Created By: Scorpion451 on April 15, 2014 Last Edited By: Scorpion451 on July 11, 2014
Troped

Transformation Horror

Transformning or mutating can be horrifying to both the transformee and those around them.

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Looking for hats at this point, and/or suggestions on what needs work to make it hat worthy!

Body Horror has been upgraded to a sub-supertrope of Evil Is Visceral covering "any form of Horror or Squickiness involving body parts, parasitism, disfigurement, mutation, or unsettling bodily configuration, not induced by immediate violence.", following a trope repair shop discussion.

In the process it was realized that there is not a trope for "transformation played for Body Horror", and one was needed, so here we are:

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Transformation Horror is a subtrope of Body Horror involving graphic and unsettling TransformationSequences or continuous random mutation.

This can happen in the process of both Involuntary and Voluntary Shape Shifting, and the final form, if there is one, doesn't have to be horrific- but the process of the transformation is unpleasant to experience and/or to witness. It can also be caused by, and is usually a required part of, a Lovecraftian Superpower in some form or fashion, and is sometimes a Power-Upgrading Deformation.

There are several standard forms of Transformation Horror:

There are several layers of reasons why people find this trope disturbing. The most obvious is that transformation can be very Squicky- even in the case of one human becoming another human, facial features and major bone structures have to distort and rearrange. In more extreme cases such as Mutation Horror or Terminal Mutation, it invokes our fears of disease and decay; in a sense, this trope is why we find diseases like cancer, rabies, leprosy, and the Bubonic plaguenote  exceptionally terrifying. This trope also metaphorically reflects the fears of slowly loosing ones own identity or worse, having a loved one turn against you.

Not all transformations are necessarily horrific; this trope can be averted in any number of ways. Lighter and Softer universes tend to have relatively tame transformations leaving any disturbing elements to the imagination, while in Darker and Edgier universes even Voluntary Transformations tend be disturbing for everyone involved, and depicted in all their traumatic glory. The medium can have a huge bearing as well- distortions that would be Nausea and/or Nightmare Fuel in live action can be fairly innocuous in a cartoon. The causes and circumstances of the transformation can also make a difference: a character slow turning to stone can be fairly mild visually, but played for Psychological Horror; an otherwise disturbing transformation can be mitigated when its the result of a character Cursed with Awesome activating their Superpowered Evil Side. An excellent example of how this trope can be intentionally both invoked and averted is the Transformation Comic genera, with various comics playing this trope straight, averting it to invoke Rule36, or even alternating between the two.

Compare Clone by Conversion, Viral Transformation, Painful Transformation, Slow Transformation, Transformation Sequence, Transformation of the Possessed, and Transformation at the Speed of Plot which often overlap.

Compare and Contrast Baleful Polymorph, which sometimes overlaps with Transformation Horror. The distinction is that the horror of a Baleful Polymorph has become something else against their will, while Transformation Horror is about someone becoming something else in a disturbing way.

Contrast Nothing Is Scarier and Fridge Horror for transformations that aren't actually shown/described, and Teleporter Accident for similar things happening instantaneously. Bit-by-Bit Transformation can be used both to subvert this trope by spacing out the squick into tolerable doses, and to exaggerate it by combining Horrifying Metamorphosis and Mix And Match Mutation.


Examples

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Naruto, when Naruto went into 4-tails mode, especially when his skin peels off.

    Film 
  • An American Werewolf in London. Almost single-pawedly popularised this tropes connection to werewolves
  • In District9, Wikus slowly transforms into a prawn.
  • The Howling. Another particularly graphic example werewolf transformation, with the squick factor turned Up to Eleven thanks to effects artist Rob Bottin. His next gig would be The Thing (1982), widely considered a crowning achievement in body horror effects.
  • The Matrix any human possessed by an Agent transforms into that Agent's appearance in a silly-putty style rearrangement of anatomy. Taken Up to Eleven by Agent Smith's Clone by Conversion ability in the later films, as the process takes place much more slowly and the victim appears to be fully aware of the fact that they are being overwritten by the Agent as it happens.

    Literature 
  • Invoked and inverted in Animal Farm: the other animals are horrified to watch the pigs, who were satirical allegories of communist dictators, gradually become indistinguishable from the humans they overthrew.
  • Animorphs. Many, many examples throughout the series, played straight to the point of Lampshade Hanging as a Black Humor Running Gag. Shining examples include:
    • Fish- You loose all your limbs and frequently spend a few moments either underwater with lungs or out of it with gills- and on at least one occasion a character spent several seconds with neither.
    • The undiluted Transformation Horror of insect morphs. One has to become a Giant Insect/Human hybrid for the duration of changing from a human to an insect.(See The Fly if it hasn't hit you why that's horrifying yet.). Also, note that insects don't have eyelids, and frequently do have panoramic vision, so you have to watch it happen.
  • In Black Bullet, whenever some poor sap transforms into a Gastrea. Their bodies bulges unnaturally as they transform.
  • H.P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth. The hybrids become more and more like their Humanoid Abomination relatives as they age.
  • Invoked in the Discworld novels: Angua absolutely forbids anyone to watch her while she is transforming from human to werewolf and vice-versa. Especially her lover Carrot, on the grounds that what he may see could put him off her for life. One man who did watch ran away, and went to sea to put the terrible sight behind him.
  • Thinner by Stephen King- An obese lawyer begins loosing weight after hitting a gypsy's daughter with his car. The friends who help him cover it up develop their own body issues.

