Invader Zim: 10 Gruesome Body Horror Scenes In The Classic Nickelodeon Series
Invader Zim is making his return, so we're revisiting the original cartoon. What were your favorite moments from the show? Let us know in the comments below.
Invader Zim is back! This early-‘00s Nickelodeon classic is back thanks to the new Netflix original film Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus. While this particular animated series may not have been as scary as some of the most horrifying kids shows of the '90s, it did introduce many children to the disgusting, scary, fascinating concept of the human body.
A bit of an outlier when it came to Nickelodeon cartoons at the time, Invader Zim followed a villain--an alien tasked with conquering Earth, even if he’s not very good at it. Zim decides to hide amongst humans by posing as an elementary-school student by simply wearing a wig and contact lenses, not even hiding his green skin. Most episodes had a bleak or even outright depressing message about how much the world sucks, and there is nothing you can do about it. And this was all aided by the series’ signature filthy aesthetic that brought out the rot and decay in our society. More than that, though, the show often revolved around grotesque stories involving bodies, introducing many kids to the body horror sub-genre.
Invader Zim: Enter the Florpus serves as both an ending to the series, bringing Zim and his human archenemy and classmate Dib’s conflict to an intergalactic stage with world-ending stakes, while also opening the door to more stories. Now that the Zim has returned, what better time to revisit the grossest and most disturbing moments in the franchise?
10. Zim’s relatable fight against lice
Season 1, Episode 17: Lice
One of the best things about Invader Zim was how relatable it was. By taking something as common as lice and fully leaning into how truly gross the whole concept is, Zim manages to make us scared and disgusted by our world and bodies. When a kid enters the classroom with lice, it spreads and infests the entire school, which is then quarantined.
The disturbing moment comes when the wave of the lice infection spreads throughout the school and every child is desperately scratching their heads while dozens of white dots jump around above them. As if that wasn’t enough, the episode ends with the school delouser using a device that liquifies Zim’s skin, as it is the only thing that kills lice for good.
9. Cop gets his brain swapped with a squid’s brain
Season 1, Episode 19: Gir Goes Crazy and Stuff
During the episode “Gir Goes Crazy and Stuff” Zim changes his robot servant Gir’s programming to make him tougher. Gir ends up attacking a cop car and throwing the car through Zim’s house, causing the cop to see Zim’s alien form. In order to make him forget what he saw, Zim grabs a squid, and shoves it inside the police officer’s head. We don’t see the medical procedure, but we do see the officer becoming “Squidman”, asking for his tentacles and acting frustrated for not being able to shoot ink. The poor guy can’t even walk properly anymore, and the episode ends with him at the beach, “returning home” to the sea as Gir remarks that the guy is getting eaten by a shark.
8. Zim gouges a kid’s eye out
Season 1, Episode 3: Bestest Friend
Many of the episodes follow Zim doing crazy things to avoid being outed as an alien. After overhearing a classmate say his lack of friends makes him “inhuman,” Zim sets out to find a best friend. He finally finds one in his classmate Keef, a loner kid who quickly becomes obsessed with the alien. Once Zim decides he’s over the idea of friends and dumps Keef, he starts stalking Zim.
Zim eventually hears of a surprise party Keef is planning for him and decides to finally get rid of the kid. He gives Keef a gift box, and a pair or robotic arms come out of it and literally gouge Keef’s eyes out and replace them with robotic eyes that make him believe a squirrel is his new best friend. This being a cartoon for children, we only see the shadow of the arms ripping the eyes off Keef, but the implication is enough to scar the show’s audience for life.
7. Nick’s Happiness probe
Season 2, Episode 2: Zim Eats Waffles
Sweet, innocent Nick. The character that was intended to be a humorous wink at Nickelodeon Studios ended up being pure, concentrated nightmare fuel in the form of a smiling child. He first appeared in “Gir Goes Crazy and Stuff” as a kid inside a tube with various cables and wires inserted in his neck and head, which Zim says are meant to monitor the “happiness centers” on Nick's brain.
Next time we see him is for a brief moment in “Zim Eats Waffles”. Zim ask Gir to bring him a test subject, and the little robot complies and drags Nick, who is strapped to a gurney and suddenly has a huge screw-shaped probe coming out of his skull. The probe is meant to force Nick’s brain to feel nothing but happiness all the time, and he is fully aware of it. Through Nick’s perpetual and big smile, we see the eyes of a scared kid under constant pain and torture.
6. Zim’s Akira moment
Season 1, Episode 6: Career Day
As most Invader Zim episodes, this one starts with a simple premise--it's career day at school and Zim gets labeled a fast food restaurant worker on his career aptitude. Early in the episode, Zim begins to show a rash in his neck that is due to something called the Galactic Equinox. It basically means all of the planets are aligning, causing aliens that are off of their homeworlds to enter Invader Zim’s revolting version of molting.
