Best Body Horror Movies

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured Scary Movies and Series

Body horror movies are films that focus specifically on trauma, mutation, mental deterioration, and illnesses that occur in the human body. Some of these processes are natural, while others are inflicted. Movies that fall into this genre are typically gross, morbidly fascinating, and outright alarming, and the reason they are so effective is because they concern aspects of living we all can relate to: our physical and mental health. It’s quite horrifying when something invades, violates, and/or transforms our conceptions of who we are.

Though the term “body horror” is relatively new in the world of horror, there is thankfully no shortage of examples in film. The list below constitutes some of the best in the genre, along with a dozen other recommendations (and though David Cronenburg’s ouevre could be a list of its own, we did limit him to two films here to allow other movies to shine). 

Check out Puzzle Box Horror’s best movies about body horror!

Possessor (2020)

Possessor body Horror film poster

Tasya Vos is an assassin working for a high-tech secret organization. This organization uses brain implants to sync her mind up with another, giving her control over someone else’s body in order to commit the murder and leave them behind as a scapegoat. That’s already pretty freaky stuff, but then things take an even darker turn when her latest host regains control over their mind/body. There are several layers of disturbing body horror happening here – loss of control, blackouts, possession, transformation – and it’s all very dramatic and unsettling. Possessor is directed by Brandon Cronenburg (of Antiviral fame), and stars Andrea Riseborough and Christopher Abbott.

American Mary (2012)

American Mary Horror Movie poster with woman and chainsaw

Mary is upset because the high tuition costs at medical school are thwarting her dreams of becoming a surgeon. But things take a turn when she performs impromptu surgery at a strip club, and then they take another turn when people being paying her to alter their bodies and introduce her to the world of extreme body modification. Not only are there numerous graphic scenes of highly illegal body modifications, but there is also a revenge storyline involving Bloody Mary and the man who raped her. The film verges on torture porn levels, but it’s also highly intriguing in its subversiveness. American Mary is directed by the Soska Sisters and stars Katharine Isabelle, Antonio Cupo, and Tristan Risk.

Teeth (2007)

Teeth Body Horror Movie

We often feel as strangers to our own bodies during adolescence (thanks puberty), but Teeth takes this concept to a strange new level. Dawn suffers from a rare condition, referred to in the film as “vagina dentate” or “vagina teeth”, that makes physical intimacy with another impossible. But when a shocking and nonconsensual encounter awakens her violent side, she realizes she can use her condition to take revenge on other bad man. Heads up for those with male reproductive organs, this is a tough one to watch. It’s also a bleak and unsettling coming of age tale told through emotional performances and streaks of dark comedy. Teeth is directed by Mitchell Lichtensteina and stars Jess Weixler.

Slither (2006)

Slither horror movie poster with worms and lady in a bathtub

A small town in South Carolina is invaded by a malicious alien parasite that immediately infects someone and spawns numerous larvae offspring. These new parasites continue the trend, turning their unsuspecting hosts in all manner of mutated grotesqueries and forming a large hive mind. It’s up to a ragtag group of survivors, led by Police Chief Bill Pardy, to stop the spread before the whole town goes under. The film manages to be both extremely disgusting and extremely hilarious. This blend of alien invasion and body horror is certainly an example of horror comedy at its finest, and it’s filled to the brim with blood, goo, and gross-out scenes. Slither is directed by James Gunn (right?!) and stars Nathan Fillion and Elizabeth Banks.

