12 Awesome Body Horror Movie Scenes That Will Make You Literally Puke
With Halloween once again right around the corner, we're examining horror from every angle--including the human body.
Horror comes in many forms, from monsters and ghosts to psychotic killers and crazy cults. But there's nothing quite like body horror to separate the hardcore fright fan from the more casual viewer. The phrase 'body horror' was first coined in the British academic journal Screen in 1986, and it loosely describes movies where the terror comes from the human body itself, whether it's melting, mutating, or perhaps hosting some terrifying parasite.
1986 was also the year that David Cronenberg's classic The Fly brought the sub-genre to a wide mainstream audience, and since then many of most disturbing moments in cinema have been focused on flesh-based shocks. So here's some of the gloopiest, goriest, and most gruesome body horror scenes of all time….
12. Brain Damage (1988)
Frank Henenlotter directed the 1982 classic Basket Case, the wonderfully sleazy tale of a young man who keeps his horrifically misshapen brother in a basket. But it was his second movie, Brain Damage, that really delivered the body horror goods. The movie is a drug analogy, in which an evil leech-like brain-eating parasite called Aylmer forces his hosts to bring him victims by getting them hooked on a hallucinogenic drug that he secretes directly into their brains. The highlight is an amazingly gruesome scene in which our hero Brian hallucinates that he is slowly pulling his entire brain out through his ear.
11. From Beyond (1986)
Director Stuart Gordon followed his classic 1985 zombie comedy Re-Animator with the darker, weirder From Beyond. Based once more on a story by HP Lovecraft, it focuses on two rival scientists who are attempting to see beyond our normal reality using a machine known as the Resonator. Of course, the machine does more than that, and it ends up physically changing the doctors, providing plenty of opportunity for gloopy body horror. In particular, the villainous Dr. Pretorius goes through some wonderfully strange transformations, including the one pictured above.
10. The Ruins (2008)
While much of the body horror on this list is the result of scientific experimentation, The Ruins is an example of nature fighting back. This horror tale features a bunch of American tourists who stumble upon a Mayan template and find themselves trapped by predatory, flesh-eating vines. There's a particularly unpleasant scene in which one of the party realises that the vines have invaded her body and are moving around beneath her skin, forcing her friends to cut her open and pull them out.
9. Videodrome (1982)
No body horror list would be complete without at least a couple of movies from the master of the sub-genre: David Cronenberg. For many fans, the director's finest movie is the mind-warping thriller Videodrome, in which a TV signal induces horrific hallucinations, allowing Cronenberg to indulge in a series of increasingly disturbing sequences. In one, star James Woods discovers that he has grown a vaginal slit in his belly, into which he plunges a gun. Later on, one of the movie's villains declares, "I've got something I want to play for you!" and pops a pulsating, organic videotape in there.
8. Antiviral (2012)
David Cronenberg's son Brandon has also ventured into filmmaking, following in his dad's footsteps with this seriously weird sci-fi tale of celebrity obsession. In the future, fans can buy "celebrity viruses," to experience the same medical afflictions of their idols. You want to share the same herpes infection as your favorite pop star? No problem. The scene most worthy of the Cronenberg name is a dream sequence in which our infected hero imagines he is transforming into a twisted fusion of man and machine.
7. The Thing (1982)
John Carpenter's sci-fi horror favorite might have been a critical and commercial bomb when it was first released in 1982, but it's now considered one of the finest horror movies ever made. The movie showcased some incredible work from VFX genius Rob Bottin, as the titular creature imitates a group of scientists stationed at an arctic base, making its appearance in the most gruesome ways possible. The most outrageous transformation sequence is a procession of increasingly gobsmacking moments, which starts with the team's doctor attempting to resuscitate one of his colleagues after he seemingly suffers a heart attack. It's probably easier to go and watch it than describe it, but as one of the other scientists exclaims at one point: "You gotta be f***ing kidding me!"
6. Slug Girl (2018)
Given how weird a lot of horror anime can get, it's no surprise there's quite a bit of animated body horror from Japan. Artists Junji Ito is considered one of the key figures in horror manga, having created such books as Tomie, Uzumaki, and Gyo. January saw the release of The Junji Ito Collection, which adapts 10 of his most disturbing stories into short anime films. One of them is titled Slug Girl and is a spectacular slice of wild body horror, in which a girl's tongue begins to transform into a giant slug. It starts off disgusting and just gets worse from there.
5. Street Trash (1987)
This outrageous 1987 horror comedy goes out of its way to offend. From the necrophilia jokes to a game of football played with a ripped-off male member, Street Trash really does have something for everyone. The main plot centres around a batch of ancient whiskey that an unscrupulous liquor store owner sells to the bums of Brooklyn, which has the unfortunate side effect of making them melt. The first meltdown is also the most spectacular, as one poor fella sits down on an abandoned toilet, takes a swig, and quickly turns into gloop in gloriously colourful style.
4. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Japanese director and actor Shinya Tsukamoto recently appeared in Martin Scorsese's historical drama Silence, giving an acclaimed, dignified performance. But 30 years ago, Tsukamoto was making an impact in a very different way. His directorial debut, Tetsuo: The Iron Man, is an insane black-and-white cyberpunk nightmare, in which a man gets his revenge on the couple who tried to kill him, by transforming himself into a fusion of man and machine. In the movie's most shocking scene, Tetsuo kills his girlfriend by raping her with a spinning drill, which has replaced his… well, you can probably guess.
3. The Fly (1986)
Cronenberg's best known and most successful movie also features some of his most outrageous body horror moments, as Jeff Goldblum slowly and painfully changes into--yes--a fly! There's almost too many juicy scenes to choose from, but for sheer disgustingness it's hard to top the final moments of Goldblum's transformation, as what remains of his human flesh falls away and the insect emerges.
2. Society (1990)
There's no other horror movie quite like Society. Directed by Re-Animator producer Brian Yuzna, it's a satire of 1980s class and privilege that plays out like a weird, subversive soap opera. Ex-Baywatch star Billy Warlock discovers that his privileged, status-obsessed friends and parents are in fact shape-shifting, power-mad sex mutants. The movie ends with the infamous orgy scene in which the movie's elite merge gloopily into one another while literally consuming their victim. The class metaphor might not be subtle, but the whole sequence is unforgettable.
1. The Human Centipede (2009)
Tom Six's shlock-horror-comedy The Human Centipede has become synonymous with outrageous, disgusting horror; even non-horror fans who would run a mile from watching it know the movie's name. And they have good reason to run too, as Six fully delivers on the promise of the title. There's no scene sicker than the one in which mad Dr. Heiter wakes up his creation, three kidnapped victims who have been sewn together to form a disturbing mock-centipede. The whole sequence is made even worse by the doc's wild jubilation that his experiment has worked. As his victims cry in terror, he weeps tears of joy.