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Body Horror

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"Arthur, my mustache is touching my brain..."
The Tick, That Mustache Feeling


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 bony 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.

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?. It 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, stem from, or result in Body Horror:

Examples with their own subpages:

Other examples:

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    Asian Animation 
  • At the end of the Lamput episode "Animal X", Lamput traps the docs, a gorilla, and a banana in the docs' creature-merging machine and bait-and-switches them into thinking he's going to press the button to merge them all together. Then the docs' winged cat falls on the button, creating a two-headed doc gorilla wearing a banana peel skirt. The docs and the gorilla are not pleased.

    Card Games 
  • Magic: The Gathering has several cards that evoke body horror
    • Riot Spikes, an aura that gives the enchanted creature extra power, but reduced toughness. The flavor text reads "Most auramancers would have let the spikes hover just above the skin. Having the spikes rip through the skin from beneath was a touch added by Rakdos himself."
    • Everything Yawgmoth does. Flesh and metal were not meant to go together that way.
      • The freakiest thing about Phyrexia is that since Yawgmoth's death, it's actually been getting worse. (Half of this is due to improved artwork over the years. The other half comes from good old-fashioned warped imaginations.)
    • Maggot Therapy
    • The original Mutilate is generally considered to be among the most horrifying card art of all time. Features include a woman's hands melding with her face and a man's neck elongating so far he begins to choke. When the card was rereleased, it was given completely new (And significantly less freakish) art. And then they pedaled back and showed us this.
    • It would likely be a shorter list to mention the cards that do NOT invoke this trope in the New Phyrexia set...
    • Exemplified by any non-artifact creature with the type "Horror". Just try and figure out what it was before the Phyrexians got their hands on it (or them). Then there are the ones who have types you'd recognise, but look nothing like what they're supposed to be (Good example is Blighted Agent. That thing is supposed to be Human!?)
    • The Simic card Rapid Hybridization lets you turn a creature into a frog lizard hybrid monster that looks like this.
    • Bile Blight, FNM version. Humans are not supposed to melt that way!!
    • The Eldritch Moon set features the Eldrazi titan Emrakul inflicting all sorts of transformations like this on the denizens of Innistrad, like what it did to Bruna and Gisela, for example.
  • Several cards in Yu-Gi-Oh! fit this trope quite nicely. For example there is the equip spell Ekibyo Drakmord, which represents a disease that weakens its host and slowly kills it, before spreading to another one. And there is also the art for the trap card Ultimate Offering, which shows a green, troll-like demon. Only his head is blood-red. And spawning from it is another, more diabolical demon, trailing what appears to be blood behind him. And the green one is still grinning...
    • In terms of monster cards, there is one archetype that stands out: Worms. Worms are all LIGHT-attribute Reptile monsters. All of them are hideous, unearthly abomination, but some take this just a step too far. For example, Worm Solid is a melted mass of flesh, eyes, and teeth, shoved into a glass prism barely larger than it is.
    • Another monster card that stands out is Parasite Paracide. Its International artwork looks normal, but its original Japanese artwork features it growing out of a mans face.

  • The Mister Seahorse trope in general. The male body is not equipped or designed for the production, incubation, or definitely the birthing of babies. The lack of a womb also means that a male incubating a baby would have a parasite growing in-between vital internal organs, possibly damaging them, possibly cutting off something important, and almost certainly killing either him or it. He might live if the infant gets killed, as without the protections of a womb the fetus would likely be immensely more susceptible to damage from white blood cells, physical trauma, the man bending over, etc, and the chances of the fetus not making it are just as good as the fetus killing the man, which is to say, high. If, by some miracle, both man and fetus survive 9 months, any concievable route of exit is even more unimaginably painful than for females. The vagina is designed to stretch greatly to accommodate infant exit, whereas the anus and penis, the only two possible exits, are most certainly not designed to stretch much, if at all, and would as such be stressed beyond their ability to cope if an infant were to attempt passage. A male giving birth, lacking a vagina, will inevitably result in the stretching of one of those two regions. A human male doesn't have the necessary equipment to go into labor in the first place: no uterus, hence no uterine walls to do the pushing. Were a man ever to be successfully implanted with an embryo in his abdomen, he'd have to have a cesarean section like in the movie Junior.
    • The female body may be designed for carrying and birthing babies... but only if the embryo implants inside the womb. Sometimes it doesn't. So while men can rest easy knowing that the above is purely hypothetical, it's a potential reality for any woman who is capable of getting pregnant. And then there's a mutation that causes uterine tissue to grow in place of, or near mucous membranes-ie; eyes and nose...
    • Oh yeah, and the ultimate downside to the trope: Your penis will explode when the baby comes out. Have fun dealing with the loss of your privates! That, or your anus will be utterly destroyed, leading to harmful bacteria entering your bloodstream and killing you by sepsis.

  • The "Transfiguration" artistic performances, by French painter and performer Olivier de Sagazan, is focused on an artist altering himself his face, several times. The results are something reminescent to lovecraftian creatures, overlapping with Nightmare Face and including copious amount of Nightmare Fuel.
  • Big Finish Doctor Who: One story has the Sixth Doctor go through a "Freaky Friday" Flip with Davros, intentionally on the Doctor's part. He explains that Davros' body is in constant, agonizing pain like he, a man who has gone through some horrific stuff in his several hundred years, has never felt, and if he could kill himself at that moment, he'd seriously take the chance. Davros, meanwhile, doesn't have as much of a problem. He finds it motivating.
  • A member of the East Germany Womens' Gymnastics team goes to the doctor.
    "Doctor, about those pills you've been giving us..."
    "Yes? Have you noticed any side effects?"
    "Two of them, actually. The first is that I've been growing hair in strange places."
    "Hm. Not entirely unexpected, but where exactly?"
    "On my balls, which is the other side effect I wanted to talk about."

  • Legends of Chima have the Ice Hunter Tribes. Having been frozen for millennia and resurrected with CHI, their LEGO minifigures are absolutely littered with gruesome details. Almost all of them have rotted in some capacity, exposing muscle fibers turned purple by the cold, and many of them have entire body parts that are simply replaced by ice, ranging from limbs to exposed ribs. The Mammoth Tribe in particular have trunks that have rotted to the bone and simply hang there exposed, and one of the Vulture Tribe, Vornon, has quite literally bolted his skull back together. Ironically, despite being left in the ice the longest, the Ice Bear Tribe seem to be in relatively better shape than their fellow Ice Hunters.
  • New Testament SD Gundam Gaiden Gundam King Story: Both Skeleton Knight Xeku Eins and Skeleton Fighter Xeku Zwei have exposed human hearts that squirt green blood.
  • From The Real Ghostbusters action figures by Kenner, there was the Haunted Humans line. They look like common people, until you press a button in them. You can check all of them in this video.


First organ to go

The first organ to be stolen in the infamous Invader Zim episode Dark Harvest

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