While at work at MacMeaties, Zim’s rash starts increasing in size until his entire face is covered in green, leaking lumps. Once the planets align during the Equinox, Zim’s body literally bursts outward like a giant gelatinous mass that covers the entire restaurant like Tetsuo in Akira. His molting body even pulsates as it grows out of proportion. It only lasts for a few seconds, but it is enough to turn your off fast food restaurants better than any documentary could.
5. Dib and Zim fuse with bologna
Season 1, Episode 12: Bolognius Maximus
Invader Zim became such a cult hit because it could not only do gross, but it could fully commit to being totally silly. Take for example this episode which begins with Dib throwing a slice of bologna at Zim that burns his skin, making Dib laugh.
Zim then decides to prank Dib by fusing his DNA with bologna. Naturally, because this show is ridiculous, Dib manages to do the same to Zim. Though not as disgusting as other episodes, the sight of Zim and Dib becoming round, giant bologna sausages, running around wobbly while hungry dogs chase them down the streets is as disturbing as it is hilarious.
4. Cronenberg babies
Season 1, Episode 10: Plague of Babies
Another episode with a simple premise that quickly escalates into the gross and the bizarre. Zim accidentally brings the wrath of an alien species that look identical to human babies upon him. After Zim escapes from the alien babies’ torture, the armada of babies decide to form what they call “Giganto Baby”. Suddenly a massive pile of alien babies merges together in the closest the show has ever come to a Cronenberg movie, as their tiny little bodies form a single, gigantic humanoid mass with baby heads and limbs popping out.
3. Dibs get turned inside out
Season 1, Episode 10: Bloaty’s Pizza Hog
Though this may be the most upsetting and disturbing moment on the list, it doesn’t get the number 1 spot because it is sadly only an imaginary sequence that lasts for less than 10 seconds.
Dib’s father is a renowned scientist who simply doesn’t have time for his family on a regular basis, so they have an annual family dinner night. This year it'ss finally time for Dib’s sister, Gaz, to pick the restaurant, but as Gaz looks forward to eating pizza, Dib sneaks away to Zim’s ship and disappears. Gaz easily walks right into Zim’s base and finds Zim about to perform some hideous experiments on Dib. She decides to let him carry on.
Zim then literally turns Dib’s body inside out. The next thing we see is Gaz returning home, ready to go eat pizza dragging Dib’s sack of organs behind her. It is not until her dad declares family dinner night cancelled due to Dib’s current state that she screams in terror and it is revealed that she imagined the whole thing. It’s a very short scene, but the sight of Gib’s pile of organs, with his intestines leaking fluid, is enough to warrant a place on this list.
2. Psychic pimple
Season 1, Episode 7: Rise of the Zitboy
Pimples are as natural as they are gross. So, of course, when Zim gets a pimple it is ten times grosser, but also kind of hilarious. After trying to put some Acne Blast on the pimple, it makes the disgusting, green, pus-filled water balloon of a pimple comically oversized. Given that Gir is a “genius”, he decides to draw a face on the zit, which somehow makes it develop hypnotic abilities.
This is one of the grossest episodes not only in the show, but on children’s TV in general. Once Zim figures out he can use the powers of the zit to brainwash his classmates, he gives the zit a little costume and calls it Pustulio. The most disturbing moment in an already gross and disturbing episode comes when Pustulio grows too big and eventually exploding in a massive wave of pus that floods the entire school. It is absolutely disgusting, funny, and it will get stuck in your head forever.
1. Zim consuming organs
Season 1, Episode 4: Dark Harvest
There is no way this list could not end without mentioning the episode “Dark Harvest.” Not only is it the best episode of the show, but it's also the most disturbing. As usual, it begins with Dib making fun of Zim for not being human--in this case for his lack or organs--and Zim going the extra mile to hide his true identity.
There are so many disturbing moments in this episode alone it is hard to pinpoint the best one. We start with a shot of the camera going inside a kid’s bellybutton to find that his liver has been replaced with an ankle monitor. As soon as Dib figures out that Zim is harvesting the organs of children to appear more human, he goes to the cafeteria and scans them, only to find organs replaced left and right with common items like an alarm clock, a milk carton, and even a cat. Again, as thought-provokingly gross as it is funny. This is an episode that referencesAlien and Halloween. There's even a nod to A Nightmare on Elm Street with a boiler room scene. You know, children’s favorites movies!
The moment that takes the cake happens when Dib finally catches up to Zim, now looking like “a hideous blob of stolen organs”. Having stuffed his grotesque body with as many organs as possible, he has so many organs (including 6 different hearts and spleens of 3 colors) that he belches up an intestine and then slurps it up like spaghetti.