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History and Recommendations in Body Horror

Despite its miraculous properties, the human body is an incredibly fragile vehicle for existence. The outdoor elements, other humans, animals, illness, an uneven sidewalk, and so on – there are many potentially dangerous factors to consider in our walk through life. And though all bodies are different, they share in the common pain of bruising, breaking, and bleeding – the results of which also elicit a sense of betrayal. Enter Body Horror.

This fragility and commonality are what make the body horror genre so effective. The books and movies may be filled with far-fetched concepts, but the trauma inflicted on the bodies within hits closer to home. Most of us haven’t experienced the torturous mutilation presented in Audition (1999), but many have experienced the sting of papercuts, accidental lacerations, and so on, all the way up to self-inflicted cutting and physical abuse. Likewise, many of us don’t have to worry about flesh-eating bacteria destroying us from the inside out (as seen in 2002’s Cabin Fever), but we know of the affliction of disease, deformity, decay, and yes, even flesh-eating bacteria for some.

Close up of bloody eye

In this article I will attempt to briefly trace the history, characteristics, and notable creators/examples of the body horror genre. So enjoy the read, cringing and grimacing through the fingers half covering your eyes. This genre is not for the squeamish.

[Side note: as in all horror genres, there is overlap between body horror and other spaces – in this case areas like eco horror, slashers, surrealist horror, psychological horror, cosmic horror, and more]

What is Body Horror?

In its most basic definition, body horror is horror and trauma that is visited specifically on the human body.

Nailed it.

Need more? Examples of these bodily violations usually include some form of dismembering, destruction, distortion, transformation, mutilation, infection, and so on. These acts are typically graphic in nature and meant to elicit powerful reactions from viewers and readers, though there are instances where the horror is quieter (and still somehow just as effective). Monstrous mutations, debilitating diseases, invasive aliens, alarming technology, and anatomical abuse are all par for the course when it comes to body horror. 

So body horror is visceral, but it’s also emotional. The fear of aging and our body decaying, of losing a limb or an organ, and of breaking down due to some invasive disease are all very haunting prospects. It’s a deeper level of fear because it involves some sort of degeneration and devastating change to who we are and how we identify. Horror is also ripe for works that deal with social or political themes and metaphors, and the body horror genre is certainly no exception. 

Werewolf transformation in An American Werewolf in London movie

Ostensibly, body horror has existed in some form or fashion for as long as humans have had bodies. The term itself appears to have originated in Phillip Brophy’s 1983 article “Horrality: The Textuality of the Contemporary Horror Film” – in which he cites specific examples like the marble slab scene from Deep Red (1976), the chestburster scene from Alien (1979), the numerous transformations in An American Werewolf in London (1981), and the shape-shifting, replicating horror of The Thing (1982). But the genre has roots that stretch back further than the 70s and 80s, reaching back into the Gothic tradition and even Mary Shelley’s seminal novel Frankenstein (also a landmark for kick-starting the sci-fi horror genre). 

But since this is supposed to be a brief look, we’re going to skip a large chunk of time and land closer to home. The modern era of body horror began in the 1950s, so we’re going to start there and move forward, looking at prominent examples in film and literature. 

Body Horror Films

Our current conception of body horror got its start back in the 50s with films like The Blob (1958) and The Fly (1958), and then skyrocketed from there. The 1960s saw films like Rosemary’s Baby (1968), and the 1970s had movies like Erasehead (1977) and the remake of Invasions of the Body Snatchers (1978).

Then came the 80s, which was truly a golden age for body horror. That decade produced some of the best films from giants in the field like David Cronenberg (Scanners and Videodrome), John Carpenter (The Thing), Stuart Gordon (The Re-Animator and From Beyond), Brian Yuznu (Society), and Clive Barker (Hellraiser). The 1980s also saw a rise in Asian body horror with such offerings as Akira (1988) and Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989). Both involve humans melding with machines in increasingly gruesome and disturbing ways.

