Transformation Horror is a subtrope of Body Horror involving graphic and unsettling transformation sequences (not the trope) or continuous random mutation.
This can occur in the process of both Involuntary and Voluntary Shapeshifting, and the final form, if there is one, doesn't have to be horrific. Even turning a person into a Ridiculously Cute Critter can involve Transformation Horror along the way. What matters is that the process of the transformation is unpleasant to witness, and horrifying just to imagine experiencing.
There are several standard forms of Transformation Horror:
- Mutation Horror: Slowly accumulating chaotic mutations. The victim gradually becomes increasingly twisted and deformed due to the growing influence of The Corruption, exposure to nuclear waste, Mutagenic Goo, or The Virus. There is no "end form", only ever-increasing levels of Body Horror usually involving asymmetric and chaotic changes and tumorous growths. This variety tends to end in either death, Face–Monster Turn, or the victim's best attempts at screaming.
- Horrifying Metamorphosis: Slow Transformation into a known end form. Often part of the Viral Transformation process or a particularly unpleasant form of Metamorphosis or Forced Transformation. The victim experiences a disturbing slow change into his new form. The end result does not have to be body horror, but the process of adopting an entirely new body plan is likely to involve quite a bit of body horror.
- Traumatic Transformation: Rapid Transformation into a known end form. Some transformations condense all the horror of a targeted slow transformation into a brief, squicktastic Transformation Sequence. Often emphasizes the face and visibly reshaping skeletal structures, and is usually accompanied by the sounds of popping bones and rearranging organs. Nearly always painful or disorienting. Common in Darker and Edgier Animorphism: The transformation of a werewolf, for instance. note
- Terminal Mutation: Targetless and Fast. A particularly nasty Cruel and Unusual Death involving rapid degeneration or mutation until death. See Rapid Aging, I'm Melting!, and Shapeshifter Swan Song for just a few of the possible causes. Examples of this form should be placed on their respective pages unless they are particularly noteworthy as transformation horror as well.
- Mix And Match Mutation: Sprouting Combat Tentacles or a Shapeshifter Weapon can be disturbing enough, but when more and more are added to the mix you have the recipe for a Shapeshifter Mashup. Even more horrifying if it's involuntary, such as in the case of Power Degeneration, or an Adaptive Ability going totally haywire.
There are several layers of reasons why people find this trope disturbing:
The most obvious is that transformation can be very Squicky: even in the case of one human becoming another human, facial features and major bone structures have to distort and rearrange. This naturally means that the course of a transformation tends to at least pass through the Uncanny Valley at some point, and quite often takes the scenic route.
Transformation also invokes the fear of losing control of your own body, or having it turn against you: Transformation Horror is unusual among the fantastical forms of horror in that adults fear it almost as much as children do because it has so many parallels and examples in Real Life. Puberty, unexpected changes in people around us, the ravages of old age, slowly losing one's own identity to mental illness, or worse, having a loved one turn against you, are all too real events experienced by most people at some point. All it takes to make horror from them is exaggeration. Even more extreme forms such as Mutation Horror or Terminal Mutation invoke our fears of disease and decay; in a sense, this trope is why we find diseases like cancer, rabies, leprosy, and the bubonic plague exceptionally terrifying: they transform a victim physically and mentally from the inside out.
Not all transformations are necessarily horrific; this trope can be averted in any number of ways. Lighter and Softer universes tend to have relatively tame transformations leaving any disturbing elements to the imagination. On the other hand, in Darker and Edgier universes, even Voluntary Transformations tend to be traumatic for everyone involved and depicted in all their disturbing glory. The medium can have a huge bearing as well: distortions that would be Nausea and/or Nightmare Fuel in live-action can be fairly innocuous in a cartoon.
The causes and circumstances of the transformation can make a difference as well. A character slowly turning to stone can be fairly mild visually, but played for Psychological Horror; an otherwise disturbing transformation can be mitigated when it's the result of a character Cursed with Awesome activating their Lovecraftian Superpower or receiving a Power-Upgrading Deformation.
An example of how this trope can be intentionally both invoked and averted is the Transformation Comic genre, with various comics averting this trope for fanservice or comedy, playing the trope straight as Fan Disservice to maintain a serious tone, or even alternating between the two.
Compare Clone by Conversion, Transflormation, Viral Transformation, Painful Transformation, Slow Transformation, Transformation Sequence, Transformation of the Possessed, and Transformation at the Speed of Plot which often overlap.
Compare and contrast Forced Transformation, which sometimes overlaps with Transformation Horror. The distinction is that the victim of a Forced Transformation has become something else against their will, while Transformation Horror is about becoming something else in a disturbing way. Eldritch Transformation often combines these two and exaggerates them.
Contrast Nothing Is Scarier and Fridge Horror for transformations that aren't actually shown/described, and Teleporter Accident for similar things happening instantaneously. Bit-by-Bit Transformation can be used both to subvert this trope by spacing out the squick into tolerable doses, and to exaggerate it by combining Horrifying Metamorphosis and Mix And Match Mutation.
- This happens to Tetsuo in AKIRA after being wounded by Kaneda during their fight at the stadium; as Kaneda tries to finish him off, he starts twitching and moaning in pain, and suddenly his mechanical arm bursts open and sprouts tentacles, he becomes gigantic and bursts out of his clothes, and he mutates into a massive blob creature that consumes everything in his path including his girlfriend Kaori and is unable to control himself.
- In Devilman, when a demon possesses someone, they warp their bodies to resemble them, and yes, it's extremely painful for the host. It's especially noticeable early on, when the party goers in the night club get possessed after Ryo spills their blood. The worst happens to two girls: one has her jaw dislocate and grow fangs, her eyeball pops out of its socket and wiggles like a worm, grows an extra pair of clawed arms, and her breasts grow eyeballs and fangs, while the second one transforms into a hideous demon covered with spikes with her severed head perched on top of her new one, and her eyes still blink, freaking out Akira.
