Body horror is a specific sub genre of horror, which attempts to get under skin – quite literally. The source of the horror is the truly disturbing degeneration, mutation, inhabitation or any deformity of the human body, by infection, mutilation, supernatural causes, or disease
From Kafka’s early twentieth century novel Metamorphosis to the Oscar-nominated film Black Swan, body horror has continued to fascinate audiences, with remakes of many of the films below currently in the works
By painful contortion and transformation of the human form, the horror becomes more visceral. To distort the human form, which to all of us is the most familiar sight, can cause shivers down your spine; it creates a monster out of our own bodies and we can’t help but watch
Listed below are 7 great body horror films, which excel in their use of the human body as the subject of horror, and force you to question what becomes of you when your body is suddenly foreign, or a playground for something else
Where to start with Cronenberg? He basically owns this genre. Go through his entire filmography, just do it . . . Shivers (1975), where a mad scientist creates an STD pandemic which causes uncontrollable lust, The Brood (1979), in which a woman gives birth to violent mutated offspring, Scanners (1981) where heads pop, eyes explode, and skin is torn, Videodrome (1983) where tumours erupt from a man’s stomach and head, and Crash (1996), where people are aroused by car crashes leading to disturbing sex scenes. But the perhaps the most cinematic use of body horror from Cronenberg – a film that has set the bench for the genre – is the 1986 remake of The Fly
As Jeff Goldblum’s metamorphosed self begins to deteriorate, you’ll try to hang on to your nails, teeth, and most importantly, your own self and identity… The scientist who tries to discover the perfect teleportation creates a Frankenstein out of himself. However, do not be fooled, The Fly – like most of Cronenberg’s films – does have layers of meanings, from our relationship to technology, and science, to our cultural and intimate obsessions
If the idea of living aliens inhabiting your stomach and chest does not fill you with shock and horror, I don’t know what will. From the first chest-bursting scene, an adequate equal to female pregnancy, Alien establishes itself as a body horror flick. Although the body horror doesn’t come from the slow taking over by a being – the chest burst is quite sudden – the invasion of our own body does not help me sleep at night
Though Alien works because of its incredible suspense and its brilliant ability to make an empty corridor terrifying, the chest burst scene remains its pinnacle, a scene every true horror fan remembers. These aliens want to get inside of you, implant its young in you, and they kill to do it, and that’s why Alien is in this films list. You become the breeding site for the horror…
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter, David Clennon, Keith David, Richard Dysart, Charles Hallahan, Peter Maloney, Richard Masur, Donald Moffat, Joel Polis, Thomas G. Waites, Norbert Weisser, Larry J. Franco, Nate Irwin
Similar to Alien, The Thing features a strange parasitic virus that seems to inhabit human bodies. No chest-bursting scenes in this, but there are plenty of graphic mutations of the human body to place this film on this list. Although some of special effects may be dated, The Thing can still pack a punch. Unlike the Alien, The Thing is unknown… and the villain? Not exactly the visible type, yet it wants to get inside of you, it needs to in order to live… and once its in, you won’t know it – it’ll imitate you and spread, though not as fast as the paranoia does
The Thing, with the characters isolated in the Antarctic tundra, derives its terror from paranoid relationships and from body horror, with scenes of human bodies taking an elongated, gooey, and squirmy turn, splitting in bloody parts and revealing disgusting mutations. Plus there’s the fact that people you trust and work with, though they look the same, are invaded by an invisible enemy, à la Invasion of the Body Snatchers. However, unlike the latter, The Thing produces a more graphic deformity of not only human character, but the human body. Be prepared for some tense guessing and fun sci-fi horror. Currently, a remake is in the works
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