The horror genre is in trouble. Sure, it’s a genre that’s been suffering for some time now, but this year has been especially bad when you look at what has been released so far. With critical flops like Anabelle and Ouija still managing to do well at the box office, it can be pretty disheartening for a horror fan who just wants to see one good horror movie this year. Sadly, it seems like that’s not going to happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and see a movie about an ugly doll and a haunted board game.
When thinking about the most iconic horror films, your mind tends to trail back to the 1970s and 1980s. It was during these decades that the horror genre was at its most experimental, and offered some of the most disturbing and well written horror movies of all time. The films of that time tended to have one thing in common, and that was the horror of your own body rebelling against you. Body-horror is a sub-genre that got under the skin of viewers because of how disturbing it could possibly get. There was no annoying shaky cam or ghosts randomly slamming doors. No, the genre relied on the paranoia and the horror of your body becoming something completely alien to you. So, in an effort to showcase the best of the body-horror sub-genre, you can find several films below that you might enjoy.
“I admire its purity.”
Easily one of the scariest films ever made, Alien is a cinematic achievement that was able to prove that the stuff of nightmares was nothing compared to the alien creature that stalked the crew of the Nostromo. Directed by Ridley Scott, Alien played on every person’s fear of body horror, including rape, sex and pregnancy. The creature itself was a horrific parody of sex and childbirth. When the crew of the Nostromo landed on LV-426, they found something they didn’t really understand, and after making a list minute decision, they unknowingly brought that something back with them.
Alien is filled with so many great moments, but the dinner scene in particular is as horrific as it is iconic. John Hurt’s “birthing” of the creature left everyone in shock, and the horror didn’t stop there. The Alien was always hidden in shadow, and blended in perfectly with the black, rusted walls of the Nostromo. Every time the creature arrived, it violently killed anything in its wake. The film was also put a new spin on haunted house movies. Instead of a group of dimwitted people seemingly unable to get of the house, the crew of the Nostromo had nowhere to go other than the unlivable environment of space. They were effectively trapped at the mercy of the Alien. if you need to watch one horror movie tonight, make Alien be that one. If you’re unable to, you have my sympathies.
The Brood (1979)
“Thirty seconds after you’re born you have a past, and sixty seconds after that you begin to lie to yourself about it.”
Be prepared to see David Cronenberg’s name on this list for the next few films, because he’s considered by many to be one of the few directors to popularize the sub-genre of body horror throughout the 70s and 80s. The Brood, one of Cronenberg’s most beloved films, at first seems to be dealing with a strange pack of dwarf-children committing acts of violence and murders. If you think that’s strange, it’s quickly revealed that these “children” are the “psychoplasmic” offspring of deranged woman fighting for custody of her daughter with her estranged husband. Of all the films, this one is perhaps the most shocking and outright disgusting. Let’s just say the mother is very adamant about cleaning her children when she first births them.
“Long live the new flesh.”
Definitely the weirdest in the bunch, Cronenberg’s Videodrome offer splenty of body horror, but it also spends the majority of its time criticizing the current state of the television media. Set in Toronto during the early 1980s, the film follows Max Ren (James Woods), the owner of a small television station who pirates a strange broadcast signal that features videos of extreme violence, sex and torture. Instantly popular among viewers, Renn begins to delve deeper into the possible origins of the strange broadcast, and begins to experience violent hallucinations where is body horrifically transforms. Acting as a critique of media in our culture, Videodrome doesn’t shy away from the scares. The film is especially grim, and in the end it presents a disturbing take on consumerism and the effect that violence has on our culture. Consider it the thinking man’s horror movie.
The Thing (1982)
“I don’t know who to trust.”
The 1980s were the height of the Cold War, and John Carpenter’s The Thing reflected that. Taking place at an American research station in Antarctica, the inhabitants of the station encounter an alien organism that is able to transform and absorb any organic matter it touches, including the humans living at the station. The body horror in The Thing is something out of nightmares. The multiple appearances the creature takes on seem to be an amalgamation of internal organs, tentacles and teeth. It’s truly disgusting, and the film’s practical effects hold up to this day. Even though the film is well over thirty years old, the monster effects look better than almost any CGI effects shown in most horror movies today.
Other than The Thing’s horrific body horror, the film plays up the paranoia of not knowing who the creature is. Since the Thing is capable of absorbing any organic matter, anyone can be the monster. The creature itself isn’t stupid either. It wants to survive, and it works hard to manipulate anyone around it to ensure its survival. Much like Alien, the cast of characters all have unique and relatable personalities. Kurt Russell’s MacReady is as flawed as any person can be, and he’s forced into a leadership position that tests his physical and psychological limits.
The Fly (1989)
“The dream is over, and the insect is awake.”
Probably the most tragic in tone, Cronenberg’s The Fly is typically the first film people tend to think of when discussing body horror. The film follows Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum), a brilliant scientist who has developed a teleportation device, and his growing romantic relationship with Veronica Quaife (Geena Davis). In a moment of brief drunkenness, Brundle uses his teleportation machine to teleport himself to prove that his device can transport living subjects. Although it appears the experiment is successful, he unknowingly teleports with a common housefly. Over a period of months, his body slowly and painfully transforms into something monstrous. An amalgamation of human and fly, “Brundlefly” searches for a cure for his affliction while trying to maintain his quickly slipping sanity. Other than the amazing score, special effects and make-up, the film’s greatest accomplishment is how damn likeable Goldblum is in the movie. Combined with the obvious chemistry he has with Davis, his performance conveys all the pain and misery he’s clearly going through.
What about you reader? Any body-horror films that you think deserve to be on this list? Let us know in the comments below!