- In Made in Abyss, ascending from the titular cavern causes progressively more extreme ill effects as a person reaches lower levels. By the Sixth Layer, the Curse of the Abyss causes its victim to undergo a horrific, violent transformation into something not even close to human. Often, this outright kills the person, falling under Terminal Mutation. The viewer is shown what this looks like in a later episode of the anime (with Mitty, a character who technically survives, but has to be put out of her misery by Reg in an earlier episode), and it's not pretty.
- Naruto: When Jinchūriki enter a Version 2 form their skin peels off and their blood mixes with their chakra, turning them into a red humanoid with multiple tails, glowing eyes and animalistic features. When they do this, their Tailed Beast/Bīju is usually the one in control.
- In Princess Tutu, Rue's Transformation Sequence into Princess Kraehe involves lots of thorns and pain...
- Seen twice in Iczer when parasitic aliens called vedims infect people, first when Iczer finds an infected man, his eyes and teeth pop out and his skin bursts off as he turns into a slug like alien, and later when Nagisa’s parents get infected, their hair falls out and their heads and arms burst open, transforming them into insect like aliens.
- The Call of C'Russo: Donald and his nephews are partially mutated into octopoids when Ar-Finn wakes up from his slumber.
- Druuna: The "Morbus Gravis" is a viral disease that turns people into horrible mutants and has no known cure. Even worse, some people who are affected by it are still completely lucid after the transformation, human souls trapped in a monster's body.
- Rick Jones' description of Bruce Banner's very first transformation in Immortal Hulk #16, set against the image of a horrified Rick, the shadow of the Hulk on the wall behind him, and Bruce's hand in mid-transformation, part his, part the Hulk's:
He asked what was happening. Then he made a kind of strangling sound, like his throat was compressed.
And the change began.
Any time I remember that day or that night, it's with years of hindsight on top. But in that moment, I thought he was already dead.
His skin turned graynote , all over, like a corpse. Every part of his body ballooned up like it was about to burst. I heard the cracking noise of his bones stretching.
Who could live through that? He had to be dead—and it was all my fault.
I remember praying—praying like I never had before—for him to live. "Please, God." Over and over. "Please don't let Doc Banner die".
- In an issue of Swamp Thing, a woman betrays Swamp Thing and Constantine to an evil cult because they promised her the ability to fly. Only Alan Moore could take a concept like "woman transforms into a bird" and make it this horrific. They give her a root to chew to start the change. She remarks at its bitter taste, and suddenly starts vomiting uncontrollably, puking up all of her internal organs, leaving her body below the neck to rot and wither away. The cultist then holds her head in his hands and talks her through the metamorphosis in graphic detail: talons slicing their way free from her neck, feathers ripping out of her skin, and so forth. Finally her mind goes away, leaving her nothing more than a mindless animal to fly off into oblivion to awaken the ancient beast that will bring about the end of the universe, dying in the process.
- Wonder Woman (2006): Hercules's unwilling transformation into one of Circe's bestiamorphs is framed as painful and terrifying for him as he begs for help while twisting in pain before suddenly being twisted into one of her animalistic slaves.
- From The Bridge, Monster X's involuntary transformation into Kaizer Ghidorah is this. He goes from a bipedal, 58,000 ton Draconic Humanoid to a quadrupedal, 100,000 ton winged, three headed dragon. Growing all that muscle mass, scales, and skeletal changes is nothing short of agonizing. being described as his body tearing itself apart and putting itself back together repeatedly. For instance, his wing bones need to tear their way out of his back.
- Whenever the ponification process is described in The Conversion Bureau: The Other Side of the Spectrum, it's going to be this. However, it's not a free action - Mercy Kills are a common sight in the fic and its side stories, and Amputation Stops Spread. Special mention goes to the trials for the Flawed Prototype versions of the potion, which were so shocking and horrifying beyond words that it's almost impossible to fully describe.
- In i was a middle-aged weretoon, Peppino's transformation into the namesake creature is nothing short of unpleasant, with such lovely details as his middle and ring fingers fusing together to form Four-Fingered Hands, his face and eyes stretching out, and his spine folding in on itself as his entire body contorts into a much smaller shape.
- Although it isn't shown on screen, Lyra being turned into a human by a miscast spell in Helping...Hands? clearly qualified as a Traumatic Transformation, especially given Trixie's description of Lyra's new form. And her transformation back into a pony is described, in gruesome detail.
- A Minor Miscalculation has Ryuko's transformation into her empowered berserk form. The process is quick, but grotesque: her bones and spine snap, her skin starts melting into Senketsu and her weapons, and blood (both human and decidedly different types) starts boiling out of her skin.
- In the Thriller Bark arc of This Bites!, Gecko Moria tries to turn himself into a dragon with "Nidhogg", feeding his shadow other shadows and then reshaping it, thus himself, with Shadow Revolution. The emphasis is on "tries". The sounds Moria's body makes when undergoing the transformation are nauseating. When Cross gets a peek at Moria, he nearly vomits on the spot, noting that the end result can't be called Moria or a dragon. Chopper, the Straw Hat doctor, is horrified at the amount of physical trauma the Warlord put himself through.
- Triptych Continuum: She is subject to repeated Traumatic Transformations as a result of her botched ascension, painfully and grotesquely shifting between the three major pony races (earth pony to pegasus to unicorn) constantly and unstoppably (She goes through a complete cycle about every twelve hours). This involves wings gradually sprouting and then shrinking away again, a horn tearing through her skin as it sprouts and then retracts, muscles tearing and rearranging to accommodate the slightly different body plans of her three forms, and other such horrors. Becomes slightly less horrific at the end of Triptych, when Fluttershy uses her "make-any-one-thing-cease-to-exist" bubble to take away the pain from the transformations.
- Jade Chan in Webwork takes eight long, painful and humiliating years to transform into a spider demon. Parts of the change are so painful that she has to be placed in a coma to avoid the pain of her skin and bones melting while she grows an exo-skeleton. The initial act that started the change is so graphic that the author marked the section where is starts and ends so readers can skip over it.
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first movie in the Disney Animated Canon, has the evil queen using a Human Shifting potion to turn herself into an old hag as a disguise.