Society (1990)

Society Horror Movie Poster with woman taking her face off

Bill is a teenager who lives with his wealthy family in Beverly Hills. Bill has always felt a little different from his sister and parents, who subscribe to the upper class elite mentality, and he begins to wonder if there is something darker going on behind the scenes. A series of strange events lead up to a shocking conclusion where all of Bill’s fears will be revealed. Like some of the other films on this list, Society is a movie with something to say. Sure, it’s not very subtle in its satirical take on wealthy urbanites, but it’s certainly memorable (especially that last orgy scene…). Society is directed by Brian Yuzna and stars Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, and Evan Richards.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Iron Man body Horror Movie Poster

A man and his girlfriend are driving when they accidentally hit and kill another man. They begin having strange visions and noticing horrifying changes to their bodies. Turns out the man they killed was a metal fetishist who is taking his revenge by turning them into a monstrous mesh of man and machine. This film, with its abstract narrative and soundtrack of scraping metal, certainly falls into the avant-garde style of experimentation. This black-and-white cyperpunk nightmare is also one of the wildest movies you’ll ever experience. It begins with a man shoving a metal rod into a cut in his leg, and then it just escalates from there. Tetsuo: The Iron Man is directed by Shinya Tsukamoto and stars Tomorowo Taguchi and Kei Fujiwara.

The Fly (1986)

The Fly Horror Movie Poster

A brilliant scientist finds his world turned upside down when a failed experiment mixes his genes with that of a common fly. This freak encounter leads to a slow and painful transformation for the scientist. The grotesque scenes of mutation are as haunting as they are harrowing for the man and his loved ones. The film, a remake of an earlier movie from the 1950s, takes its source material and elevates it to higher levels of emotion, anxiety, and terror. The film has also become a classic in its own right, especially in the world of sci-fi horror, and is likely the director’s most well-known mainstream movie. The Fly is directed by David Cronenburg and stars Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, and John Getz.

The Thing (1982)

The Thing John Carpenter Horror Movie Poster with alien man

In a remote facility in Antartica, a research team is hunted by a bizarre alien life form that can transform its body to mimic other forms, in this case shapeshifting to assume the form of its victims. The plot of this film is simple and wastes no time in getting to the good stuff. The paranoia and body count runs high as the isolated research station is invaded and the team desperately tries to root out the evil and survive. The movie also has some of the best practical effects ever, making the many “wtf” moments that much more special. It’s bizarre, it’s gruesome, and it’s a whole lot of fun. The Thing is directed by John Carpenterand stars Kurt Russell as well as a great cast of supporting characters. 

Videodrome (1982)

Videodrome Body Horror movie poster with man floating

There’s a shocking new satellite feed airing on television called “Videodrome”, which depicts random people being sodomized, tortured, and murdered in various ways. The president of the TV station, Max Renn, becomes determined to find out who the creators are: a quest that will feature a wide variety of graphically deranged scenes and lead to his own psychological unhinging. It’s a body horror program within a body horror movie, full of the director’s emphasis on surrealism but loaded with even more gore. It also effectively blurs the line between reality and fantasy as it becomes something of a study on the genre itself. Videodrome is directed by David Cronenburg and stars James Woods, Debbie Harry, and Sonja Smits.

Honorable Mentions

Tusk (2014)

Antiviral (2012)

The Skin I Live In (2011)

Cabin Fever (2002)

Brain Damage (1988)

Hellraiser (1987)

From Beyond (1986)

Re-Animator (1985)

The Stuff (1985)

Possession (1981)

Eraserhead (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Best Horror Coloring Books for Adults

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Best Horror Books Best Of Featured Horror Books

Who said that scary things aren’t for kids? Or that coloring books aren’t for adults? Both of these things are proven dreadfully wrong with the best coloring books inspired by the horror genre. Yes, they’re a thing. Your favorite monsters jump off the page as you color in between the lines and create a ghoulishly gorgeous work of art – all while relieving stress and soothing the mind with a set of crayons as your guide. If you’re looking to unwind and relax after a long day – and need something a bit more abnormal than the typical Netflix and wine – try these horror coloring books for adults to channel your dark side with a bit of creepy color. 

The Beauty Of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book

The Beauty Of Horror: A GOREgeous Coloring Book

This horror coloring book by Alan Robert is one of the most popular on the web, and you’ll see why as you glance into its pages. GOREgeous features “an onslaught of severed heads, monsters, deadly weapons, and skeletal remains” as you “visit burial grounds, the zombie apocalypse, serial killer lairs and gruesome torture chambers.” Their words… cute, right? Invest in this page-turner that has tons of gore-geously good reviews on GoodReads on Amazon, and get that red crayon ready for all the blood, clown noses, and leftover guts. You’re going to need it. 

