant gorilla brought to New York City by a greedy magnate touches on plenty of horrific elements that still resonate: the exploitation of the natural world, our fear of the unknown, and of course, of our cities being attacked by giant monsters.

Kong's influence starts with talented special effects designer Willis O'Brien. O'Brien used stop-motion animation to bring the gigantic gorilla to life, showing audiences something truly fantastic. This paved the way for stop-motion effects, which show up in movies like "Star Wars" and "ParaNorman," as well as many fantasy and horror creatures designed by Ray Harryhausen [source: Miller].

The success of "King Kong" opened up new possibilities in filmmaking. If you could effectively create a 24-foot (7-meter) gorilla climbing the Empire State Building, you could create anything. "King Kong" wasn't the first movie to use special effects, but after "Kong," special effects became an integral part in creating elaborate horror, science fiction and fantasy scenes on film.

We can't overlook our collective love of giant monsters either. Kong's ancestors include Godzilla, the "Cloverfield" creature and the monsters of "Pacific Rim." Japanese movie studios expanded on this idea so thoroughly and successfully in the 1960s and '70s that the giant monster subgenre got its own Japanese word: kaiju.