- A few years after Snow White, Disney's next movie Pinocchio upped the ante with Lampwick's transformation into a donkey. He doesn't know what's happening at first (and even Pinocchio thinks it's the booze), but once he does, he begs Pinocchio for help, calling out helplessly for his mama before he devolves into a wild, braying, panicked mess.
- In the climactic fight of Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Milo slashes the crazed Commander Rourke with an irradiated glass shard from the Heart of Atlantis' tank. The crystallizing energy then spreads through the villain's body, painfully and graphically mutating him into some kind of crystalline monster that can only howl in agony. His death by propeller mere seconds later comes off as a blessing.
- Frankenweenie has plenty of examples, especially Mr. Whisker's transformation into a vampire-cat hybrid, thanks to an accidental fusion of cat and bat atoms through teleportation. Bonus points for referencing An American Werewolf in London and The Fly (1958).
- Played for Laughs in A Goofy Movie, where Max dreams that he's turning into... his father.
- In Penguins of Madagascar, the Medusa Serum turns penguins into hideous creatures with mismatched body parts, extra eyes, and other deformities.
- Downplayed in Turning Red. Mei's giant red panda transformation is apparently painless but the first time she finds herself transformed she completely freaks out.
- An American Werewolf in London almost single-handedly popularised this trope's connection to werewolves.
- In The Brothers Grimm, a girl named Sasha gets her face taken away by some mud cursed by one of the Mirror Queen's crows, then the mud turns into a monster pursuing the now faceless Sasha; at the end of the scene the mud absorbs her turning her into the Gingerbread Man, then tastes a bit of its body thinking it/she tastes good.
- The Company of Wolves has a wolf emerging from a man's mouth as part of his turning into a wolf.
- In District 9, Wikus slowly transforms into a prawn.
- The trailer for Dracula Untold, shows us a close-up glimpse of Vlad's face peeling and shedding away during his transformation into a Vampire. This is a case of Trailers Always Lie as this happens when he is exposed to sunlight later in the film.
- The Fly (1986) milks this trope for all it's worth, as Seth Brundle slowly, horrifically mutates into a monstrous humanoid fly over the course of an hour of screen time, in-universe about a month and a half. The changes are initially subtle, but soon his fingernails are coming off, his skin is suppurating, and his teeth fall out. The transformation terminates with extra limbs bursting through his torso and the flesh on his hands peeling off, as his facial features melt and slough off to reveal an insectoid face. The fly monster ultimately is transformed a second time, being teleported with broken machine parts and ending his life as a mechanical hybrid creature.
- The Howling. Another particularly graphic example werewolf transformation, with the squick factor dialed up thanks to effects artist Rob Bottin. His next gig would be The Thing (1982), widely considered a crowning achievement in body horror effects.
- The Indiana Jones movies did this at least twice to characters seeking Public Domain Artifacts that turned out to be too powerful for mortal hands. At the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when Those Wacky Nazis open the Ark of the Covenant, its divine power strikes them dead: one man's face shrivels up, one man's face melts, and one man messily explodes. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade did something similar in the shrine of the Holy Grail, which turns out to be hidden among dozens of other goblets; the guy who picks the wrong one dies by Rapid Aging. Remember, kids: Holy Is Not Safe.
- In Makodap's short film 11, the main character Peter Baxter attempts to flee from a luxury resort without paying his bill. He is tricked by the company and is painfully transformed into an attractive young woman. The transformation is intense and extremely painful with Peter screaming in agony, as bones break and reform. During the transformation, you see several internal shots, including Peter's heart beating faster and faster, his ribcage changing shape before he grows breasts and an internal view of his pelvis changing to a feminine shape. Also as the transformation proceeds, he sweats slime which according to the writer is Peter's biological mass breaking down due to the size difference between a man and woman and finally his mind is rewritten to serve the company owning the resort. Pleasure Island Incorporated intends to get their money somehow, and have plans for Peter, or Nikki as he will be known as.
- Late Phases: When Griffin transforms, he viciously rips off his skin to let the werewolf out. Father Roger is so shocked that, instead of running away immediately, he remains petrified almost till the end of the transformation.
- In The Matrix, any human possessed by an Agent transforms into that Agent's appearance in a Silly Putty–style rearrangement of anatomy. Exaggerated by Agent Smith's Clone by Conversion ability in the later films, as the process takes place much more slowly and the victim appears to be fully aware of the fact that they are being overwritten by the Agent as it happens.
- The 1990 film Metamorphosis: The Alien Factor is a particularly long and gruesome film centered entirely around a scientist accidentally mixing their cells with a mutated alien after being bit by the monster. The next 40 minutes are said scientist's horrifically slow, irreversible, bloody, and painful mutation into what could only be described as a hybrid between Biollante from Godzilla and G Birkin's final form from Resident Evil 2. Even being shifted back human at the end of the film from an electron accelerator only causes the mutation to go haywire and mutate into an even worse monster. Needless to say, neither form could be described as bipedal or humanoid in the slightest.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master has Debbie, a tough and confident rocker girl with a fear of bugs. Freddy kills her by slowly transforming her into a giant cockroach; first her broken forearms fall off and new insectoid appendages grow out, and then she slips into a roach sticky trap and her face peels off to reveal an insectoid face. She is still screaming when Freddy finishes up by crushing her in his palm.
- Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue is mostly known for the Body Horror involved the titular character's transformation sequence being the most horrifying thing to come out of the franchise; it is painful, slow, and Shin's body goes through motion that the human body shouldn't. It's quite impressive that these effects have held up 30 years after the movie's release.
- Tetsuo: The Iron Man takes the cake when it comes to both transformation and horror. A bizarre, and harrowing film about a "metal fetishist" that infects the salaryman who ran him over with a virus that slowly turns him into a machine until he's a walking heap of scrap metal. And it gets worse from there.
- Willow: Of the Horrifying Metamorphosis variety, when Queen Bavmorda magically transforms an entire army into pigs. It's made explicit that the transformation doesn't affect what the victims are wearing, making a slow, painful process worse with constriction by clothing and medieval armor as they change shape.