Horror Coloring Book for Adults : Horror Stress Relieving Illustrations with Scary Monsters, Creepy Scenes, and a Spooky Adventure

Horror Coloring Book for Adults

This horror coloring book isn’t for the faint of heart. You won’t find any “good witches” or soft scares within these black-and-white pages – only the most terrifying and intricate illustrations that will freak you out and frustrate you as you try desperately to color within the lines. Trust us, once you see the complexity of these designs, you’ll see that you’ll need the entire box of crayons. That being said, this horror coloring book is ideal for the artsy scare lover… and you’ll want to stick this art up on your bedroom wall for the most gorgeous horror house on the block.

Zombie Coloring Book

Zombie Coloring Book

Take a break from witches, skeletons, and killer clowns as you go back to basics with a horror staple: zombies. These undead creatures will always have a place in your favorite scary movies and TV shows… and now on your nightstand, too. Choose from 20+ zombie illustrations – ranging from ugly and gross to interesting and a bit cute – and fill them in with your favorite colors to bring life back into your relaxation routine with a few undead monsters. Sure, the title of this book is a mouthful, but Zombie Coloring Book really is an incredible habit for everybody!

Alice’s Nightmare in Wonderland Coloring Book 

Alice's Nightmare in Wonderland Coloring Book

Plenty of children’s movies are a lot more creepy once you watch them as an adult, like Alice in Wonderland. Between the Chesire Cat’s scary smile and the Queen of Hearts yelling about beheading children, this classic Disney film is almost as scary as any horror film from the early 2000’s. And it gets even more horrifying with this adult coloring book that features demonic versions of the film’s classic characters. A giant, murderous rabbit is something that you didn’t even know you needed until now, and you can make him any color you like for ultimate nightmare fuel. 

The Beauty of Horror 2: Ghouliana’s Creepatorium Coloring Book

The Beauty of Horror 2: Ghouliana's Creepatorium Coloring Book

It’s pretty rare in the world of horror for the sequel to be just as spooky and stunning as the original – unless we’re talking about horror coloring books for adults. Ghouliana’s Creepatorium has just as many distorted ghosts and scary skeletons as the GOREgeous book that we told you about earlier… and it doesn’t even need to be Halloween to stick these finished illustrations up on your refrigerator. Let loose and embrace your inner artist with these spooky designs that never go out of style… and know that there are plenty more coloring books to try in the The Beauty of Horror lineup. Thanks, Alan Robert!

Best of Avant Garde Horror Comics

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books

Let’s get weird! Horror is one of the most exciting genres out there. The sheer terror of the unknown and experiencing the fear of death in it’s many shapes with our favorite characters is something unique to horror. However, the moments when something is so far from our expectations or completely mind-bending, it can make a deeper imprint than the jump scares we’ve come to know and love. For those moments, we look to the avant garde horror genre.

Avant Garde, with a history rooted in challenging social norms, is art that pushes the boundary and stands at the forefront of what art can be capable of. Today, it’s much less associated with social change but is still known for its existence as an experimental and bold expression of art. This radical art form, combined with horror, can build adrenaline spikes in ways other subgenres can’t. In honor of that mind-bending style, here is our list of graphic novels and comics that bring the Best of Avant Garde Horror to life.

zumak comic book cover

Uzumaki by Junji Ito

I love everything about this avant garde horror comic. It’s black and white. It’s has that signature japanese style. It also is focused around the Uzumaki, or spiral, symbol that has cursed this coastal Japanese town. But it isn’t like the Ring, where you’re haunted by this undead girl. I would tell you what it is really like, but that would be a spoiler. This is a must-read, and you don’t know where or how far this is going to go. 