Videodrome movie cover
Rabid movie cover
The Fly Body Horror movie cover

It’s impossible to talk about this genre without going into more detail on the works of visionary director David Cronenberg. The most famous example is probably his version of The Fly (1986), where a misfortuned man has his cellular structure fused to that of a housefly. The transformation is a painful one, as he slowly becomes more insect than human, and it’s made even more so by the loved ones who have to bear witness. If you’re wanting more concrete examples of body horror, look no further than the genetically engineered parasites of Shivers (1975), the experimental surgery gone wrong of Rabid (1977), or the tech-inserted-in-body-orifices of eXistenZ (1999).

Though the 1980s were spectacular, the next several decades each had their own highlights in the genre. Woven into the 2000s was a surge of “torture porn” films like Saw (2004) and The Human Centipede (2009), but also other – and arguably better – examples of body horror like Slither (2006) and Teeth (2007). Some particularly good flicks from the 2010s include American Mary (2012), Under the Skin (2013), Tusk (2014), The Void (2016), and The Beach House (2019). And if Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor is any indication, then the 2020s have exciting things in store for the genre!

Body Horror in Other Mediums

There is no lack of examples for body horror in other mediums as well, such as literature, comics, TV, and video games.

Pinhead from Hellraiser Body Horror Film

When it comes to literature, someone like Clive Barker is an easy pick. Beyond just The Hellbound Heart (1986), body horror also shows up in a lot of his short stories, such as “In the Hills, the Cities” or “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament”. Other literary giants sure to have dipped their toes into the genre are Edgar Allen Poe, Stephen King, Richard Mattheson, and Robert Bloch. But there are plenty of other fantastic authors with titles to make you feel queasy, from Nick Cutter (The Troop), Jeremy Robert Johnson (Skullcrack City), and Kathe Koja (The Cipher) all the way over to the extreme horror side with authors like Edward Lee, Wrath James White, Ryan Harding, and Jack Ketchum. A personal favorite is Scott Smith’s 2008 novel The Ruins, in which a group of vacationers are graphically tortured and invaded by a sentient plant.

And just to give you more examples, here’s a woefully inexhaustive list from a number of indie/small press releases: Greg Sisco’s In Nightmares We’re Alone (2015), Jonathan Winn’s Eidolon Avenue (2016), Gwendolyn Kiste’s The Rust Maidens (2018), Eric LaRocca’s Starving Ghosts in Every Thread (2020) and his later work Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke (2021), Scott Cole’s Crazytimes (2020), Hailey Piper’s Unfortunate Elements of My Anatomy (2021), and Eve Harm’s Transmuted (2021).

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric LaRocca cover
Transmuted by Eve Harms cover
Crazytimes by Scott Cole cover

When I think of body horror in comics my mind immediately goes to writer Zac Thompson, known for such excellent offerings as 2019’s Come Into Me (co-written with Lonnie Nadler), Lonely Receiver (2021), and I Breathed a Body (2021). Other exemplary choices would be Charles Burns’s Black Hole (1995), Justin Jordan’s Spread series (2015-2018), numerous instances in the current run of The Immortal Hulk (2018-present), Jeff Lemire’s run of Animal Man (2019), Emily Carroll’s When I Arrived at the Castle (2019), Carmen Maria Machado’s The Low, Low Woods (2020), and basically any iteration of Swamp Thing.

Anime has an extensive output of body horror, with examples like Parasyte, Ghost in the Shell, Attack on Titan, and Dorohedoro. In the world of manga, writer and artist Junji Ito dominates the scene. Best known for his spiral-obsessed anthology Uzumaki (1988-89), Ito’s work is shockingly gruesome in it’s originality and creativity, and it ranges from the quietly unsettling to the outright grotesque. But other manga’s definitely worth checking out include Kentaro Miura’s Berserk and anything by Kazuo Umezu, as well as the manga versions of previously mentioned titles like Attack on Titan and Parasyte

Spiral man from Junji Ito's Uzumaki manga

For video games, the series Dead Space is the first property that comes to mind, where all kinds of nightmarish mutations and body horror oddities await engineer Isaac Claarke in outer space. Other contenders would include various entries in the Resident Evil series, the Parasite Eve series, aspects of the BioShock series, and several of the games from Frictional Studios like Amnesia and Soma

What’s Next?

