List of body horror media

Body horror, biological horror, organic horror or visceral horror is horror fiction in which the horror is principally derived from the unnatural graphic transformation, degeneration or destruction of the physical body.[1] Such works may deal with decay, disease, deformity, 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, January–February 1986), which contains several essays on the subject.

Notable films and television series

Film/TV series Year Notes
Alien franchise1979–present[2]
Altered States1980
American Mary2012
An American Werewolf in London1981
Art of the Devil2004as well as its 2005 and 2008 sequels.
Bad Taste1987
Black Swan2010
Blade1998as well as its 2002 sequel Blade II.
The Blob1958including its 1972 sequel Beware! The Blob and 1988 remake The Blob.
Body Melt1993
The Brain1988
Brain Damage1988
Cabin Fever2002
Contracted2013and Contracted: Phase II, released in 2015.
Dead Ringers1998
District 92009
Event Horizon1997
Evil Dead franchise1981–presentexcept for 1992's Army of Darkness, which is a much less gruesome film than the others.
The Fly1958and its 1959 and 1965 sequels, the 1986 remake, and the 1989 sequel to the remake.[3]
From Beyond1986
Get Out2017
The Green Inferno2013
The Hands of Orlac1960
Hellraiser franchise1987–present
Hostel2005and its 2007 and 2011 sequels.
The Human Centipede (First Sequence)2009and its 2011 and 2015 sequels.
Ichi the Killer2001
Idle Hands1999
The Incredible Melting Man1977[2]
It Follows2014
Invasion of the Body Snatchers1978as well as the 1956 original, Body Snatchers, and The Invasion.
Jacob's Ladder1990
Killer Condom1996
The Kindred1987
Made In Abyss2017Later episodes contain graphic depictions of transformation/mutation due to the "curse of the abyss."
Meatball Machine2005
Night of the Creeps1986
One-Eyed Monster2008This crossover spoofs the films Jaws and The Thing.
Overlord 2018
Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead2006
Repo! The Genetic Opera2008
Repo Men2010
Return of the Living Dead 31993
Rosemary's Baby1968
The Ruins2008
The Skin I Live In2011
Starry Eyes2014
Street Trash1987
The Stuff1985
Tetsuo: The Iron Man1989and its 1992 and 2010 sequels.
The Thing1982and its 2011 prequel[2]
Tokyo Gore Police2008
The Toxic Avenger1984and the two 1989 sequels as well as its 2000 sequel
Under the Skin2013
Venom 2018
The Void2016

Notable writers

In his introduction to The Mammoth Book of Body Horror, the film director Stuart Gordon says that "Body Horror has been with us since long before there were movies". According to the summary of this anthology, the important writers of Body Horror are :

But others names could be quoted, according to Xavier Aldana Reyes in his book Body Gothic :

Notable graphic novels

Novel Year Description
The Visible Man (2000 AD)1978–2012wherein a man suffers a nuclear waste accident, making his internal organs visible.
Parasyte1988–1995wherein human bodies are taken over by parasitic extraterrestrial organisms.
The Invisibles1994–2000wherein the human converts of an invading interdimensional force are selected for "modification".
Ed the Happy Clown1983–2006wherein the titular character endures having the tip of his penis replaced with the head of Ronald Reagan.
Ruins 1995 wherein the Marvel universe goes horribly wrong, most notably Bruce Banner turning into a pile of tumors (and yet he's still alive.).
Black Hole1995–2005wherein a sexually transmitted disease gives teenagers in a small town grotesque mutations.
Uzumaki 1998–1999 wherein humans distort into spirals.
Saya no Uta 2003–2013 wherein the main character Fuminori has agnosia as known as "meat-vision".
Extremis 2005 wherein a virus makes the body re-interpret itself as an open wound, thus forming a scab cocoon around the body.
Animal Man2011–2014The New 52 ongoing Animal Man features many body horror elements including grotesque mutations, disease and decomposition of animals, plants and humans alike.
Dorohedoro1999–presentPeople are alive due to magic after decapitation, fungi grow from people's bodies, etc.
Hino Horror1983–2004Later adapted into the Guinea Pig film series. Features transformations and mutilation.
Made In Abyss 2012-present A massive pit causes numerous ailments for returning explorers, depending on depth. Past a certain point, grotesque transformations/mutations or agonizing death are all but certain.
Druuna1985-presentAn infectous disease called "the Evil" lets peoples' bodies mutate into various forms which are not necessarily recognisable as humanoid.

Use in video games

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 & Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs2010 & 2013The 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 series2007–2014Both 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 series2008–2013The primary enemies of the series are called Necromorphs, which are mutated humans with protruding appendages, open wounds, and rotting flesh.
Fallout series1997–presentThe 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 series1998–2007Parasitic monsters known as Headcrabs attach themselves to heads of people and cause them to develop mutations such as elongated claws and gaping jaws in their chests.
Inside2016An indie puzzle platformer developed by Playdead. Inside tells the story about a young boy as he struggles against evil forces trying to take over the world. The boy infiltrates a massive facility where scientists perform mind-control and underwater experiments on human bodies.
Outlast2013A first-person survival horror game in which an investigative journalist explores an asylum housing inmates displaying various degrees of bodily mutilation and/or mutation.
Resident Evil series1996–presentA pharmaceutical company uses a mutagenic T-Virus in order to produce monsters to sell as weapons. The most basic were zombie versions of whatever organism was infected or giant versions of insects. There are also human/insect and human/reptilian hybrids, malformed super-soldiers called "Tyrants", and various other mutants. Later games introduce, for example, more viruses and las plagas (an ancient parasite which take over animal nervous systems).
Parasite Eve series1998–2010The Squaresoft (now known as Square Enix) video game based on the 1996 Japanese SF 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 multicellular 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.
The Thing2002A sequel to the 1982 film The Thing, player follows Captain Blake, a member of a U.S. Special Forces team sent to the Antarctic outpost featured in the film to determine what has happened to the research crew. The enemies encountered come in three main forms. "Scuttlers" are small Things formed from the limbs and appendages of infected personnel. "Walkers" are larger and much stronger than Scuttlers, and finally the Bosses are larger and much more powerful than Walkers.
Soma2015A SF survival horror game developed by Frictional Games.

Use in tabletop gaming

Traditional Game Year Description
Magic: The Gathering1993–presentThe 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.

In the Shadows Over Innistrad block, the gothic horror inspired setting of Innistrad undergoes a transformation; at first marked by subtle mutations in both the human and the already-monstrous living residents, it gruesomely distorts many of the plane's inhabitants in the image of the invading cosmic being, Emrakul.

Warhammer1983–presentMutation and bodily modification are emphasised upon in the Chaos factions.
Kingdom Death: Monster 2012–present Monsters contain extensive incorporation of human body parts.

See also


  1. Definition of "body horror". Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 11th Edition. Retrieved November 01, 2012.
  2. "Horror Film History — Horror Films in the 1980s". Retrieved 2009-09-09.
  3. Thill, Scott (2009-01-04). "Cronenberg Drifts From Tech Horror, but Shocks Remain". Archived from the original on 2011-12-19. 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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