Malevolent Mutilation

That looks... uncomfortable.

There are many kinds of Body Horror. Some are done from a Painful Transformation, Gorn, Orifice Invasion, Chest Burster, or something else terrible happening to a person's body.

This is when a person's body is mutilated due to deliberate intent.

Such a character has been subjected to body modification (tattooing, piercing, cutting, etc.) to a degree that goes beyond "fashionable" and straight into Squick. The kind of body modification that would make a person look like a monster, and their onlookers wince in imagined sympathy pain.

Why a character would be subjected to such extreme modifcation is varied. They might have been an innocent used as a Human Guinea Pig, in which case they might be The Grotesque. Unless the pain of their modifications is such that it drives them to lash out. Alternatively, it may be a sign that a character is Obviously Evil, especially if they did this willingly to themselves. Evil Is Visceral after all, and there is little more visceral than mortifying one's own flesh.

If a character has a few obvious piercings or tattoos, they are not part of this trope. This is only when those body modifications are taken to such a torturous extreme only a twisted mind would want to inflict or receive them.

See also Cybernetics Eat Your Soul.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • A downplayed example, Kazundo Gouda in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex: Second Gig, a villain who has a horribly mangled face and strangely-shaped head due to an accident. Although the damage was not voluntary, it's explicitly pointed out that he could repair his face using the world's futuristic technology and his wealth, but makes the choice not to. He claims it helps make him more memorable.
  • The Six Paths of Pain in Naruto are covered in so many body and facial piercings it's not even funny.

    Comic Books 
  • Batman villains Black Mask and Professor Pyg have both shown an eagerness to scar or otherwise mutilate their victims' faces.

  • The Cenobites from Hellraiser franchise are an iconic example, being an order of extra-dimentional Sense Freaks who seek to share their "pleasures" with those who can solve the Lament Configuration puzzle box.
  • Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, who has his entire face covered in black and red ink to present an imposing appearance.
  • Karl Ruprecht Kroenen from Hellboy, so very much.
    Professor Bruttenholm: Suffered from a masochistic compulsion commonly known as surgical addiction. Both eyelids surgically removed, along with his upper and lower lip. The blood in his veins dried up decades ago. Only dust remains. What horrible will could keep such a creature as this alive?
  • Milton Dammers the obsessed FBI Agent in The Frighteners opens his shirt at one point to show that his chest is covered in scarification, presumably from his time spent undercover with various cults.
  • This trope is utilized frequently by the Deadites in Evil Dead (2013). All three female characters who become possessed mutilate themselves in horrific ways: Mia splits open her tongue with a box-cutter; Olivia cuts open her cheek, exposing her jaw; Natalie shoots several nails into her face with a nail gun before turning it on her friends.

  • The New Jedi Order trilogy from the Star Wars Expanded Universe presents the Yuuzhan Vong, an extra-galactic species who revere pain as a way of life. Many of their religious ceremonies involve cutting, piercing, and scarring, that they might better experience the pain they believed their gods suffered to create the universe. Promotion ceremonies involve having their limbs and organs removed and replaced with artificially grown versions.
  • Just about every vampire in the Necroscope series, especially in the "Vampire World" books. The Vamps there deliberately twist and torture their own flesh to make them as horrific as possible, it is something of competition amongst male vamps to see how can have the worst.
  • Hemalurgy in the Mistborn books involves pounding metal spikes into your body. The Steel Inquisitors, who used Hemalurgy the most, had railroad-sized spikes driven through everything but their noses, including two so far into their eye sockets that the points come out the back of their heads.
  • In Chasm City, Orcagna has a large square hole cut through his abdomen.
  • The Blood Pact opposing Gaunt's Ghosts during the Sabbat Worlds Crusade are so named because they ritually cut their hands against the jagged edges of their patron's Power Armor to seal their loyalty to him and their solidarity as fraternal warriors. They also tend to engage in further scarification, cutting chaotic glyphs into their faces and scalps in order to demonstrate their dedication to the Ruinous Powers. Even those tend to be covered up by the iron masks they wear which are shaped into grotesque and monsterous faces.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Reavers from Firefly. The way they scar themselves and jam random bits of metal into their flesh is the least horrible thing about them.
  • In The X-Files episode "Humbug" they meet The Conundrum (played by The Enigma) at a carny show. He has a jigsaw-puzzle themed tattoo covering his whole body.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Members of Clan Tzimisce in Vampire: The Masquerade that make heavy use of their clan Discipline, Vicissitude to modify their bodies are prime examples of these.
  • This is true of many Phyrexians in Magic: The Gathering. In fact, one such creature, Elesh Norn, is known as the "Grand Cenobite." It should be noted that Elesh Norn appears to have had her skin flayed off beneath her vestments, and apparently does this to others she "converts" as well, that they may be better remade in the image of the Father of Machines.
  • Members of the church of Zon-Kuthon (a Lawful Evil deity who is, among other things, a Hellraiser homage) do this to themselves as a mark of devotion, and to other people as a religious ritual.
  • One of the many, many horrific things the Dark Eldar do to the unfortunate people they capture.

    Video Games 
  • Soulblighter, The Dragon and Dragon Ascendant from Bungie's Myth: The Fallen Lords and Myth II: Soulblighter, respectively. He walks about stripped to the waist to display a long snaking scar on his torso where his heart was removed in a magical ritual that made him Nigh Invulnerable. More obviously than that, his nose and lips were cut away from his face, leaving him with a permenant rictus grin.
  • The monsters in Amnesia: The Dark Descent. They were all once men, subjected to a Painful Transformation and subsequent modification, such as the removal of their jawbones and hooks and other jagged pieces of metal being shoved through their flesh to use as weapons.
  • Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords featured the villain Darth Sion, a Sith Lord who learned to better draw on The Dark Side through his own pain. Medical scans indicate that every bone in his body has been shattered and re-knit together, and his skin is grey and leathery, with many cracks running across it as though calcified and broken. Ultimately, it is the strength in The Force he gained by doing this that is all which holds him together anymore.
  • Bio Shock 1: the splicers are not an example, as their deformed bodies are the result of accidental mutation. However, anyone worked on by Dr. Steinman is. The mad plastic surgeon would deliberately reshape people's faces and bodies into grotesque forms to fit his insane standards of "beauty". This is a guy who found, for example, symmetry to be horrific.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Baxter Stockman was punished by the Shredder by having parts of his body removed for every failure. Bit by bit he became more and more disabled until by his later appearances he was a Brain in a Jar with one eye still attached that looks around. However, he built increasingly powerful robot bodies. Of course, he was more likely to use them against his Bad Boss than against the Turtles (though whenever he seems to be winning, his ambition returns and he's perfectly willing to smash everyone to try and become top dog.) Far and away the darkest thing about the most Darker and Edgier TMNT series.

    Real Life 
  • Foot binding. Fullstop. Causing painful, permanent deformity to children against their will in the interest of "beauty" is pretty much the definition of this trope.
    • Female genital mutilation is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, and makes even the above seem like an unwanted tattoo by comparison. Often performed with no anesthesia and instruments such as scissors, with less effort taken toward keeping things sanitary than you'd want from the guy at Starbucks who pours your coffee. It's less a medical procedure and more someone who sorta knows a thing or two about medicine cutting you up with whatever stabby implement is on hand. Hellishly painful, done from days after birth to just before puberty. Death from the procedure itself and/or its complications (to avoid Walls of Text, let's just say there are a lot of potential complications, and every last one is horrific) is exceedingly common, and underreported. The idea is that the parts removed are 'male' and a girl is cleansed by their removal.