From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
"Death to Videodrome! Long live the new flesh!" --Videodrome
"Are you eatin' it...or is it eatin' you?" --The Stuff
"The Thing (1982) took to its logical limit the Body-horror that was initiated in Alien (1979) with that infamous scene where the alien bursts out of a crew member's stomach." -- "Horrality: The Textuality of the Contemporary Horror Film" (1983) by Philip Brophy
Body horror, biological horror, organic horror or venereal horror is horror fiction in which the horror is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body.
The term is applied to works of horror fiction in which the horror is principally derived from a sense of physical "wrongness" with the body. Body horror mainly focuses upon radical physical transformations, bodily degeneration, mutant births, and the invasion/violation of the body by a disease or foreign organisms. Works of body horror integrate the psychological horror of one's body undergoing disturbing and irreversible changes with grotesque and shocking imagery. Frequently body horror is allegorical. The Fly has been said to have been a metaphor for debilitating disease and the ravages of old age upon the mind and body. Rosemary's Baby certainly draws from fears of rape and birth defects.
In horror literature, body horror can be found in many of the works of Franz Kafka (Metamorphosis) Clive Barker, William S Burroughs and Roland Topor (Joko's Anniversary). Comic books and graphic novels are no strangers to body horror either, with one of the best examples being Black Hole. In the horror films, David Cronenberg is largely attributed as introducing the concept to mainstream audiences with films in the 1970s such as Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977) and The Brood (1979). Other seminal examples of body horror movies include John Carpenter's The Thing, several films of Shinya Tsukamoto including Tetsuo: The Iron Man, and the movie Alien.
The animated television series Æon Flux by Peter Chung frequently makes use of body horror elements as plot devices, particularly amputation and disease. Amputation, body modification and loss of identity are key elements in the semi-cybernetic Borg from various Star Trek franchises.
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers and its remakes (1956, 1978, 1993)
- Shivers (1975)
- Eraserhead (1977)
- Alien (1979)
- Altered States (1980)
- The Brood (1979)
- Scanners and its sequels (1981)
- The Thing (1982)
- Re-Animator (1985)
- The Fly (1986)
- Tetsuo: The Iron Man and its sequels (1989)
- Taxidermia (2006)
- District 9 (2009)
- Black Swan (film), 2010 psychological thriller directed by Darren Aronofsky
- Gräns (2018) by
- The Lobster
- Raw by Julia Ducournau
In the visual arts
The term "body horror" was first used by Philip Brophy in his 1983 article "Horrality: The Textuality of the Contemporary Horror Film."
- Grotesque body
- Horticultural horror
- Morphological freedom
- The new flesh
- Sexual horror
- The Biology of Horror (2002) Jack Morgan
- "Horror and the Monstrous Feminine: An Imaginary Abjection" (1986), an essay by Barbara Creed