Ghost and Ruins comic cover

Ghosts and Ruins

Some artists fit very neatly into what we expect from our comics, and they work very well. Sometimes, they go for something a bit different, and today is all about different. Ben Catmull ditches the panels and text bubbles, laying out his stories in full page illustrations. With bits of background and flavor text to accompany each of the 13 stills, its amazing what our imaginations can do with such a minimalist and maximalist approach to horror. 

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Sleep of Reason

This anthology from Iron Circus Comics features some pretty warped illustrations, and some of it reminds me of Midnight Gospel’s creative use of color and form. This collection of avant garde horror also avoids a lot of the typical tropes of horror and instead creates that creeping sense of unease that we are always unable to ignore.

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Understanding Monster by Theo Ellsworth

This graphic novel may not exist exclusively in the avant garde horror genre, but I’m not sure it exists in any genre. The protagonist of the story finds his spirit trapped in a mouse, while his skeleton wanders around aimlessly. He’s aided by misfit toys and another spirit, this one trapped in a fly. The antagonists are equally diverse and include the Devil, a mummified pharaoh, and “The Mean Kids in the Wall.” They all exist in “negative time.” It’s weird. We like it. 

Bodyworld Avant Garde horror comic cover

Bodyworld by Dash Shaw

This web avant garde horror comic by Dash Shaw was compiled and revised into a graphic novel, and they both will blow you away. Our protagonist, Paulie Panther, is a deranged botanist who’s the kind of creep that imagines himself a romantic. His current obsession is a psychedelic drug that grows at the outskirts of the Boney Borough High School. It lets you feel what other people feel, and when smoked together, you can feel the other person feeling their feelings felt by your feelings. Get it? It’s a mind-warping story set in 2060, a post-apocalyptic civil war future, that dives further and further into a dark fantasy. 

I feel Sick avant garde comic book cover

I Feel Sick by Jhonen Vasquez

This Jhonen Vasquez comic is a spin-off of his previous work, Johnny the Homicidal Maniac. The unhinged approach is still very much alive in I Feel Sick, whose protagonist, Devi D., learns about the destructive psychological and supernatural influences that drove Johnny insane. The acid trip starts on page one, with Devi ripping up a painting, only to find intact a few panels later, and doesn’t end until everyone is entirely unhinged.

It’s hard to number these or rank them in any particular order. The stories are so engaging and the art so wildly entrancing, I think there’s something for everyone’s kind of strange in this list. We update these lists every now and again, so if you think your kind of strange is missing from this list, let us know in the comments below. Keep Puzzle Box weird, guys! Thanks for reading. 

Best of Supernatural Horror Comics

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Best Of Best of Comics Comics and Graphic Novels Featured Horror Books

The supernatural holds a strong place in the societal psyche. There aren’t many subjects that are as alluring in terms of the unknown and the extraordinary and also as terrifying. Searching for and approaching the supernatural is exhilarating, but finding it and seeing it is risky business. It’s enticing, spine-tingling, hair-raising, and if you’re reading this, it’s impossible to look away. What better to enjoy the best supernatural horror than in a comic book format?

Witches – check, demons – got em, ghosts – of course. This list of incredible supernatural horror comics demand to be read, and are the greatest reward to those that burn the midnight oil. 

Gideon Falls by Jeff Lemire and Andrea Sorentino

Gideon Falls Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Norton Sinclair, a recluse with interesting dumpster theories, and Father Fred, a pastor in Gideon Falls, have otherworldly visions of “the Black Barn.” Each of our leading men has their own riddles to crack, from clues hidden in city litter to sinister small town mysteries, but they both lead them to Gideon Fall’s central omen: the Black Barn, and the trip-fest inside breathe new meaning to ideas of “otherworldly doom.” Definitely one of the best supernatural horror comics out there.

