Body horror cinema has created many classic films that still shock audiences to this day. The concept of body horror refers to a graphic destruction or transformation of the characters within the film. There are several ways to expand on this idea within cinema, such as viral pandemics, science fiction, or supernatural forces. In John Carpenter’s The Thing, we watched as an alien life-form overtook its characters, turning them into grotesque monsters. At the same time, we were given some of the best special effects ever in cinema. The 1980s was a special time for the genre, and audiences were given many classic body horror films.
When it comes to the body horror films, it is a time for special effects and makeup artists to shine. Some of the best films of the genre are remembered for their disgusting and brilliant practical effects. Although CGI has been used in the genre, practical effects give a realistic touch that is unmatchable. Some filmmakers like David Cronenberg have made careers centered around body horror films. Cronenberg, in fact, produced classic films such as The Fly that took the genre to new levels. The trailer for his upcoming film, Crimes of the Future, has recently been released and fans are thrilled to see him return to the body horror genre. Until then, let’s go all the way back to the 1980s and dive into the best body horror films of the decade.
8 The Blob
The 1988 film, The Blob, was a remake of the 1958 film of the same name. The film follows a slimy alien substance that crash lands on Earth and begins to devour humans. There are several memorable scenes throughout the film, including the Blob pulling a character through a sink drain. The pink, deadly substance takes many victims throughout the film, and there are fantastic special effects from beginning to end.
Clive Barker’s Hellraiser tells the story of interdimensional beings called the Cenobites who are brought to Earth through a supernatural puzzle. One of the film’s characters, Frank, is mutilated by the Cenobites and must be given body parts from others to make him whole again. Throughout the film, there are gory and terrifying practical effects, as well as terrifying villains, making it a classic film of the body horror genre. Currently, a remake is in the works with Sense8 actress Jamie Clayton set to star.
The 1985 film, Re-Animator, follows a medical student who discovers how to “re-animate” dead bodies. It’s a classic story of the mad scientist who’s obsessed with bringing the dead back to life. The make-up and special effects are top-notch in the film, and we are given terrifying scenes featuring severed heads and crazy zombie-like humans. Re-Animator has a good blend of comedy and horror, making it an entertaining film from beginning to end.
Possession brings the body horror genre to a story of a failing relationship. After a couple, played by Isablle Adjani and Sam Neil, decide to end their marriage, they enter a world of blood and chaos. The film gets progressively dark and features memorable scenes of violence, self-mutilation, and a terrifying monster. At the same time, it is a film about a deteriorating relationship at its core, giving the plot a twist not seen in a lot of body horror films.
Society is an 1989 cult classic that features one of the most bizarre body horror stories of all time. The film follows a wealthy teenager who discovers that his parents are in a cult with disturbing motives. The climax of the film showcases memorable special effects with the cult members melting into one another, as well as other disturbing body horror scenes. At the same time, it is a film that focuses on wealth, greed, and the class-structure of society.
3 The Fly
David Cronenberg’s The Fly was a remake of the 1958 film of the same name, featuring far better special effects. The classic story follows scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) who is determined to unlock the secrets of teleportation. During a failed experiment, Brundle’s DNA fuses with a housefly, and he slowly begins to turn into a human-fly monster. His transformation is grotesque and the climax of the film, showing his final transformation, will surely give you nightmares. Cronenberg proved himself as a master of the body horror genre with this classic film.
David Cronenberg’s Videodrome has become a cult classic and is still talked about today. The story follows Max Renn (James Woods), a TV station programmer who discovers a terrifying broadcast known as Videodrome. The disturbing content begins to take over his life as well as his body. It is a fascinating story that tackles society’s obsession with media and delivers several memorable practical effects.
1 The Thing
John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic science fiction story about an alien life-form that begins using humans as hosts. At the same time, the alien turns them into horrific monsters, giving us some of the greatest practical effects of all time. The imagery is surreal and grotesque and depicts the best of the best when it comes to body horror. The story also focuses on the dread of isolation while being in such a terrifying circumstance. The ensemble cast includes Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, TK Carter, and more.
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