- XX: In "Don't Fall", the transformation Gretchen undergoes into human/spider hybrid is extremely rapid and painful.
- Trick 'r Treat combines this with Fan Disservice, when a group of attractive college girls at a party start stripping... and then they start peeling off their skin, revealing themselves as werewolves.
- Invoked and inverted in Animal Farm: The other animals are horrified to watch the pigs, who were satirical allegories of Communist dictators, gradually become indistinguishable from the humans they overthrew, though the pigs barely seem to notice.
- Animorphs. Many, many examples throughout the series, played straight to the point of a Black Humor Running Gag. Most of the Animorphs freak out the first couple of times they try particularly exotic morphs, but after a while they get used to it. Shining examples include:
- Fish: You lose all your limbs and frequently spend a few moments either underwater with lungs or out of it with gills, and on at least one occasion a character spent several seconds with neither.
- The undiluted Transformation Horror of insect morphs. One has to become a Giant Insect/Human hybrid for the duration of changing from a human to an insect. (See The Fly if it hasn't hit you why that's horrifying yet.) Also, note that insects don't have eyelids, and frequently do have panoramic vision, so you have to watch it happen. The loss of self if the insect is a Hive Mind is also especially horrifying.
- Book 39 features a unique, and particularly horrifying version. An ant accidentally gets the ability to morph, and unintentionally starts to morph into Cassie. As soon as it can, it begins to scream. Cassie (through her own revulsion and horror) wonders why, before realizing that the ant if losing the Hive Mind and gaining self, a concept as foreign and horrifying to it as the reverse is to us. While normally an All-Loving Hero, even she considers it an abomination that must be destroyed.
- The defiance of this trope is Cassie's, and one Andalite character's, talent. Rather than looking like several crimes against nature she can make the transformation nice to look at, even beautiful (except, again, insects).
- In Black Bullet, this happens whenever some poor sap transforms into a Gastrea. His body bulges unnaturally as he transforms.
- Invoked in the Discworld novels: Angua absolutely forbids anyone to watch her while she is transforming from human to werewolf and vice-versa. Especially her lover Carrot, on the grounds that what he may see could put him off her for life. One man who did watch ran away, and went to sea to put the terrible sight behind him. However, it should be noted that it's not the least bit horrific or traumatic for Angua herself, as the transformation doesn't even feel uncomfortable. When describing it, she compares it to "a full-body sneeze".
- Damned thieves in The Divine Comedy are turned into snakes and have to regain human form by attacking others and eating their essences. The poet gives a vivid description of how each part of the human body devolves into the form of a serpent while the serpent painfully splits apart into a man.
- Eden Green graphically depicts most varieties of transformation horror; the central theme of the book is Horrifying Metamorphosis. In addition, the rationalist main character imagines many possible scenarios in which the needle symbiote can ruin a person forever.
- The Girl from the Miracles District has a Traumatic variety with Nikita's transformation into a berserk, and the story delights in providing the reader with an in-depth, vivid description of what exactly is happening to Nikita's body and mind.
- In The Gordian Event by Lee Deadkeys, people infected by the Gordian parasite mutilate themselves at the onset of infection, bloat to the point of splitting their skin and have their internal organs and bones partially digested as the parasite grows. Rudy does an in-depth analysis of the end result, pointing out the internal damage and amniotic fluid that sustains the host through the otherwise fatal transformation.
Rudy: See here, how the ribs are spread and bulged? Look closer at the rib bones, do you see this pocking? I believe that is marrow showing through thin spots on the bone.
- Harry Potter:
- The Polyjuice Potion temporarily transforms the user's body to look like someone else. We first see it in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, with lovely descriptions of Harry's insides "writhing as though he'd just swallowed live snakes," followed by his skin melting and bubbling as it transforms. Later, in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the man we thought was Mad-Eye Moody reverts to his true form when the potion wears off. We get a description of Moody's wooden leg and magical glass eye popping out of the transforming body as the impostor's real leg and eye grow back in.
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban has Professor Lupin's transformation into a werewolf. Also, the stories of his transformations as a child coupled with the bloodstains and destruction in the Shrieking Shack are pretty disturbing, especially since he has to go through a similar process every single month.
- Living In Times Of Dragons zigzags this trope towards the end. The protagonist, a father, witnesses a process by which by which his son is turned into a dragon. Although the process is horrifying for the son, you get the feeling that the father is even more horrified by the event.
- In Loyal Enemies, Shelena describes her transformation from human to wolf and back as non-painful but horrifying to look at, as her bones have to change their structure and function and all of this happens in the open. She likens it to watching someone being turned inside out. Rest doesn't manage to look away quickly enough the first time she transforms in his presence and has to make a dash for the nearest bushes to vomit up his breakfast.
- Red Moon Rising (Moore): The Change that werewolves go through involves multiple bones breaking, permanent disfigurement that lasts even into human form, and is incredibly painful. The fact that it takes place in strict and militant government compounds certainly doesn't help.
- The Half Human Hybrids in H. P. Lovecraft's The Shadow Over Innsmouth become more and more like their Fish People ancestors as they age.
- In The Southern Reach Trilogy, expedition members entering the Eldritch Location Area X are warned to avoid "contamination" in vague, unspecified terms. They only learn the exact nature of the contamination when their bodies begin transforming. Most turn into animals similar to the existing local wildlife, but sometimes the process goes wrong and results in a hideous abomination.
- Kent J. Starrett tends to do this, but it's most prevalent in his adult works; particularly the Sci-Fi Horror anthology Human Resources (2018).
- Thinner by Stephen King: An obese lawyer begins losing weight after hitting a gypsy's daughter with his car. The friends who help him cover it up develop their own body issues.
- United States Of Japan introduces a lovely virus that rewrites the victim's DNA. Not into anything in particular: imagine spamming 1s and 0s across a hard drive to understand the effect, which is painful, gruesome to watch and inevitably fatal. It's used to interrogate traitors.