Girl From the Other Side by Nagabe

Girl From the Other Side supernatural horror comic

“The God of Light took everything away from the God of Darkness, changing him into the shape of a hideous monster.” Well, I was hooked. Turns out, victors are not always fair, and the God of Light is no exception. This story follows Shiva, the only human in the Outside, the land of the God of Darkness. She is accompanied by her Teacher and lives among the Outsiders, commanded never to touch Shiva by the Teacher, lest they corrupt her. The mysteries of the Outside and it’s cursed denizens are numerous and devilish, and I loved every bit of it. 

Exorsisters by Ian Boothby and Gisèle Lagacé

Exorsisters Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

These sacred sisters are great for exorcisms on a budget. Coming-of-age stories are great pretenses for horror, and the Harrow sisters grow up averting the end of the world, defeating demon-obsessed boyfriends, and dealing with their mom. The Veronica Mars vibes are pretty high, with a bit of Charmed mixed in. Need I say more?

Redlands by Jordie Bellaire & Vanesa R. Del Rey

Redlands Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Southern gothic and Southern horror are powerful. I’ve lived in the South for years now, and it has always struck me how it feels like the physical terrain holds the scars of the past, today. Redlands is another incarnation of this great American tradition, starring a coven of witches in a foggy Florida town and the citizens they subjugate. And when those citizens want to make a change, the supernatural exploits in Redlands, Florida, only get worse. 

BPRD by Mike Mignola

BPRD Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Demon frogs, demon detectives, and the CIA paint the pages of BPRD, the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. Mike Mignola’s expanded universe takes place after Hellboy leaves the BPRD, who still have to stop the End of the World as We Know It. Success becomes a very relative term as the story progresses, and the frogs become the least of their problems. Mike Mignola’s universe barely gives our heroes any breaks, and when it does–wait, does it ever?

Harrow County by Cullen Bunn and Tyler Crook

Harrow County Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

What started as Countless Haints on Cullen Bunn’s website became Harrow County, a supernatural fairy tale told in a southern gothic style to hainting success. Emmy, a peaceful country girl, starts to hear things in the woods; monsters, ghosts, and shadows, speaking to her like old friends. An old oak tree at the edge of the farm calls out in her dreams, and a witch’s curse may come true, or so it seems. 

Fatale by Deon Taylor

Fatale Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

Femme fatale’s are classic, badass, and electric protagonists. Fatale’s femme du jour is Josephine, an enchantress from the 1930s, alive in the present day, enchanting as ever. Interestingly, this attraction doesn’t always go in her favor, and the men around her typically pay the price. Struggling with her “gift” and battling a cult obsessed with her seeming-immortality are all in a days work for Jo, and her escapades keep her world, and our heads, spinning. 

Rachel Rising by Terry Moore

Rachel Rising Supernatural Horror Comic Cover

The trick to a good murder is making sure the dead stay dead. Rachel Beck has other plans. After waking in a shallow grave, apparently strangled, and with no memory of her death, she begins trying to solve her attempted murder. What she finds is witchcraft and demons, hellbent on destroying her town. Demons and the undead typically mean one thing: the end is near. 

The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina by Robert Aguirre-Sacasa

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Horror Comic Cover

This teenage witch may seem familiar, and so too do the names and faces, but the stakes are more than a bit higher, and the spells much darker. Sabrina Spellman’s coming-of-age story collides with catty witches, dead parents, and satanic rituals. Such is the life of any half-witch high schooler. 

Nocturnals by Dan Brereton

Nocturnals Supernatural horror comic cover

The Nocturnals is a great of example of an ensemble supernatural comic, written and illustrated by Dan Brereton and published by Dark Horse Comics. We start with Doc Horror, the patriarch of the patchwork Horror family, a gang of supernatural outcasts, with extraordinary abilities. Our protagonists fight against supernatural enemies as well as corrupt corporations in a fictional California city, Pacific City. Here, we love horror, we love the supernatural, and we love ensembles. Nocturnals does it all.

