(1942)5Brendon HanleyIn just a three-year period in the 1940s, producer Val Lewton created some of the most influential and intelligent psychological horror films ever made, bringing a depth to the 'B' movie that would influence any number of independent-minded Hollywood filmmakers in later years. Lewton's first, and probably best, effort was Cat People. It was directed by first-timer Jacques Tourneur, who went on to helm another of Lewton's best films (I Walked With a Zombie), a classic noir mystery (Out of the Past), and one of the great horror films of all time (Curse of the Demon). But a Lewton film is a Lewton film, as he had control over just about everything. The defining characteristic of Cat People, as of most of his movies, is the absence of the standard horror creature. Before Lewton, the payoff in a horror movie typically came from exposing a ghastly beast who capitalized on the technology of the makeup crew. Lewton instinctively understood that it was scarier not to see the menace, and that keeping things in shadows said something darker and more original about the characters. The psycho-sexual complexities of the Simone Simon character in Cat People are an ideal example of this method.