Well, as I continue to make my obnoxiously alliterated horror lists, I stretch my mind to figure out what sub-genre to cover next. And then I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and it hits me – body horror!
From May to Sorry to Bother You, we certainly have time for horror of the bodily affliction on this blog, but I haven’t spent a proper article deep-diving into it. There’s something about the specifically twisted nastiness of watching a body warped beyond recognition that really works for me when it’s done right – so let’s talk about those times that it was. And those times that I wished it hadn’t been.
I’m not the first person to tell you how great Raw is. But fuck, if you haven’t seen it by now, then you need to hear it again. The French modern classic follows a young teenager from a family of vegetarians who faces an insatiable new hunger after she takes her first bite of meat at college – a coming-of-age story, a tale of sexuality, of family, of genetic inheritance versus choice, Raw is about forty things in one and it does all of them brilliantly. Writer-director Julia Ducournau has such a distinct and unique vision of female puberty and sexuality, and this raw (heh), violent monster-piece is one of the most memorable and striking modern examples of the genre.
2. Tetsuo: The Iron Man
For a long time, I had collated this film inside my head with The Iron Giant, and was constantly baffled when that icon of heart-shattering children’s cinema was constantly described as one of the great body horror movies of all time. And then, I actually watched it, and…it’s not The Iron Giant, guys. It’s…really not.
Written, produced, directed, and pretty much everything-ed else by the brilliant Shinya Tsukamoto, it’s a seventy-minute nightmare of metal fetishism and the industrial consumption of the entire world at large. Dazzling special effects for the budget and time matched with a deliberately unreal tone that never lets you put your feet on the ground make for this totally unique and rightly cultified experience. You’ve just got to go through it yourselves, to be honest. And don’t make the same mistake I did and stick it on for some kids and then leave the room. It’s for sure not The Iron Giant.
Now, I’ve talked about this film briefly before, when discussing how much I love the unusually-cast Shea Whigham as a career criminal, but I would be remiss not to mention how brilliant Splinter is as a piece of modern body horror. A locked-room horror, taking place almost entirely inside an abandoned gas station, it’s a simple premise: an infection that takes control of the body via splintering inserts, and turns the sufferers into borderline-unstoppable killing machines. The body horror is unsettling enough, but the tight, propulsive momentum picks you up from minute one and doesn’t let you down till the credits start to roll.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Bloody Disgusting)