These are my personal Tales of the Crypt, ladies and gentleman. These are the best supernatural horror comics I have read yet. They’ve kept me up at night–reading and otherwise. I love to hear from you all, so please comment and tell us where we screwed up or uncover that hidden gem only you have discovered. Discourse is the foundation of democracy, and the difference between seventh and eighth is a big deal, okay?! If you like supernatural horror comics you will also love cosmic horror comics.

Best Sci-Fi Horror Movies

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Best Of Best of Movies Featured

Though the sci-fi horror genre has been around for century, it’s really in the last few decades that it has hit it’s stride. Nowhere has that jump in popularity more prevalent or evident than in the world of film. The 70’s and 80’s represent a golden era in sci-fi horror movies, with the rise of such giants in the industry as John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, and Ridley Scott. But even from the 90’s onward sci-fi horror shows no signs of slowing down, and some really incredible entries have come out in just the last couple of years.

There are so many excellent sci-fi horror movies out there that it was very hard to narrow this down to a manageable list. Even with an “Honorable Mentions” section at the end, we know we missed plenty of viable candidates. Let us know some of the better films we left off down in the comments below!

Color Out of Space (2019)

Color out of space 2019 poster with sci-fi horror background

Did you know colors could be scary? H.P. Lovecraft certainly thought they could be, and he wrote a deeply unsettling story to prove it. Color Out of Space is a cosmic horror film based on that titular story, and it’s about the Gardner family who find that a meteorite has crash-landed on their farm. Suddenly, their once peaceful life in the country is shattered as the family finds themselves fighting an alien being that can infect and mutate their bodies and minds. Come for the Nicolas Cage performance, stay for the grotesque practical effects. With a slow build in the first half and a wild spree of body horror in the second half, Color Out of Space is a rare example of a Lovecraft adaptation done right. 

Annihilation (2018)

Annihilation horror movie poster with scary sci-fi landscape

Criminally underrated and suffering from a shoddy release, Annihilation is a film that deserves your attention and awe. Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, it’s a story about a group of scientists who venture into a mysterious zone called “the Shimmer” to collect data and locate the early explorers who have vanished inside. The movie shares some similarities with the book, but writer/director Alex Garland also made some significant changes and it’s best to view them as alternate entries in a shared universe. It’s notoriously difficult to translate cosmic horror to the big screen, but Annihilation manages to do it and do it well. Full of mind boggling images and a deep unfurling dread, this is a movie that really translates a sense of hopelessness and unfathomable fear.

Timecrimes (2007)

Timecrimes horror movie poster with creepy killer

Though perhaps more of a sci-fi thriller than horror, there are enough shocking scenes and gut-twisting suspense to earn the Spanish language film Timecrimes a spot on this list. The film opens with a man named Hector spying on a beautiful woman. His moment of voyeurism is suddenly disrupted when he is attacked by a man whose head is wrapped in bandages. Fleeing the scene, Hector is able to find refuge in a remote lab where a scientist convinces him to hide in what turns out to be a time machine. To say more would be to spoil critical scenes, but just know this movie, though saddled with a low budget and amatuer actors, is a wonderfully confounding and deeply disquieting.example of sci-fi horror.

Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon sci-fi horror movie poster with space ship and planet

Sure it flopped on its initial release (as did several other films on this list). Sure it’s been panned by critics and holds a highly debated place in film fandom. But whether you hate or, in our case, love it, there’s no denying that Event Horizon is fully ingrained in pop culture and space horror sensibilities. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s about a spaceship that stumbles across a portal to hell. As this infernal dimension begins to assert it’s dark influence the crew is slowly driven into a violent madness. Full of existential dread and shots of pure horror, Event Horizon is a film not to be missed. Just hope you return from the experience in a better state than the crew.

The Fly (1986)

The Fly horror movie poster with a fly and black background

We’re big fans of both body horror and practical effects over here at Puzzle Box, and one of the movies that best combines those two elements is David Cronenburg’s The Fly. Really there are many great choices in the Cronenburg cannon, but picked this one for its engaging premise and delightfully gross effects. Jeff Goldbloom, who gives a particularly captivating performance, plays a scientist whose failed experiment in teleportation transforms him into a gigantic insect. It’s a disgusting and nightmarish riff on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, but it’s also a surprisingly poignant look into the complexity of human relationships. 