- In The Magicians, the Brakebills students are transformed into geese in order to fly to Antarctica for their fourth year of study, and the process is a nightmarish, bewildering experience, featuring Body Horror, uncomfortable sensations, and the desperate need to vomit. However, once they learn how to actually use the spell at Brakebills South and expand it into Voluntary Shapeshifting, it becomes a much smoother experience that can actually be used for fun.
- In Being Human (UK), When Werewolves transform, it is horrifically painful, and for good reason, his roommate Mitchell describes it in detail and it sounds like the most agonizing thing ever:
Mitchell: He should be dead within 30 seconds. The werewolf heart is about two-thirds the size of a human's; but, in order to shrink, first, it has to stop. In other words, he has a heart attack. All the internal organs are smaller; so, while he's having his heart attack, he's having a liver and kidney failure too, and if he stops screaming, it's not because the pain has dulled: his throat, gullet, and vocal cords are tearing and reforming. He literally can't make a sound. By now, the pituitary gland should be working overtime, flooding his body with endorphins to ease some of the pain, but that, too, has shut down. Anyone else would have died of shock long ago, but it won't let him. And THAT'S the thing I find most remarkable: it drags him through fire and keeps him alive and even conscious to endure every second. Nothing like this could just evolve; this is the fingerprint of God, an impossible, lethal curse, spread by tooth and claw. Victim begets victim begets victim. It's so cruel, it's... perfect.
- Doctor Who:
- In "The Ark in Space", Noah finds himself slowly undergoing a horrifying transformation into a Wirrn after being infected by one.
- One character's transformation into a gas mask zombie in "The Empty Child" shows his face transforming into a gas mask and the mouthpiece coming out from inside his mouth.
- In the Farscape episode "Thanks For Sharing", a shapeshifting Corlata has been impersonating the daughter of Kanvia's sovereign in order to keep an eye on Moya's crew. When the disguise is no longer needed, the Corlata changes back in truly horrific fashion.
- Hemlock Grove has some of the goriest werewolf transformation sequences in all fiction. The person doesn't just grow a lot of hair, canine teeth, and stretched limbs, it's more akin to a butterfly transformation with their entire human body getting ripped off so the wolf underneath can burst out, and then eat the shed remains of their human form. Peter implies that he doesn't actually feel anything during the transformation because it is too painful for the brain to process, comparing it to how you wouldn't feel anything if you got hit by a bus.
- Kamen Rider:
- The title character of Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue turns into an organic monster rather than an armored suit, and his first transformation is a nearly two-minute process showing every individual step of the change. His second transformation is faster, but still opens with his forehead ripping open to expose a third eye and antennae.
- Kamen Rider Gaim turns humans into monsters either by eating the Helheim Forest's fruit, or by spreading the infection through scratches that leave an Alien Kudzu growing out of the victim's open wounds before they change. On one occasion a human manages to transform back partway, putting them into a mutilated half-human half-monster state.
- Kamen Rider Zero-One uses a type of Ridiculously Human Robot as the base for its monsters, so it's able to show the transformation in much more visceral detail, with an innocent HumaGear being turned into a monster starting the process by ripping their own skin off.
- In the first episode of the second series of Misfits, the shapeshifter's transformation sequences involve her clawing at her face and screaming in agony as the lights of the locker room flicker behind her. Made more unsettling by the fact that her eyes turn completely black in both pre- and post-transformation forms.
- The Outer Limits (1995):
- "Quality of Mercy": During a future space war, a female cadet is locked up with a Major from another division when they're both captured by the aliens. The aliens start to transform her into one of them, so they recruit her and use whatever useful knowledge she possesses, and her body gradually mutates further. Until the ending reveals that they're changing her back, and she was sent to spy on the Major so that he'd reveal the location of their forces.
- "The New Breed": A man injects himself with experimental nanotechnology to cure his pelvic cancer. The problem is that they don't stop there, or even at healing old scars and adjusting his eyesight so that he doesn't need glasses anymore. For instance, they interpret his inability to breathe underwater as a physical weakness, and he develops gills. It only gets worse from there.
- Raven and Chelsea slowly turn into cows in the Halloween episode of That's So Raven. They don't exactly take having long pointy ears and white, furry tails very well...
- The Witcher (2019): Yennefer endures a gruesome magical surgery to remove her deformities, including a hunched back. The transformation itself consists of a special black paint being drawn on her body, which dissolves into the skin and rearranges bone and muscle; we see her back split open to her spine as it's straightened, leaving her covered in blood and shrieking in agony. Oh, and before all this she had to get a hysterectomy as a trade-off without any kind of anesthetic; though this was by choice, it doesn't make it any less horrifying for her.
- Hilariously Subverted in an episode of Wizards of Waverly Place when Justin is transformed into a werewolf by his new girlfriend. He freaks out over this trope applying, but she tells him the change is actually quick and painless. Sure enough, by the time the camera pans back to him, he's already changed without even noticing.
- The New Orleans swamp-dwelling Roux-Ga-Roux werewolf changes between its forms by ripping its own skin off, revealing the skin underneath.
- Celtic Mythology's Cú Chullain had an ability called "Warp Spasm", which basically made him The Incredible Hulk, but with a Nightmare Face. Standard "go from a regular guy to a beefy mass of Unstoppable Rage," with a side order of Eye Scream-one eye would swell until it popped out on the nerve, the other would shrink and recede into his skull. His mouth split (the text doesn't state whether this would be like mandibles a or Glasgow Grin), his temples swelled up, his knees reversed orientation, and his hair got spiky.
- Midst: Bad things happen if you run out of lightbulbs in Midst. It's the reason why Moc Weepe's skin and eyes are alabastar-white. It's also why Fuse's mouth is upside-down. Tongue on the top, roof of the mouth on the bottom, and so forth. (The narrators assure us that it's gross.)
- In Dawn of a New Age: Oldport Blues, this is the result of Daigo forcibly feeding his vampiric blood to a Disposable Vagrant. The vagrant's skin melts off his bones and his body contorts unnaturally as a new, lizard-like body grows out from within him.