    Video Games 
  • Traumatic Transformation happens when you put on the Deku, Goron, Zora, or Fierce Deity masks in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Thank goodness it's possible to skip them after you see it for the first time.
  • The Dead Space franchise is largely built around this trope: all of the Nightmare Fuel that's trying to kill you is the result of a mutagenic plague commandeering recently dead bodies for arts and crafts projects. The kicker is that we learn in Dead Space 2 and 3 that you just have to be mostly dead.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of Danny Phantom has the main character trying to duplicate himself, only to horribly, horribly mutate himself: Little heads on individual fingers, mouths for eyes, eyeballs sticking out and so forth. On the other hand, it was Played for Laughs.
  • Men in Black: Alpha collects useful anatomy and additional limbs from alien species as he descends farther and farther into evil and madness. By his last appearance, he's pretty grotesque, and an excellent example of Mix and Match mutation.
  • Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Poor Spider-Man underwent quite the Horrifying Metamorphsis into ManSpider several times in the "Neogenic Nightmare" arc, with each iteration being more severe than the last. Eventually developed into full blown Mutation Horror. Later on, the Vulture absorbed Spidey's youth and powers... and also his unstable mutating DNA, meaning he sporadically changed fully or partly into the same creature.
  • The Spectacular Spider Man has Connors' transformation into The Lizard, especially the part where instead of compressing slowly, his head partially implodes to form his new lizard head.
Community Feedback Replies: 28
  • April 15, 2014
    DAN004
    Transformation Trauma is already a name for this, but it's currently a redirect to Body Horror.

    Compare Painful Transformation

  • April 16, 2014
    xanderiskander
    From the western animation page on Body Horror. Feel free to mine more examples from there. We should probably remove them from that page too I guess, but I'm not sure if that's appropriate or not?

    Western Animation
    • One episode of Danny Phantom has the main character trying to duplicate himself, only to horribly, horribly mutate himself: Little heads on individual fingers, mouths for eyes, eyeballs sticking out and so forth. On the other hand, it was Played For Laughs.
    • Dexters Laboratory has a direct American Werewolf parody called "The Laughing" (a reference to the werewolf movie The Howling) where Dexter becomes a "were-clown" after being bitten by a pair of dentures belonging to a clown performing at Deedee's birthday.
    • Parodied in an episode of Futurama titled "The Honking", which had Bender turning into a psycho werecar in one scene. But after a while he kind of gets used to it and it begins to actually feel quite nice.
    • Gargoyles, "Metamorphosis". Elisa's younger brother gets transformed into a gargoyle-ish monster, and the only scientist who understood the process is killed. The episode ends with our cool veteran cop, Elisa, crying uncontrollably at the fate of her brother.
    • Spider Man The Animated Series:
      • Poor Spider Man underwent quite an unpleasant transformation into ManSpider in the "Neogenic Nightmare" arc. Later on, the Vulture absorbed Spidey's youth and powers... and also his unstable mutating DNA, meaning he sporadically changed fully or partly into the same creature.
      • To avoid the "violence" of sinking his fangs into peoples' necks like regular vampires do, the creators gave Morbius sucking lamprey-like mouths in the palm of each hand. His typical feeding habit was to slap his hands over someone's face and suck out the plasma through them. After getting hit with the neogenic recombinator for the second time he turns into a hulking bat thing.
    • The Spectacular Spider Man has Connors' transformation into The Lizard, especially the part where instead of compressing slowly, his head partially implodes to form his new lizard head.
  • April 16, 2014
    Scorpion451
    Nice! I was thinking hold off on actually deleting them from Body Horror until the subtrope goes live, but in the meantime we can figure out which ones need to be moved. Maybe if we flagged them with an editor comment, or collected them all in one area of the folders?

