Body horror

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Body horror, biological horror, organic horror or venereal horror is horror fiction in which the horror is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body.[1] Such works may deal with decay, disease, parasitism, mutation, or mutilation. Other types of body horror include unnatural movements, or the anatomically incorrect placement of limbs to create "monsters" from human body parts. David Cronenberg, Frank Henenlotter, Brian Yuzna, Stuart Gordon, Lloyd Kaufman, and Clive Barker are notable directors of this genre. The term body horror was coined with the "Body Horror" theme issue of the University of Glasgow film journal Screen (vol. 27, no. 1, Jan-Feb 1986), containing several essays on the subject.

Notable films and television series[edit]

Film/TV Series Year Description
Akira 1988
Alien (franchise) 1979 - present [2]
Altered States 1980
American Mary 2012
Antiviral 2012
Audition 1999
The Blob 1958 including its 1972 sequel Beware! The Blob and 1988 remake The Blob (1988)
The Brain 1988
Brain Damage 1988
Braindead 1992
Cabin Fever 2002
Deadgirl 2008
Dead Ringers 1988
Eraserhead 1977
Event Horizon 1997
Evil Dead 1981
eXistenZ 1999
The Fly (1958 film) 1958 and its 1959 and 1965 sequels, the 1986 remake, and the 1989 sequel to the remake[3]
From Beyond 1986
The Hands of Orlac 1960
Hellraiser (franchise) 1987 - present
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) 2009 and its 2011 and 2015 sequels.
The Incredible Melting Man 1977 [2]
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978 film) 1978 as well as the 1956 original, Body Snatchers, and The Invasion (film)
Jacob's Ladder (film) 1990
Leviathan (1989 film) 1989
Looper (film) 2012 the scene in which Old Seth is forced to turn himself in to his assassins
Marianne (2011 film) 2011
Night of the Creeps 1986
Parasyte 2014
Possession (1981 film) 1981
Re-Animator 1985 [2]
Repo Men 2010
Rosemary's Baby (film) 1968
Shivers (film) 1975
Slither (2006 film) 2006
Society (film) 1989
Splinter (2008 film) 2008
Spring (2014 film) 2014
Starry Eyes 2014
Steven Universe 2013 - present the episodes "Cat Fingers" and "Keeping It Together"
Strangeland (film) 1998
Street Trash 1987
The Stuff 1985
Taxidermia 2006 [4]
Teeth (film) 2007
Tetsuo: The Iron Man 1989 and its 1992 and 2010 sequels.
Thanatomorphose 2012
The Thing (1982 film) 1982 and its 2011 prequel [2]
Thinner (film) 1996
The Ruins (film) 2008
Tusk (2014 film) 2014
Videodrome 1983 [3]
Virus (1999 film) 1999

Notable graphic novels[edit]

Novel Year Description
Parasyte 1988 — 1995 wherein human bodies are taken over by parasitic extraterrestrial organisms.
The Invisibles 1994 — 2000 wherein the human converts of an invading interdimensional force are selected for "modification".
Ed the Happy Clown 1983 — 2006 wherein the titular character endures having the tip of his penis replaced with the head of Ronald Reagan.
Black Hole (comic) 1995 — 2005 wherein a sexually transmitted disease gives teenagers in a small town grotesque mutations.
Animal Man (comic book) 2011 — 2014 The New 52 ongoing Animal Man features many body horror elements including grotesque mutations, disease and decomposition of animals, plants and humans alike.

Use in video games[edit]

In recent years the subjects of human experimentation, medical research, and infection have played large roles in video games whose plots are heavily influenced by themes common in body horror.

Video Game Year Description
Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs 2010, 2013 The gatherer enemies are deformed human-like monsters; their eyelids are cut off and their bottom jaw is mutilated and stretched down and attached to their chests leaving their mouths permanently open.
BioShock (series) 2007-2014 Both BioShock and BioShock 2 consist of enemies called Splicers, who were once normal humans that were heavily mutated and driven insane from a drug called ADAM, which they used to re-write their genetic codes to develop "psychic" powers such as telekinesis and pyrokinesis. The game also contains the iconic Big Daddy, which is a man whose skin has been removed, and whose organs have been grafted to the inside of a modified deep-sea diving suit. BioShock Infinite uses a similar premise, although in this case series of compounds called Vigors grant the player extraordinary abilities; however, unlike ADAM they are consumed orally rather than injected. In this game, the Big Daddy has been replaced by the Handyman, a human whose spinal cord, head, and heart have been connected to a steampunk robotic frame with minor effects like psychological trauma.
Dead Space (series) 2008-2013 The primary enemies of the series are called necromorphs which are mutated humans with protruding appendages, open wounds, and rotting flesh.
Fallout (series) 1997-present The fallout games take place in a post apocalyptic wasteland and as such many of the enemies and species have physical deformities from the radiation.
Half-life (series) 1998-2007 Parasitic monsters know as headcrabs attach themselves to heads of people and cause them to develop mutations such as elongated claws and gaping jaws in their chests.
Outlast 2013 A first person survival horror game in which an investigative journalist explores an asylum housing inmates displaying various degrees of bodily mutilation and/or mutation.
Parasite Eve 1998 The Squaresoft (now known as Square Enix) video game based on the 1996 Japanese Science fiction horror novel of the same title, was released in 1998. The premise of both the novel and "cinematic RPG" being that the mitochondria, organelles from early aerobic bacteria that formed a symbiotic partnership with cells of most present day multicelluar eukaryotes, e.g. humans, are able to retain their separate identity as independent organisms in the form of cellular parasites. A dispersed intelligence, known as Eve, was able to take over the consciousness of certain individuals to make them reproduce and form an ultimate organism that will bring the downfall of humanity and other creatures alike.

Use in Tabletop Gaming[edit]

Traditional Game Year Description
Magic: The Gathering 1993 — present The basis of Phyrexia, an antagonist faction composed of assimilatory biomechanical undead. The Scars of Mirrodin block in particular focuses on this theme, in which assimilation and infection are emphasised upon, and Phyrexia has branched into all colours of mana, introducing new forms of mutilation.
Warhammer 1983 — present Mutation and bodily modification are emphasised upon in the Chaos factions.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ body horror. Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved November 01, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d "Horror Film History — Horror Films in the 1980s". Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  3. ^ a b Thill, Scott (2009-01-04). "Cronenberg Drifts From Tech Horror, but Shocks Remain". Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  4. ^ "Taxidermia Review – Read Variety's Analysis Of The Movie Taxidermia". 2006-02-05. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 

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