- In Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000, notable servants of Chaos tend to accumulate mutations as rewards (or punishments) from the Chaos Gods, and/or through exposure to raw Chaotic energy. Some of these mutations have a clear end goal, like the champion taking on the appearance of one of their god's daemons, but others follow no set pattern. Those who have received too many "gifts", or have fallen out of favour with the gods, risk devolving into insane, shapeless horrors called Chaos Spawn.
- Fantasy's werewolves are known as skinwolves. Rather than the phases of the moon, their transformation is based on carnage, with the wolf form bursting out of the the human's skin. Once the wolf-man has gorged itself, its insides collapse and the human form has to fight its way out of the loose wolfman's skin.
- Most of the early-mid game opponents in Bloodborne are some kind of werewolf-like creatures, who clearly were once men. When encountering Vicar Amelia, you actually get to see how exactly the transformation goes; and even a Gory Discretion Shot can't hide the fact that it isn't pretty.
- Body Harvest: In the Siberia level some poor sap is being mutated into a Giant Spider-man hybrid by the aliens. Adam can even talk to him as he's lying helpless on a table.
- The Formless Flesh in Darkest Dungeon is a horrible, constantly shifting mass of demonically possessed pig flesh, which shifts every turn - sprouting heads, hearts, spines and tentacular backsides at random. It's actually even uglier than it sounds. And while we don't get to see much of the transition, the Countess from the Crimson Court DLC actually weaponizes it when transforming into her true form, as this is a game where Stress is a mechanic and witnessing her go from mostly human to horrendous insectoid abomination is not a pretty sight at all for the four heroes.
- The Dead Space franchise is largely built around this trope: all of the Nightmare Fuel that's trying to kill you is the result of a mutagenic plague commandeering recently dead bodies for arts and crafts projects. The kicker is that we learn in Dead Space 2 and 3 that you just have to be mostly dead. Bonus points for the opening moments of 2 of having someone turn into a necromorph two inches away from your face. It's not a painless transformation.
- In Diablo II, the Dark Wanderer's body has already been altering slightly due to his nasty Demonic Possession, but in the cinematic for Act IV, he goes through a transformation that Marius, who followed the Wanderer all this way, describes as "not meant for mortal eyes." At first, the skin on his face starts flowing, and then most of it is hidden as he transforms into Diablo in his full formnote .
- In Discover My Body, you follow along with a man who's chosen to be physically assimilated with some sort of hive minded fungus and is gradually becoming less and less human. He seems pretty happy with the arrangement, though.
- In The Elder Scrolls series, the Bosmer (Wood Elves) are capable of invoking "The Wild Hunt", a one-way transformation into nightmarish monsters used only as a last resort in defense of their homeland. Most recently, it was used to end the Five-Year War against the Khajiit who were raiding deep into the Bosmeri homeland. It brought a very swift end to the war before the Mer-turned-monsters turned on each other in a "cannibalistic orgy".
- Final Fantasy:
- Final Fantasy VII's resident Mad Scientist Dr. Hojo, and what happens to him when he downs one of his serums when Cloud and Co face him. Back in the day when FF7's graphics was top of the line, this looked horrifying.
- Many Sorceresses in Final Fantasy VIII appear to slowly mutate into no particular end form. One unnamed Sorceress boss looks less like a human being and more like a giant grub. Ultimecia's (quickly changing) One-Winged Angel forms deserve a honorable mention: first she fuses herself with a giant lion-like beast, and later turns into a form no less repulsive than the aforementioned grub woman.
- The Sin Eaters in the Shadowbringers story of Final Fantasy XIV are stated to be humans or other living things after they are transformed by the primordial light. A few people tell you that once a Sin Eater plants its seed in you via wounding you or other methods, you will become one of them in due time. Early on in the main story, you get to actually witness someone transform into a Sin Eater and it's not pretty; their whole body becomes white, they let out a blood curdling scream, their faces become hard like plaster, they puke up light aspected vomit, and then they finally transform into a winged monstrosity with a vaguely human looking face.
- Traumatic Transformation happens when you put on the Deku, Goron, Zora, or Fierce Deity masks in The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Thank goodness it's possible to skip them after you see it for the first time.
- Similarly, the first time Link transforms into a wolf in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess appears all too painful and disorienting for poor Link. Like Majora's Mask, however, transforming after this first cutscene is instantaneous and, presumably, painless.
- This trope is the main problem faced by the characters of Pandora's Tower. The protagonist's girlfriend, Elena, has been cursed to turn into an Eldritch Abomination, and the main goal of the game is to stop it before it's too late. The horror part is in full effect here, with the transformation growing more gruesome every second you waste.
- During Parasite Eve series Square again provide graphic depictions of this trope in their high-quality CGI movies, starting from rats, and ending with humans. That German Shepherd from the first game also deserves a special mention. Poor thing...
- Those grisly transformation cutscenes from Project: Altered Beast in all of their CG blood-spurting, skin-tearing, head-exploding, teeth-flying, eye-bursting, vein-popping, toe-wiggling, face-stretching and overall Squicktastic glory.
- Erazor Djinn while he transforms into Alf Layla wa-Layla in Sonic and the Secret Rings.
- Dark Gaia's transformation into Perfect Dark Gaia in Sonic Unleashed also counts as this. The amount of blood (or even sheer presence of it) involvednote is what got the game an E10+ rating by the ESRB. The very first Werehog transformation also falls under this trope, as you witness every single change Sonic has to go through, with the very last thing being his fangs growing in. All in agonizing detail.
- Water Womb World: The game ends with the protagonist swimming out into the ocean abyss to feed on "coral," which is apparently transforming him into one of the colossal red entities that he earlier identified as one of the sinless human descendants of Adam and Eve. It's subtle, but you can also notice his eyes become solid black by checking the mirror in the submersible over the course of the game.
- In Spirit Hunter: NG, the Urashima Woman kills a security guard and dumps him in the lake. Akira finds the body later while it's in the process of being transformed into a turtle - its skin is grey and leathery, the eyes are milky white, and its lips are grotesquely morphing into a beak, leaving the corpse to bare its teeth in a gruesome grimace.
- The transformation of Chachamaru Ashikaga from Full Metal Daemon Muramasa into armored mode is a far cry from the usually clean transformations of tsurugi. As a result of being a Half-Human Hybrid, the transformation tears both the skin and flesh as chunks of metal bursts forth and realign themselves, breaking bones as they do, into armored plates and weapons. In short, the transformation basically twists the body inside-out using the shortest possible route.
- Dear Children: We clearly see Wesley undergoing the early stages of a horrifying metamorphosis. Made all the worse as he's previously been established as a sympathetic character, beloved by at least one other sympathetic character. Afterward, he is so badly mutated that he is mistaken for dead (though this may also be due to a death-like sleep as part of the transformation. Later, we see the partly transformed Wesley, who is recognizable mostly by his sweater to people already familiar with his human appearance. Still later, his actions demonstrate that he has truly become a monster.
- Nebula: Used in different ways for Sun and the dwarf planets consumed by Black Hole.
- Sun is very slowly changing into something else, growing physically much larger and (as he is made of fire) burning hotter, and he is conscious and worried by the fact that his personality is changing along with his body and turning him into something very hungry and constantly on the edge of fury.
- The transformation for dwarf planets is very rapid and makes them look outright monstrous (among other things, growing distorted extra limbs can happen), with their minds either subsumed or controlled by Black Hole once the transformation is done.
- Runewriters: Severian and other shapechangers can turn themselves into various animals. This includes aberrants, the resident lovecraftian horrors. Watching someone turn into one on-panel is less than comfortable.
- Trevor (2020): Trevor can transform parts of his body very fast, but the skin, bones, and muscles don't transform at the same pace, resulting in broken bones, exposed/bleeding muscles, and lots of torn skin.
- Unclassified Encounter: Wendigo transformations are horrific, to say the least. Anyone killed by such a creature will themselves turn into one, and it is not pleasant. First, the victim's skin turns pale white. Then, their arms become longer, with their nails become sharp claws. While this is happening, the victim begins looping in and out of consciousness, developing a Horror Hunger in the process. And finally, their vision becomes bright yellow. And the worst part? The victim is completely aware of their loss of humanity and turn into a vicious cannibalistic monster.
- Japanese stop-motion animator Nariomarudarkside’s works heavily rely on this trope, and can get lavishly visceral, given the abundant use of claymation to realise the horrifying modifications the characters of each animation go through. Of particular note among his works are the Deformed Gecko series, and the short film Saka Men.
- A .Gif file exists of a man doing the standard "Transform and Roll Out!" line from Transformers, and turning into an Organitek car- his spine and ribs pop out of his back to make him quadrupedal, his face tears into quarters to become the grille and headlights, his arms and legs become the fuselage, and it's best not to speculate on where the tyres come from.
- Whateley Universe: Several of the students have experienced this to some degree or another due to their mutations, but four in particular stand out:
- Fubar, formerly 'Brainteaser', who had an encounter with... something... on the astral plane, which caused him to transform into a literally Lovecraftian creature which is unable to breathe air anymore. He's lived in a pool in the basement of Hawthorne Cottage for three decades now.
- Puppet, whose blood turned into a toxic green muck which is slowly killing her, thanks to a necromantic sacrificial ritual intended to turn her into the mage's super-powered catspaw. She has been on life support for over a year, as most of her major organs have shut down entirely, including her heart.
- Migraine, who attempted to use an experimental Devise to transform herself into an Exemplar, but instead was transformed into a Gigeresque insectoid monstrosity that was trapped in an immobile exoskeleton.
- Theophany, who, under the direction of a voice claiming to be God, transformed Folder into a girl with intention of making her his 'divine bride'. Folder's reaction when he attempted to consummate the marriage by force left Theophany looking like a crumpled piece of paper - alive, but horribly mutilated and distorted to the point that even Jobe was shocked.
- Played for Laughs in The Amazing World of Gumball episode "The Nuisance"; after a spree of good deeds, the Wattersons quite graphically turn into 60's-style white humans, except for Darwin, who turns into a dog. This even includes a part where their bare feet turn into shoes and their car turns into a minivan.
- Arcane: The effects of early Shimmer on the body are not pretty with grotesquely bulging muscles and purple veins all over the body. It's also incredibly painful.
- The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes episode "Gamma World" has The Leader turn various people into gamma-irradiated monsters. A few gruesome sights include the victims writhing in pain, The Wasp and Black Panther developing the features of their animal namesakes, and Iron Man's heart contorting.
- Danny Phantom
- One episode has Danny trying to duplicate himself, only to horribly, horribly mutate himself: little heads on individual fingers, mouths for eyes, eyeballs sticking out and so forth. On the other hand, it is Played for Laughs.
- Bertrand's transformation into a monster doctor is quite grotesque: his eyes pop out, his skin becomes green and bubbles as if it were boiling, he gains sharp fangs, his tongue stretches out, and when it's complete, his brain becomes exposed.
- Ben 10 has a lot of this in the Stock Footage transformation used in the first 3 shows. Most notable is Ghostfreak's AF transformation, where Ben's skull rotates 180 degrees. Another is the transformation into Goop, which involves Ben's skeleton melting into sludge.
- Garfield: His 9 Lives has the "Lab Cat" of segment 7 becoming a dog. In the original book it was scary but quick◊ but in animation, it's a Painful Transformation that even resorts to only his shadow in the final takes.
- In Inhumanoids, when D'Compose touches people, they turn into giant, ghoulish zombie-like creatures. The only way to reverse the transformation is to expose them to sunlight, which is also D'Compose's weakness.
- The Mask: Stanley Ipkiss when he puts on the mask moans in pain because of the fact that his head along with his eyes, teeth, ears, and tongue are changing along with his mind, but he gets used to it and The Mask, like Stanley, is a sweet, kind and good-hearted person. The same thing also happens with Evelyn who accidentally puts it on, but she's also good-hearted.
- Men in Black: The Series: Alpha collects useful anatomy and additional limbs from alien species as he descends farther and farther into evil and madness. By his last appearance, he's pretty grotesque, and an excellent example of Mix and Match mutation.
- In Over the Garden Wall, those close to death or past the Despair Event Horizon turn into edelwood trees, which the Beast then uses to keep his lantern lit.