The beauty and tragedy of mankind is that we will continue to live out our existence in these meat suits we call bodies, at least until the zombie apocalypse or the robot uprising. These bodies will continue to hurt, age, decay, and generally betray us in surprising ways. Diseases and infections will continue to appear and attack our vital systems (too soon?). Scientists and extremists alike will continue to search for new ways to improve the body, thereby altering and transmuting it into something unlike its natural state. What this morbid but factually correct information means then is that there will always be a place for the visceral and emotional fears of body horror in the popular consciousness. 

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Horror Mystery and Lore Lifestyle

History of the Ouija Board: From the Civil War to The Exorcist

Ouija board
Photo by Josh Olalde

Horror Culture

Terrifying hands coming over a hill
Photo by Daniel Jensen

Most of popular horror culture will convince the easily misled that talking boards, specifically Ouija boards, are tools of evil. Movies like The Exorcist (1973) and Witchboard (1986) have painted a fairly devious portrait of talking boards, which previously held a sociable reputation. Prior to its debut in such classic horror movies, it was regarded as a game that could be played whilst on a date with a lady companion as an excuse to touch hands, in an era where it was otherwise forbidden for courting couples to touch. With much of the history of the Ouija board still unknown, due to a he-said-she-said origin of who the creator of the official board really was, what is known is quite a bit more vanilla that what might be expected.

Horrifying History of the Ouija Board

There are so many different theories of when they came to be such a popular object, one of the most well-regarded of which is that the Ouija board made a huge splash in the market directly following the Civil War. There was a large movement of spiritualism, with so many lives having been lost there were a lot of unmarked graves and soldiers who merely never returned home. Their loved ones wanted a way to get the answers they so desperately desired, even if it was just to know once and for all that their soldier was not coming home to them.

There really is no tangible proof of when the first talking board was created or for what purpose it was ultimately created, so it continues to be a tool that is shrouded in mystery. Still, with all of the information that is available today about the innocent origins of the Ouija board, there are more convinced of its sordid nature than those who believe it to be a neutral tool. Those involved in occult practices, who either consider themselves mediums or spiritual readers enjoy using talking boards to either communicate with spirits of passed loved ones or to channel their own, often regarded as supernatural, gifts. When things are misunderstood, there is typically a sense of mistrust that follows along, skepticism is a normal reaction to things that defy logic and avoidance is an understandable reaction to things that create a sense of dread.

So—with all of that in mind, what is it about Ouija boards that continues to scare the uninformed into rebuking those who use them? Likely it’s the images that are conjured from the horror movies we enjoy so much; the idea of demonic possession and evil spirits can scare even the most skeptical mind into uncertainty when all of the lights are out.

Horror movies that have inspired our fear of Ouija boards:

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Featured Lifestyle

Horror Art Fundraiser for Social Justice

NO BARS BUT DIVE BARS // ART AUCTION FUNDRAISER50

Craft Fair Ganes is auctioning every piece of Ryan’s original artwork they’ve got left. 100% of the money goes to Denton Bail Fund & North Texas Mutual Aid. ++ AUCTION ENDS: Mon. JUNE 8, 2020 @ 11:59PM READ THIS FIRST: – To bid on a drawing, comment your bid amount on its photo (NOT the album thread) – DO: Keep in mind while bidding that this is a fundraiser for an important cause. – DON’T: Comment on photos if you’re not bidding. – If someone outbids you, feel free to bid again! – When the auction ends, the highest bidder on each photo will get that drawing. We will message each winner to get shipping info. – CW: Some drawings contain depictions of violence. – USA BUYERS: SHIPS FREE – OVERSEAS BUYERS: $15 flat shipping (no matter how many drawings you win) – PAYPAL/VENMO ONLY – PAYMENT MUST BE RECEIVED BY WEDS. JUNE 10, 2020 (If it’s not, we’ll move on to the second place bidder.) – NO LOCAL PICK-UPS – SOLIDARITY // MUTUAL AID // CHAOTIC GOOD FUNDS RAISED WILL BE DIVIDED EQUALLY BETWEEN: Denton Bail Fund: t.ly/D05T North Texas Mutual Aid: t.ly/Pm6f

Auction Link

https://www.facebook.com/pg/craftfairgames/photos/tab=album&album_id=2915330671911871&__tn__=-UC-R

Sample of Art From The Gallery

Craft Fair Games Art Gallery
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Featured Lifestyle

Horror Bound – Original Horror and Reviews

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Tell us a bit about yourself and Horror Bound started?

