"Arthur, my mustache is touching my brain..."
Welcome to the lovely land of Body Horror. Simply put, this is any form of Horror
or Squickiness involving body parts, parasitism, disfigurement, mutation, or unsettling bodily configuration, not induced by immediate violence.
For example: Being shot in the chest and having your organs exposed is Bloody Horror
, not body horror. Turning into a monster is a Baleful Polymorph
, but still not a body horror. Having your chest tear open of its own free will, exposing your organs as your ribcage is repurposed as a gaping maw full of boney teeth? That
is Body horror.
This trope is difficult to pin down, as it has a wide range of potential applications and invocations, but what they all hinge upon is the Primal Fear
of the Uncanny Valley
, deformity, parasites, contamination, the ravages of disease, and the aftermath of bodily injury. The mind knows on a deep instinctive level that faces should have eyes
and hands should not
. Organs and bones belong on the inside, and parasites and circuit boards do not. Bodies should be roughly symmetrical and have logical proportions. And nothing
should ever look like this page's example image.
Slowly mutating in a sickeningly twisted and deformed manner
after contracting The Virus
, a close encounter of the squick kind
leaving someone the incubator for a Chest Burster
, a rotting zombie
, an Eldritch Abomination
resembling a tangle of organs, and a shapeshifter abandoning any attempt at aesthetics or imitation to become a writhing mass of random but recognizable parts
are all examples of Body Horror.
Obviously as a trope based on Primal Fear
body horror is Older Than Dirt
Important modern examples include the Alien
tetralogy, with its skeletal, vaguely humanoid aliens, Trope Making Chest Bursters
and iconic hand-like Face Huggers
; The Thing
, which codified the connection between shapeshifters and body horror in the popular imagination; and Dead Space
, which is essentially an interactive demonstration of many of Body Horror's various subtropes and related tropes.
For a character or Mook
who has this as their back story, see Was Once a Man
and Tragic Monster
, and/or The Grotesque
. If Body Horror is played for sympathy, it can be used to explore the issue of What Measure Is a Non-Human?
. Can result in And I Must Scream
if the victim is aware of their condition but totally helpless. Using this trope can result in Our Monsters Are Weird
of the most horrific kind.
Sub-supertrope of Evil Is Visceral
Tropes that can involve or result in Body Horror: