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Body Horror

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His Saturday nights just got incredibly awkward.
"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 Forced Transformation, 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 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. This is also often paired with Psychosexual Horror. Because a lot of these tropes can be the results of medical procedures/experiments gone wrong, it can often pair with Medical Horror (especially given the early days of medical science... yikes...).

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. Often the result of the wacky experiments of an Evilutionary Biologist.

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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  • Anti-drug commercials often do this.
  • Modern Skittles commercials just won't give up on the body horror.
    • In "Harvest the Rainbow", a boy has a skittles tree growing out of his abdomen.
    • In "Chocolate the Rainbow", a guy who looks like and may be a humanoid piñata has been assaulted by a colleague who wanted the skittles he presumed were inside him.
    • In "French the Rainbow", a boy has skittles as teeth. A girl open-mouth kisses him just to eat his skittle-teeth.
    • In "Warp the Rainbow", a guy ages rapidly over the course of a few seconds because his roommate takes skittles from his skittle-filled hourglass.
    • In "Touch the Rainbow, an office worker turns everything he touches into skittles, including people.
  • This Sprite commercial. Apparently Sprite is used to fuel Ridiculously Human Robots.
  • Some Fruit-by-the-Foot ads have involved switching things with it, such as skis. In at least once this included someone's DNA, you can guess how that went.
  • The Capri Sun "Disrespectoids" ads. These basically consist of a kid either stepping on a Capri Sun pouch, trading a Capri Sun for something, or even simply throwing away a Capri Sun pouch... and being transformed into something.
    • Fortunately, the tie-in flash games and cartoons show the kids getting along pretty well. They even see their transformations as "freaky powers".
    • They even had a Grand Finale game where the kids were turned back to normal. All’s well that ends well, eh?
  • This ad for Mortal Kombat 3
  • This UK advert for X-Cite breathmints that help you "avoid dog breath". For those wondering, a man sleeping on a couch realizes his breath smells and proceeds to gag and vomit up a snarling, filthy dog. No wonder it was banned!
  • Fruit Gushers ads from the 90s typically involved folks eating the snack and their heads turned into a random fruits or other objects. Their use of this trope was inevitable. Take 0:18 of this tropical flavors commercial for instance.
  • This horrifying picture advising tourists visiting Suriname to use protection. The picture is a woman with multiple holes in her back. 6 of those holes have an infant inside of it. Not for people with trypophobia. It seems to be intentionally based on the Surinam Toad, which carries its eggs on its back in a thin layer of skin used for that purpose.
  • This Afrin Nasal Spray commercial features a man whose head is transformed into a giant nose. As the commercial puts it, his "nose took over."
  • The Natural Born Smoker, a British PSA from The '80s, features an eerie Blade Runner-esque Cyberpunk world where a future evolution of humanity exists, one that has several adaptations for smoking. These include a bigger nose to filter out impurities, self-cleaning lungs, extra eyelids to protect against irritation, a natural resistance to cancer and heart disease, and smaller ears because they don't listen.
  • This disturbing Honda commercial has a podiatrist's patient reveal that after he bought his Honda, his right foot stiffened into a solid lead foot. In addition to the unsettling sight of his leg transitioning from flesh to metal at his ankle, he requires both of his hands to lift up his heavy foot, and it emits a loud ping when the doctor taps it.
  • This Brazilian MTV promo has a man growing an eyeball out of his mouth while his arms stretch and deform.

  • Francis Bacon's Screaming Popes paintings show the distorted faces of popes apparently screaming in their own horror.
  • Hieronymus Bosch: The central image of The Garden of Earthly Delights panel Hell shows a huge man turned into a tree, with parts of his body as a huge eggshell with people dining inside of it.
  • Salvador Dalí: Soft Construction with Boiled Beans from Premonition of the Civil War shows a huge giant who has no rump, just a trapezium-shaped nothingness in the middle, while his hands and feet appear in odd places.
  • Théodore Géricault made some studies of chopped up heads, arms, and legs in preparation for The Raft of the Medusa.
  • Francisco de Goya: Saturn Devouring His Son and The Disasters Of War show a lot of Malevolent Mutilation. Other artworks also show his fascination with deformity.
  • Gabriel Grün: A lot of his paintings add something extra to the figures (like bat wings or superfluous genitals) as commentary on real-world issues.
  • The Judgment of Cambyses by Gerard David shows a man being flayed alive.
  • Judith Decapitates Holofernes by Caravaggio.
  • René Magritte: Le Viol (The Rape).
  • Pablo Picasso: The melted faces of the people in his cubist paintings are also a memorable example.
  • Peter Paul Rubens: The severed head of Medusa was subject of one of his paintings.
  • The scrawny nudes of Egon Schiele sometimes have this audience reaction too.
  • Zuccari's frescoes of Capital Sins and Hell in the duomo of the Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral in Italy have a man in the centre who is half flayed and still sits upright. At one point these paintings were covered up because they were thought to be too horrific.


  • Fucking Hell (Jake and Dinos Chapman): The sculpture shows hundreds of tiny puppets all in a symbolic depiction of the worst crimes mankind has ever committed.
  • Nue Couchée: It's a sculpture is a surrealist take on the Reclining Venus pose, exaggerating it to highlight how artworks that play that trope straight depict women in painful positions for the sake of Fanservice. As a result, it's a hairless, fleshy mass with too many legs replacing its arms, head, and shoulders. Noticeable ridges shape what would be its spinal column and rear end, as well as the skinny waist, evoke the traditional beauty standard used for most Odalisques.

    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 Wicked Worm Beast is a humanoid monster with worms (or at least, worm-like tendrils) growing out of it, including from its eye.
    • The Amorphage archetype consists of animals that are partially mutated into dragon monsters. Only the strongest monster in it, Amorphage Goliath, is fully a dragon, and even then, it still looks like it has eyes on various spots of its body.
    • Infernity Doom Dragon doesn't seem like an example at first, but a closer look at the top of its head reveals that its horns are its skull having opened up, exposing its brain.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The abomination called the Nuckelavee from Scottish folklore. It can only be described as some sort of rider-fused-with-horse centaur with no skin that breathes disease. So even if you escape it, you've got the more common sort of Body Horror to contend with. Depending on the description, "rider's" arms reach down to the ground and its head can be as wide as three feet, rolling back and forth on it's too small neck. Alternately the "horse" head has a single burning eye that shines with a horrible light. Burning seaweed enrages it and it causes plagues, low rainfall, crop wilting, and other disasters and worst of all it kills horses with a deadly plague called Mortasheen.
  • The Curupira has feet that are turned to face backwards, flaming hair, and green teeth.
  • Classical Mythology:
    • Mors is the Roman goddess of death (equivalent to the Greek Thanatos) and quite a terrifying sight to see; she has a female face, legs and arms, but no torso; to cover that up, she wears a human ribcage and pelvis.
    • Not only do the Graeae sisters look horrifying with ghostly grey skin and hair (not to mention the fact they were born elderly), they also have a single eye and tooth, which they share among each other.
  • In Celtic Mythology, Cuchulainn's "warp-spasm" was said to cause his legs to twist backwards, one of his eyes to swell to an enormous size and the other to be sucked into its socket, his mouth to stretch open down to his ribcage, his muscles to bulge up, and the skin of his throat and mouth to peel back forming a Glasgow Grin. People were terrified of Cuchulainn, and for good reason.
  • The Imbunche is a deformed human with its head twisted backwards, along with having twisted arms, fingers, nose, mouth and ears. The creature walks on one foot or on three feet (actually one leg and two hands) because one of its legs is attached to the back of its neck.
  • Japanese Mythology has Hiruko, the eldest son of creator gods Izanagi and Izanami, who was born without bones. Izanami had broken the mating ritual by greeting Izanagi first (women were supposed to greet after men), which resulted in their firstborn being cursed. For the next ritual, Izanagi greeted first, and the results were much more favorable. As for Hiruko, his parents decided to cast him to the sea, but he survived, and ended up becoming Ebisu, one of the Seven Lucky Gods.

  • In Dark Dice, party's first encounter with The Silent One involves the creature reaching out through a woman's mouth, pulling it open as far as possible, then climbing out of the woman, leaving her body laying aside like a discarded sock.
  • When the party in The Fallen Gods investigates the wizard’s tower in Palanthis, they find the remains of previous adventurers being stitched together in terrifying mashups in the basement of the Tower in Palanthis.
  • Less is Morgue has Riley's Shapeshifting, which is accompanied by horrifically fleshy noises. In Episode 9, they even transform into twenty people at once, after eating 20-people chilli. It does not sound pleasant.
  • The Magnus Archives is fond of this trope. Just to name a few examples:
    • In "Skintight", Sarah peels the skin off her injured arm, then staples it back on. It's later revealed that this isn't Sarah at all, but a Monster Clown masquerading as her using her skin.
    • "The Man Upstairs" features an apartment room covered wall-to-ceiling in fresh and rotting meat. And the misshapen pile of flesh that used to be the former occupant, which reveals itself to still be alive when it blinks at the narrator.
    • In "Rotten Core", John Amherst infects an entire town with an illness that causes the skin and muscles to slough off their bodies, leaving the skeleton and organs exposed, then forms a throne from their rotting, still-living, bodies.
    • Most of the Avatars, particularly those of the Corruption, Flesh, and Spiral. Fitting, considering they're living manifestations of humanity's primal fears.
      • Jane Prentiss. A once-normal human who became The Worm That Walks, she has so many holes in her face that her eyes are no longer distinguishable in the mess.
      • Jared Hopworth, who can reshape his bones to grotesque proportions and pulls the protagonist's rib straight out of his chest.
      • "Michael", who is described as looking like all of its bones are in its hands. Its successor, Helen, is implied to meet the same fate.
    • And the others are no slouch either— Annabelle Cane's head is half smashed in with spiderwebs filling the gaps, Jude Perry is a literal wax person who can remold her body and supernaturally set things on fire, and Jonah Magnus is implied to hop between bodies by replacing their eyes with his own.
  • On the Tropes has an episode in which Themmo has pustules grow and spread all over his body, before exploding.
  • Gemini from Sequinox looks like two people made of silly putty slammed together, and when she splits into Pollux and Castor she literally grabs the sides of her head and tears herself apart.
  • Happens a couple of times in Spirit Box Radio. Notable examples include Sam throwing up a chess piece, and a woman who gets what is heavily implied to be the One Who Walks Here and There’s black baccara tattooed onto her, and ends up having roses growing through her skin and around her.
  • A few times throughout the Two Best Friends Play podcast, Super Best Friendcast, as well as their show, they discussed how Woolie onetime had to go to the hospital after a violent allergic reaction, presumably caused by ant poison... the symptoms described are not pretty to say the least.
  • Very common with saints, or victims of such, in The Silt Verses. Highlights: A man melted into a chair, the various crustacean saints of the Trawler Man, and a man halfway transformed into a skeletal deer.
  • Welcome to Night Vale:
    • It's not unheard of for Night Vale residents to grow new eyes (at least one person has eight), or win "prizes" like surgically-applied, working gills.
    • The mayor is seen to be melting at one press conference, and is mentioned another time to have more than two arms.
    • One woman explodes into a fine white dust during a public poetry reading and then floats down and settles on the heads of the crowd. Cecil at least finds this beautiful and moving rather than repulsive.
    • At least two "Community Health Tips" instruct the listener in graphic detail how to 1.) skin yourself alive and 2.) remove, cook, and eat your own heart.
    • It's been mentioned at least twice that the hearts of Night Vale citizens are full of straw and insects.
    • Once the broadcast announced that following the news is the sound of someone chewing up glass shards.
    • The Whispering Forest lures hypnotized people into wanting to stay there and then slowly turns their bodies into a wood-like substance so they become part of the forest.
    • There is an outbreak of people's skin becoming covered with 15-inch-long spiraling horns.
    • A senior football player grows a second head and his mother has the original head removed because she likes the new one better.
    • A woman gives birth to a disembodied grown man's hand. The hand is alive and sentient and the loving parents decide that it's a daughter and name her Megan.
    • People influenced by the Well of Night have skin grow over their eyes, and all their hair retracts under their skin. Cecil comes under the effects of this, and describes it as enriching.
  • When Kepler from Wolf 359 pisses off the Dear Listeners, they burn his hand off, audibly, all the while he screams in pure agony. When Minkowski speaks again, she sounds like she's about to throw up, and later dialogue reveals that Eiffel had immediately hidden himself underneath a console.

  • BIONICLE has its fair share of body horror stemming from the fact that the characters are bio-mechanical beings, not robots.
    • The in-universe explanation for why the original toys came in canisters and have to be assembled is that the muscle tissue holding their bodies together rotted while they were asleep for thousands of years.
    • Makuta Teridax's abandoned lair is littered with his experiments, the strangest of dying or dead animal hybrids.
    • Makuta Icarax killed Botar by crushing his organs with his own armor using magnetism. Icarax later got a taste of his own medicine when Toa Ignika devolved him from an Energy Being in armor back into a bio-mechanical being. Since his armor wasn't designed with room for organs, this was agonizingly painful.
    • Karzahni was supposed to heal injured workers. However, he was incompetent at this task and instead mutilated their bodies into weaker, twisted forms.
  • 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.

  • 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."


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Don't put rabbids inside microwaves!

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