    Edit: Noticed that some of these are Baleful Polymorph or just plain Body Horror, moving them there. That one about The Lizard is a poster child for this trope though.
  • April 18, 2014
    DAN004
    Again, the proper name was Transformation Trauma.
  • April 18, 2014
    Scorpion451
    Rodger that, we can change the redirect once this trope goes live. One big argument for going with Transformation Horror or Mutation Horror as the formal title over that one is that is that Bloody Horror is also being created for the specific use of blood as body horror. It would be preferable to have the names of the subtropes fit a common theme, as they are explicitly related.
  • April 18, 2014
    Scorpion451
    Also Starting to think this might be a supertrope itself, since there are so many tropes that are essentially more specific one-offs and variants on the theme:
  • April 18, 2014
    Koveras
    I feel that Kafka's The Metamorphosis should be mentioned here somewhere.
  • April 18, 2014
    DAN004
    Would Clone By Conversion count here?
  • April 18, 2014
    KantonKage
    • In Black Bullet, whenever some poor sap transforms into a Gastrea. Their bodies bulges unnaturally as they transform.
    • In Naruto:
      • When Naruto went into 4-tails mode, especially when his skin peels off.
  • April 18, 2014
    Stratadrake
    @Koveras: Why?
  • April 19, 2014
    Arivne
    • Deleted unnecessary blank line(s).
    • Deleted Types I-V as per Type Labels Are Not Examples.
    • Added a space between the * and the first word of examples.
    • Added a line separating the Description and Examples sections.
    • Namespaced and italicized work names.
    • Changed dashes to periods.
    • Corrected spelling (acheivement).
    • Alphabetized the Examples section by media.
    • Corrected improper Example Indentation in the Spider Man The Animated Series example.
  • April 19, 2014
    Scorpion451
    @Arivne- I <3 ya'll WikiGnomes who fix my hamfisted WikiOgre work. ^_^ Never seen the Type Labels Are Not Examples one, can see where that could become an issue.

    @Koveras- agree with Stratadrake, definately more of a Baleful Polymorph

    @Kantonkage- nice ones, added!

    @Dan004- yep, glad you mentioned that one; any of the agent-possession transformations from the matrix come to mind, now that you've got me thinking of Agent Smith
  • April 25, 2014
    Scorpion451
    Just for the record, I'm perfectly fine with people editing on this one- not putting up for grabs per say, but if anyone has ideas to contribute or a better way to explain something, have at it. Just leave a note about what's been changed as a heads-up.
  • April 25, 2014
    rimpala
    Is this different from Body Horror? I thought Transformation Horror was Body Horror?
  • April 25, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Body Horror is now a supertrope to this, dude.
  • April 26, 2014
    Scorpion451
    @Rimpala- Yep, unanimous crowner off of a "misused" ticket in the repair shop decided that the way Body Horror was being used (as a supertrope covering horror involving bodies) was actually the better way to use it, and that several subtropes, like this one for Transformation & mutation body horror, should be created to cover the more important or common forms of body horror to avoid any future Signal To Noise Train Wrecks.

    There's also BloodyHorror which will be covering the more gooshy types of body horror, and other suggestions include one for monsters with horrifyingly twisted anatomy(something like Deformed Horror) and a possible rework of Flesh Golem and/or Body Of Bodies to give a generic trope to cover "spare parts monsters" made from whatever you have laying around the Mad Scientist Laboratory.
  • June 17, 2014
    xanderiskander
    YKTTW Bump. We need to get this finished up for Body Horror's Trope repair shop thread.
  • June 17, 2014
    DAN004
  • June 18, 2014
    TomWalpertac2
    This an example or not?
  • June 18, 2014
    Scorpion451
    No clue, never seen it.
  • June 19, 2014
    Bisected8
    Often the result of a Clone By Conversion.
  • July 1, 2014
    xanderiskander
    Anime & Manga
    • Spirited Away: Towards the beginning of the movie Chihiro's parents find a food area in an abandoned amusement park. As they keep eating and eating they transform more and more becoming less like humans and start to look more like like pigs. Chihiro becomes extremely scared seeing them slowly become like this, and tries to get help, but finds none in time. She ends up working in a bathhouse full of spirits to earn money to turn her parents back to normal.

    This second one might be a bit shaky on whether it counts or not as a "transformation". But you can tell it's meant to be horrifying when you read it. Maybe it would be an inversion?

    Literature
    • Animal Farm: The ending of the book involves the pigs, who were satirical allegories of communist dictators, having transformed to resemble humans. The moral of the ending is intended to scare the viewer by comparing humanity to the pigs by having them become like us.
  • July 1, 2014
    TomWalpertac2
    • Men In Black: Alpha acquires several different additional limbs as he descends into evil. By his last appearance, he's pretty grotesque.
  • July 2, 2014
    Snicka
    • In Film/District9, Wikus slowly transforms into a prawn.
  • July 2, 2014
    DAN004
  • July 2, 2014
    Scorpion451
    ^As related or as a type of transformation?

    ^^^^^Could have sworn that one was already listed in the related tropes...thanks!

    ^^^^First one definitely. I see where you're going with the second one; lets call it invoked, because thats clearly how the other animals perceive it, even if its a mild example otherwise.

    ^^^ Can't believe I didn't think of him! Alpha's of my all time favorite villains.

  • July 2, 2014
    DAN004
    ^ Related, since it is about being transformed against your will.
  • July 5, 2014
    AgProv
    On the Discworld, Angua absolutely forbids anyone watching her while she is transforming from human to werewolf and vice-versa. Especially her lover Carrot, on the grounds that what he may see could put him off her for life. One man who did watch ran away, a long way away, and went to sea to put the terrible sight behind him.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=9nie68dtde0ccay4kx53d0v3&trope=TransformationHorror