My name is Charlotte, I started Horror Bound 8 years ago as a little blog for me to talk about horror movies because I didn’t have anyone in my life who liked them. Over the years it got bigger and I found my vision for it. I bought the domain and set up a proper website, hired my team of writers and since then we’ve been writing and posting daily. Horror Bound is all about the positivity in horror. It can be a pretty negative space with lots of clickbait titles and scathing reviews. We’re fighting against that – we only review things we love. There are no negative reviews on our site. We also wanted to create a space for indie horror authors to have their books spotlighted. A lot of my writers are also authors so we created the “frightful fiction” section where we share short stories in the horror fiction world. We cover anything from books to movies to video games to podcasts and real-life horror like haunted places and true crime. It’s a horror fan site for horror fans.

Give us some recommendations for our next horror view or read:


My favorite horror movies are:
Saw
Ginger Snaps
Scream
Misery
The Craft
Cult of Chucky
Drag Me To Hell

My favorite horror books are:
N0S4A2 – Joe Hill
Duma Key – Stephen King
The Luminous Dead – Caitlin Starling
We Sold Our Souls – Grady Hendrix
The Ruins – Scott Smith
The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes 
My Sister the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite 

Where can we find you and your site?
Horrorbound.net
https://twitter.com/horrorboundblog
https://www.instagram.com/horrorboundblog/
https://letterboxd.com/horrorbound/
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4850922-sidney-prescott

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Featured Lifestyle

Horror Hub Marketplace Releases 4 Limited Edition Masks in Collaborations with Zagone Studios

Horror Hub Marketplace is the biggest horror marketplace on the planet with vendors ranging from custom halloween masks to original small run horror collectibles, horror books, oddities, haunt supplies, and even horror coffee. Zagone Studios creates Halloween Masks and Costumes. Family owned and managed for over 40 years Zagone Masks and Costumes continues to design, innovate and manufacture right here in the U.S.A. Featuring the sculpts of Bill Ystrom (known as BY B.Y.) Zagone Studios has developed and originated multi lines of super soft latex, ultra-comfortable head sock and moving mouth harness masks. Their masks are great fitting while maintaining true to life, beautiful and intricate sculpts.  

Each of the 4 masks are available exclusively on horrorhubmarketplace.com.

Balthazar Demon Mask

Balthazar halloween mask

Balthazar is a vain and manipulative demon with a predilection for ugly ties. He enjoys bottled water, looking like a smug, impeccable bastard, and toying with people.The Balthazar Demon mask is an over the head mask with fur hair and huge horns. Perfect for theater, Halloween or haunted houses. It’s dark and it’s terrifying 

Mohawk Skull Mask

Skeleton Mask with moveable mouth

Moving mouth mask! What is more terrifying than a skull mask? One that has a moveable mouth. The sock mask design with the latex on top of the sock allows the wearer the capacity to make the mask move simply by making facial expressions. The sock acts as the buffer for the actor’s skin to the latex adding to the comfort. Very comfortable to wear with excellent visibility.

Pink Alien Mask

This mask utilizes a foam insert to help keep the wearer comfortable and prevent the mask from shifting on the wearer’s head. The plastic eyes snap fit into the eye sockets. Hand poured, painted and assembled in the US.

The Halloween mask can be used comfortably and safely for a Trick or Treating costume, actor mask in theater, tv shows & movies, horror costume, haunted house masks, cosplay, advertising model, window display and costuming prop.

This pink alien variation is a limited run HorrorHub brand exclusive.

Pink Alien Mask

Dread Head Shrunken Head

Hang this shrunken head to keep the evil spirits from clogging up your mojo. This ghastly decoration is meant for indoor use, but can be placed outside to add creepy fun to your haunted house, graveyard scene, or Halloween home decor.

shrunken head halloween prop