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.
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.
- Beauty to Beast: Making Casual Friday look very smart indeed.
- Body of Bodies: When you can't decide on just one, wear them all.
- Brain in a Jar: The ultimate beauty in a bottle.
- Brain Monster: Just in case anyone questioned your intelligence.
- Creepy Long Fingers: Permanent, personalised chopsticks.
- Creepily Long Arms: Perfect for long-sighted reading.
- Cyborg: Comes with maintenance costs.
- Demonic Head Shake: When your no just won't get across.
- Evil Hand: In body horror, transplant receives you!
- Extra Eyes: Giving the term "four-eyes" a whole new disturbing meaning.
- Eye on a Stalk: One way of making it easier to see things.
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: Or there. Or there. And definitely not there.
- Facial Horror: You need makeup lessons.
- Flesh Golem: MacGyvering meets Necromancy.
- Fold-Spindle Mutilation: Fitting a person-shaped peg in a round hole.
- Hanahaki Disease: Spitting out flowers from a flowering plant growing in your innards? Ouch!
- Human Architecture Horror : Instead of being for people, the buildings are people.
- Independent Limb: Fetch me the remot- oh, wait...
- Lovecraftian Superpower: Body horror... Weaponized!
- Malevolent Mutilation: Sometimes body horror is created intentionally...
- Symbolic Mutilation: And sometimes it's done to represent something.
- Marionette Motion: When bodies are not allowed to move that way.
- Meatgrinder Surgery: Crude, but effective.
- Meat Moss: When body horror meets interior decorating.
- Monster Mouth: Giving your dentist nightmares in more than one way.
- Flower Mouth: Flower shapes look less pretty when lined with teeth.
- More Teeth than the Osmond Family - Speaking of a dentist's nightmares...
- Scary Teeth: ...Sometimes his headaches are your toothaches.
- Too Many Mouths: Mouths don't belong there.
- Vagina Dentata: What a horrible phrase.
- Mutants: Sometimes even the School for Gifted Youngsters has rejects.
- My Brain Is Big: Extensions with a difference.
- Nightmare Face: Not even a mother could love that.
- Odd Organ Up Top: Hey, Butthead!
- Parasitic Horror: Parasitism being Played for Horror.
- Power-Upgrading Deformation - The good news is you can now run twice as fast... the bad news is that it's because you've got twice as many legs.
- Puppeteer Parasite: Like driving a car, except you are the car.
- Sculpted Physique: When your blind date turns out to be a literal brick house.
- Self-Surgery: What you do when there isn't a doctor in the house.
- Shapeshifter Mashup: Become ALL of the things!... at the same time.
- Shapeshifter Swan Song: Become ALL of the things!... one after another. In rapid succession.
- Spawn Broodling: Making allies out of your enemies in the most horrifying way possible.
- Torso with a View: Goes right through you every time.
- Transformation Horror: Don't look at me while I'm changing.
- Transformation of the Possessed: When possession comes with visible side effects.
- Womb Horror: There's a reason nobody remembers that.
- Womb Level: Like a Battleship Raid, only squishier.
Tropes that can involve, stem from, or result in Body Horror:
- Appendage Assimilation: Do-it-yourself transplants.
- Auto Cannibalism: When Horror Hunger isn't just limited to other people.
- The Assimilator: Resistance is futile. You will become body horror.
- Bio-Augmentation: Extreme botox as a hobby.
- Biomanipulation: Who needs tools to make body horror, you've got superpowers!
- Bloody Horror: Let's paint the town red! It's cheery!
- Body and Host: Keeping friends or enemies very close.
- Came Back Wrong: Please make sure your necromancers are highly trained professionals.
- Captured Super-Entity:
- Emergency Transformation: When saving the world, time is of essence.
- Fan Disservice: We all need excitement in our lives.
- Fantastic Drug: Narcotics IN SPACE!
- Fetus Terrible: Raising young to be just like your nightmarish self.
- Garrulous Growth: It really DOES have a mind on its own!
- Humanoid Alien: Because clearly our form is something that the universe itself finds enviable.
- Mainlining the Monster
- Medical Horror: Again, make sure your doctors are highly trained professionals.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: Combine ALL the pets!
- Nausea Fuel: Please view on an empty stomach.
- Nightmare Fuel
- Organ Autonomy: Why should your skin and eyes have exclusive rights to sunbathing?
- Organic Technology: 100% recyclable.
- Parasites Are Evil: They live in you, and they're objectively evil!
- Painful Transformation: Also make sure your anesthesiologists are highly trained professionals.
- Powered by a Forsaken Child: It's just a poor boy... Nobody loves it...
- Personal Horror: "You are Body Horror." "I am what?"
- "Pop!" Goes the Human: BOOM
- Reforged into a Minion: We Have Reserves... From our enemies!
- Slow Transformation: Because slow and steady wins the race.
- Tarnishing Their Own Beauty: When So Beautiful, It's a Curse reaches a whole new level.
- The Symbiote: Now you're eating for two!
- Viral Transformation: A reminder to take your flu shots.
- Weight Loss Horror: Skin removal surgery isn't going to cut it...
- What Have I Become?
- What Measure Is a Non-Human?
Examples with their own subpages:
- Anime & Manga
- Comic Books
- Fairy Tales
- Fan Works
- Live-Action TV
- Tabletop Games
- Video Games
- Web Original
- Western Animation
- Real Life
- 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 Mr. 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- There are plenty of examples made by McFarlane Toys, but few stuff have looked as gruesome as the Clive Barker's Tortured Souls. Both series.