Re-Animator (1985)

Re-Animator horror movie poster featuring a severed head and a creepy scientist

Herbert West, a slightly off-kilter scientist, has discovered a secret formula that can reanimate dead tissue and ultimately bring the deceased back to life. After a successful trial run on a fellow student’s cat, West takes his extraordinary elixir to the morgue and from there all havoc breaks loose. Though the movie is loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft short story, there were some major changes made and a lack of overall otherworldly dread. Instead we get a gloriously violent and darkly comedic romp full of gore and humor, all centered around the delightfully cheesy performance of actor Stewart Gordan. And really, what more could you want?

The Thing (1982)

The Thing 1982 sci-fi horror movie poster featuring a man in an arctic suit with beams of light coming through his head

John Carpenter’s The Thing is a masterpiece of paranoia and gorey practical effects. Based on the novella Who Goes There? by John Campbell Jr, Carpenter’s version is actually the third adaptation of the story and by far the most famous. In an isolated arctic setting, a team of scientists uncover an ancient alien being. Despite their best intentions, the creature is revived and begins to take them out one by one. What makes this plot particularly terrifying is the alien’s ability to mimic other lifeforms.The frenzy of shapeshifting that ensues, from the normal humanoid forms to the outrageously bizarre spectacles, keeps the scientists (and the audience) guessing on who is friend or foe. For the staff at Puzzle Box Horror, this is easily one of our favorite sci-fi horror films.

Scanners (1981)

Scanners horror movie poster from 1981 featuring a man whose head is exploding

Ok we swear this isn’t cheating, but we’re double-dipping in the Carpenter oeuvre. His movie Scanners, essentially about a group of telepathics seeking world domination and the counter-group fighting to subvert them, is what we consider essential viewing when it comes to the sci-fi horror genre. Yes it has the infamous head-exploding scene, and yes it’s as entertaining and memorable as you’d assume from a Carpenter film. But it also features some fine character acting and touches on some intriguing sociopolitical themes. Overall it’s a satisfying blend of cerebral commentary and visceral chaos. 

Alien (1979)

Alien 1979 horror movie poster featuring an alien egg

It’s impossible to talk about sci-fi horror without the angular, toothy distorted image of a xenomorph coming to mind. The whole alien franchise is fantastic (yes, even that one), but we have to give credit to the one that started it all. Ridley Scott’s Alien is dark, tense, and claustrophobic; a slow-burn of mounting dread and unseen foes until about the halfway mark when it explodes (literally) with stomach-churning horror. Featuring the unforgettable designs by H.R. Giger and inspiring decades of filmmakers after it, Alien stands as a shining example of the “horror in space” genre.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Invasion of the Body Snatchers 1978 movie poster featuring aliens and a person in a cocoon

It’s not often that a remake is better than the original, but the 70’s version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is arguably superior to its predecessor. The enthralling performances of the leads, the creepy practical effects, the unnerving musical score, and the harrowing ending all work in perfect unison to make this a shockingly scary film. The cold war paranoia of the first movie has also been updated to showcase more relevant social metaphors, such as the loss of self and breakdown of community. Body possession movies have always been terrifying, and this one, about an alien plant that consumes its sleeping host and assumes their form, is a must-watch entry in the sci-fi horror genre.

Honorable Mentions

Possessor (2020)

The Invisible Man (2020)

Life (2017)

Ex Machina (2014)

Europa Report (2013)

Sunshine (2007)

Slither (2006)

28 Days Later (2002)

Donnie Darko (2001)

The Faculty (1998)

Demon Seed (1997)

Mimic (1997)

Cube (1997)

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

Aliens (1986)

From Beyond (1986)

Altered States (1980)

The Fury (1978)