The human body is one of the most fascinating things in the universe...it can create life, destroy it, sustain that life for anything up to a century give or take... it can recover from horrific traumas or protect in the most unexpected ways.
One of the most primeval fears we have is of something happening to our body, from inside and without. #BodyHorror is a unique genre within #Horror that can thrill, terrify, gross out and even encourage us to take more notice of what's going on with us.
Here are 10 movies that will introduce you to the genre and make you knowledgeable. Thanks to Shariq Ansari for his idea... you can see his artlcle on Slasher films here!
Every man's worst fear brought to life, you meet a girl, things go well and you think you've scored until her vaginal teeth take a bite out of you!
The name and poser of a pelvic X-Ray are enough to make most men uncomfortable, much less watching the film itself. It unsettles women equally however, a former girlfriend of mine remarked on seeing it "It scares me to think a guy would EVER think I would do that to them...even if I could..." I simply responded "What scares me is you didn't say you'd never want to have them..."
The idea of a trophy killer is one of the staples of #BodyHorror, the killer wants something you have, and they have to kill you to get it before displaying it proudly on their mantle. This little known Italian film stars Michael Lerner and Zelda Rubenstein of Poltergeist fame and is notable for playing with genres and aspects of #BodyHorror. The idea of collecting eyeballs is one few want to contemplate, but the idea of being hypnotized to do so is even scarier.
While Saw plays with the idea of self-mutilation, Se7en puts it straight at its heart. Nearly all of the crimes committed by John Doe involve some form of self mutilation and those that don't involve #bodyhorror of the first degree. Victims are forced to eat to death, cut off a pound of flesh, allowed to rot but kept alive, sexually penetrated with a Bowie knife and given the option to die or live deformed.
As Brad Pitt is asked by Morgan Freeman, "What part of your body could you live without?" and when watching, you really DO think which you'd choose!
This 1989 hidden gem is best known for starring Baywatch star Billy Warlock, who like Jamie Lee Curtis was the son of #Horror royalty - Dick Warlock, the stuntman who played Michael Myers in #Halloween 2 and had been stunt coordinator on Jaws, #Halloween III and The Thing. Bill (the character) stumbles across anomalies in his family and their well- to-do neighbors that are not only incestuous but make them seem like The Thing has paid a visit!
The "orgy" scene is one you won't forget in a hurry, and while the movie has a good dose of humor ("The Butthead" line) there is something very disturbing about this movie, the idea that to conform you may have to become something that disgusts you is front and center here. It's not the BEST movie ever made, but it's a great introduction to the idea of #BodyHorror.
The original Martyrs is an exercise in stamina. It is simply one of the most gruesome, nasty in tone and nihilistic movies you will ever witness (matched only by the Guinea Pig series and A Serbian Film) and will never want to see again. The tortures that take place in search of the ultimate rapture and their unexpected results will stay with you for a long time.
It's hard to say too much without ruining the film, if you choose to watch this then be prepared for gore like you've never known and a changed mindset after seeing it... you will NOT look at films the same way afterwards. Why does this make the list and not the aforementioned movies? Because Martyrs is pure #BodyHorror while A Serbian Film is more psychologically horrific. Guinea Pig and particularly Flower of Flesh & Blood are more in the slasher/splatter genre. Same applies to those should you ever watch them as the above. You have been warned!
5. Silence Of The Lambs
Everything about Thomas Harris' book and Jonathan Demme's multi-Oscar winner is #BodyHorror focused. Buffalo Bill is a killer who takes peoples skin to effect change in his own body, his crime fuelled by loathing of it. At the same time you have #Hannibal Lecter the man who will not only kill you, but eat you!
Losing body parts is a major fear and the idea of someone taking them as trophies even scarier, but that someone would cook and eat you, or serve you to their dinner guests as an amuse bouche or to wear you as a come hither outfit is enough to freak ANYBODY out!
4. The Thing
While Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978) is the better film, it's John Carpenter's 1982 remake that wins the #BodyHorror stakes. The concepts are similar, being "copied" and taken over by an alien organism without ever knowing it, but The Thing will violate, corrupt and eviscerate you in ways the Body Snatchers never could. The claustrophobia is ripe, it's near impossible to trust anyone and even if you do, they might not be them anymore!
Rob Bottin's special effects really bring the terror to life and to this day make The Thing a superior example of things you DON'T want to happen to your body. Perhaps the most terrifying moment is a man having a very human health issue that goes south very quickly... If you've never seen this, make it a point to watch.
3. The Exorcist.
While many would call this a Demon/Devil picture, #BodyHorror is central to the theme and the portrayal of the possessed Regan. During early production, director William Friedkin made the suggestion that the disfigurement Reagan suffers while possessed should be something she did herself, culminating with the shocking crucifix masturbation scene and her head turning 180 degrees the wrong way, yet still talking.
As Regan's situation worsens, the sores and wounds on her face become septic and gangrenous, feeding the notion that her time is running out if Merrin and Karras can't perform the exorcism successfully.
Friedkin and his effects team were able to portray #BodyHorror for the first time visually and it's rarely been more unsettling.
Like Rosemary's Baby, Alien takes our most primal fear and puts it front and center. While Polanski focused on motherhood and fears of problems with the baby itself, Ridley Scott's masterpiece focuses on giving birth... only not through choice and for men in particular AT ALL!
Everything about how the #Alien works is designed to procreate, from the phallic facehugger to the gestation in a human host and sudden and violent birthing, the #Alien is both a child and in its sequel, a parent.
The chest bursting scene remains one of the most uncomfortable moments of cinema history to watch. Not for its sheer violence or gore, but the panic the idea can induce. That something, even now could be in your body that is going to force itself out, destroying you in the process. Aliens twists this slightly as for a split second you see the tables turned and the Alien Queen facing that fear, as Ripley burns her eggs.
Guys, next time you're bummed cos your pregnant wife or girlfriend asks you for something, just remember #Alien and how glad you are you're never going to have to experience what they do!
1. The Fly
The concept of The Fly is one of the most terrifying in all fiction, that our humanity can be taken from us and "spliced" with something else. David Cronenberg was way ahead of the curve and is very much the "godfather" of Body Horror.
Shivers in 1975 was the first, playing with the idea of how our sexual urges could be manipulated by an invasive, outside force or "disease". It was in 1986 with The Fly that he defined the genre with his remake of the classic Vincent Price movie, and predicted the future in more ways than one!
Updating the premise to fit the 80's, Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) builds a new teleportation device while romancing Veronica (Geena Davis), a journalist he convinces to cover his seemingly crackpot story. Seth succeeds in his goal and seemingly is improved by the procedure, only to find something went horrifically wrong.
The Fly doesn't only show the horror of transformation, losing body parts and decay of our bodies. It touches on deeper themes of us never really knowing our own bodies, or those of the people we interact with, make love to or "infect" with our genetic flaws.
Today, we hear tales of people willfully infecting lovers with HIV and other diseases and Seth does similar here, knowingly sleeping with a random pick up despite knowing what has happened.
While teleportation is used as the mechanism for change, it could easily be genetically modified food today that leads to a mutation of ourselves OR perhaps worse, other creatures. What happens if a humble fly IS mutated by something we do?
Gore fans will not be disappointed, neither will fans of good old fashioned terror... If you have a weak stomach however, bring a barf bag!