Back with another Top 10! Body horror is an interesting sub-genre, what makes our skin crawl? Is it something inside you that can’t be stopped? Something that changes or infects you? No matter what the catalyst, the result is the same. Death. Or at least you hope it would be! Being changed into a wretched and painful thing, disgusted by your own existence, death would be a release.
What movie encapsulates this feeling of dread and helplessness? I tried to stay away from torture films, I’m saving those for another list, although there is a fair bit of mutilation found here. Without further ado, my top 10 list of body horror movies!
10. The Ruins (2008)
As usual, the book is better than the movie. That’s not to take anything away from it though. I mean any plant that can get under your skin like that, man that’s gross. Watching the group break down as they’re infected and trapped. The best had to be the plant. It had a character all it’s own, and I loved it! Not to spoil too much, but the phone ringing was just excellent!
9. The Human Centipede 2 (2011)
Yep, the sequel. The first one was well done, and the Dieter Laser was brilliant in it. The grotesque factor was truly ratcheted up in the sequel though. Building on the medical procedures of the first one, a disturbed parking lot attendant attempts the procedures. Not necessarily the medical part of things though. Much more visceral than the first, there’s just a dirty feel to the whole thing. Although watching Laurence R, Harvey heft that crowbar was probably the most fun of the whole thing!
8. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Tetsuo is weird man. The filmmakers did a brilliant job at making it weird though! The choices they made for the music and sound, the cinematography and effects, every piece of the film comes together in this bizarre concert of surrealism. Tetsuo is undoubtedly a rite of passage. Follow the businessman as his body undergoes a horrific metamorphosis. It’s so metal.
7. Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
Arguably considered the best in the series, Hellbound does more than just torture and maim. Skinwearing, cenobite creation, a tour of Hell. What’s not to love? Hellbound picks right up from the first Hellraiser with Kristy being carted off to a mental institution. The staff there are ones you might see in an expose on 20/20. Not the greatest group to get you healthy. Throw in the Puzzle Box to this group and you have a nasty concoction.
6. The Thing (1982)
The Thing is a flat out masterpiece. So, a crew at a research station in Antarctica is under attack by an alien force that can imitate other lifeforms. How do you sort out who’s who? How do you beat it? How do you stop it from taking over the world? There’s plenty of drama and action to be had starting with this premise! The only reason it’s not higher on the list is that it’s victims are assimilated and imitated, not necessarily a degeneration of the body. The Blob assimilated bodies too, but I wouldn’t consider that true body horror.
5. Society (1989)
What if high society really was different from the rest of us? Instead of metaphorically feeding off the underclass, it’s much more literal in Society! There’s all kinds of body parts in wrong places and in twisted forms. That’s the best part, yeah there’s the weird orgy feed, but it’s the subtleness of bodies not facing the right way or twisted slightly wrong that adds to the ambience of the whole thing.
4. Contracted (2013)
A slow transformation of an agonizing disease. It’s tense, it’s gross, but what do you expect from a film about getting STD’s from a cadaver? It’s really a well done film, slow at times, but the ending makes it all worthwhile. I won’t give away what it kick starts, but certain apocalypses have to start somewhere. The maggots, oh dear god the maggots. Watch it, you’ll see what I mean.
3. Alien (1979)
It’s Alien, come on guys! If you haven’t watched this yet I feel bad for you. The first one really plays up the body horror aspect of the facehuggers. Ther rest focus more on the Xenomorphs, which are scary enough, but laying eggs in a human body via a throat interaction by a loveable facehugger? Man that is just nasty. Nearly 40 years on and this movie still stands as a standard for movie making.
2. Victim (2010)
This is probably one of the lesser known films on the list, but one of the most powerful in concept. Yeah the acting is a bit stiff at times, but honestly how many actors are going to sign on for something like this? At first it appears to be a torture film, but as the story progresses there’s a purpose behind the procedures. At its heart it’s a revenge film, but good lord. If a forced sex change doesn’t strike you as body horror, you scare me.
1. Cabin Fever (2002)
This really encapsulates everything I see as a body horror film. Strange and unexpected diseases mutating and destroying the body in the most agonizing of ways. Oh and it’s a communicable disease. No one is safe. Watching each character and how they handle the situation is really fascinating. They have unique personalities and stick to them through the crisis. Though they really should have put that sign up for Dennis much sooner!
So there’s the list. As far as body horror goes this is how I would break it down. Still, it’s a really difficult challenge to put them in any kind of order. Of course there’s loads and loads of films that could be on this list, but for one reason or another just didn’t quite make the cut for me. Honorable mentions go to Teeth (2007), Tusk (2014) and Galaxy of Terror (1981).
How about all of you? What did I miss? What’s your favorites?
Thanks for reading!
Editor in Chief, SQ Horror Magazine