Body horror is weird. Anyway you slice it, it's a genre for sure... But it's a trope, too. And it's a feeling: body horror is that sick sensation you get when your gut leaps into your throat. It's when your skin crawls, and your neck itches.
Body horror is when you just can't look. Do you have trypophobia? How do you feel about needles? Ever had a nightmare about losing teeth and fingernails?
If you've ever winced as some dude onscreen had his foot sliced off, you've felt "body horror." If that was your least favorite moment in the whole movie, you may need to pick a different section. But if you, like us, just crave more of that cringy, eyelid-slamming mental punishment, then read on.
But that's the feeling, and this is Body Horror: The Genre. In a world of extremes, Body Horror is the style dedicated entirely to pushing the boundary of what's acceptable to show onscreen. Extreme NSFWness and seriously traumatic gore abound. Penises are severed, skin is peeled, throats cut, eyeballs melted, fingers snapped.
Stylistically of two extremes itself, Body Horror can be expressed as a gory kind of slapstick like in Braindead (1992) and Teeth (2007), or as a deadly serious stream of grisly transformation as in Martyrs (2008) and Tetsuo, The Iron Man (1989).
Body Horror movies typically follow a pattern: an innocent human (or group of humans) is set upon by a force that slowly changes them into something utterly other. This shift is usually followed by a third act dominated by a gory, fatal rampage.
This creeping-transformation-and-brutal-rampage structure is central to films like Starry Eyes (2014) and the underappreciated werewolf classic Ginger Snaps (2000). Sci-fi/body horror District 9 (2009) follows this pattern too. And, of course, so do Cronenberg's movies.
It's impossible to bring up body horror without Cronenberg. There were body horror films before him--The Hands of Orlac is arguably the first, in 1924--but without him the genre wouldn't be the same.If you're looking for the perfect movie to dive into the pulsating, fleshy pile that is body horror, we recommend any of Cronenberg's classics. Rabid (1977), The Brood (1979), Videodrome (1983), The Fly (1986), and eXistenZ (1999), represent twenty straight years of body horror greatness.
If Cronenberg's not your style, feel free to dig around through our collection, I'm sure we can help you find something to whet--or ruin--your appetite. And if you come across something you've seen before, don't forget to rate it!
Body Horror Movies
Released: 25 Jun 1982 |
Director: John Carpenter
Scientists in the Antarctic are confronted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people it kills.