- In the Phineas and Ferb Halloween episode "Night of the Living Pharmacists", Dr. Doofenshmirtz accidentally starts a Zombie Apocalypse that turns people into mindless copies of himself. In keeping with the show's TV-G rating, it's minimized, but there are some unsettling images as characters' features warp into Doofenshmirtz's, screaming as they do until they lose the ability to speak beyond the Doof zombie Madness Mantra, "Lots of me! Lots of me!"
- In the Rick and Morty episode "Rick Potion #9", when Morty can't get anyone to go to the school dance with him, he has Rick create a love potion to make his crush Jessica fall in love with him. When he uses it on her, she has the flu and infects most of the school making them all attracted to Morty. Rick makes an antidote using praying mantis DNA, but that just makes things worse as they transform into giant mutant praying mantises who want to eat Morty after mating with him. Rick then tries a new potion, but this one turns them into tentacled fleshy blob creatures he dubs "Cronenbergs". When the virus then spreads to the whole Earth, they are unable to fix the problem, so they end up teleporting to an alternate Earth where this never happened.
- When Samurai Jack gets infected with a fleck of Aku, black spots start growing and spreading on his body, making his hands and feet clawed and gradually replacing his facial features with the Big Bad's while also making him do far more evil things. It takes him a long time to catch on, even after he starts arguing with himself, but he's plainly horrified when he sees it. At some point, Aku takes over his body so that only an eye and a small patch of skin around it is left, and Jack weeps.
- Episode C: After finding out he's her father, Aku forcibly (and painfully) transforms Ashi into a demonic version of herself, while Jack can only look on in helpless horror.
- The Spectacular Spider-Man: When Connors transforms into the Lizard, his head doesn't slowly narrow, but rather partially implodes to form his new lizard head.
- Spider-Man: The Animated Series. Poor Spider-Man underwent quite the horrifying metamorphosis into ManSpider several times in the "Neogenic Nightmare" arc, with each iteration being more severe than the last, eventually developed into full-blown Mutation Horror. Later on, the Vulture absorbed Spidey's youth and powers... and also his unstable mutating DNA, meaning he sporadically changed fully or partly into the same creature.
- SpongeBob SquarePants:
- Happened to SpongeBob in "I Was a Teenage Gary" when an injection of snail plasma turned him into a snail, and Squidward later followed suit.
- Much later in "Krabby Patty Creature Feature", Sandy creates a new type of Krabby Patty called a "Secret Patty" for Mr. Krabs in order to serve up something new at the Krusty Krab, but ends up getting disastrous results, as when they're swallowed, they turn people into zombie-like Krabby Patty creatures that can infect non-infected people by ripping off parts of their body and force-feeding them, turning them into more creatures. During the episode, several characters get turned into creatures, like Mr. Krabs, Sandy herself, Squidward, Patrick, Bubble Bass, and even Plankton. At some point in the episode, is shown that Karen gets also infected by the creatures, but since she's a computer, she doesn't turn into one. SpongeBob saves the day when he discovers that the weakness of the creatures is eating chum.
- Steven Universe had Steven trying to learn how to use his shapeshifting powers, and his first successful attempt was to turn one of his fingers into a tiny cat head. Then another of his fingers into a second tiny cat head. Things escalated a bit out of control from there.
- Played much more seriously in the sequel series where at the height of a mental breakdown, Steven turns into a giant pink Godzilla-inspired monster with a very long neck and spikes all over his back. The transformation itself is arguably worse, as a mass of pink spikes bursts out of his back, and that's all we see of it -the episode abruptly ends, leaving the rest to the imagination.
- As shown in the video example below, in the Superman: The Animated Series episode "The Hand Of Fate" has the demonic being Karkull turning the members of the Daily Planet including Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen into demonic creatures by infecting them with stingray like demons, they are changed back when Superman and Dr. Fate use the Artifact of Lorta on them.
- In Street Sharks, this pretty much is what gene slamming is all about. Every time a person is turned into a fish/human hybrid, it involves them twisting around, screaming in pain. And since most of the designs involve the heads being directly fused to the bodies with no necks, it means that the transformation involves the subject's head changing shape.
- The franime Team Galaxy uses this several times (though, being a kid show, it downplays the horror):
- In "Alien Brett", Brett tries to create a growth serum out of the DNA of a giant two-headed Kaiju beast. While at first it works well, giving Brett the strength and stamina he sought, he quickly develops unusual traits such as pimples, claws, an expanded appetite, growing feet... and when he grows a second head he realizes trying to mix his DNA with the one of an alien monster might not have been a good idea. Cut to Brett having turned into a replica of the two-headed giant monster and having lost his mind, acting in a very aggressive and destructive way, trying to kill all his classmates... and given what he says after he returns to normal he might have been aware of his actions while transformed but unable to resist his bestial nature.
- In "Strange Fruit", Josh experiments a case of Transflormation after eating an unknown alien fruit and turning into a giant replica of said fruit. At first, it serves mostly as a source of gag and awkward situations - he grows warts/pimples like those of the fruit, he turns orange, he grows so big he gets stuck in doors, leaves sprout out of his ears... But it slowly evolves into a more horrifying process when Josh starts to lose his ability to move and speak as his muscle and organs are replaced by fruit-flesh and pulp (Yoko can make his hand move and his finger twitch by squeezing his forearm). And then he starts to emit a powerful stench because, as his friends realize, he is past his point of ripeness, and is now starting to rot.
- In the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) episode "Revenge of the Fly", Baxter Stockman turns people including April, Vernon, Irma, and Burne into giant mutant insects with a mutagen ray gun. The turtles are able to reverse the transformations by adjusting the dial.
- Insects change form or size by shedding their skin and growing when their flesh is still supple. Sometimes this process fails. The results range from a bit odd to grotesque to downright Lovecraftian. And the insect's still alive...
- When a caterpillar undergoes metamorphosis, it forms a chrysallis around its body. Within this chrysallis, enzymes in the pupating caterpillar dissolve its entire body, save for a few key organs. Imaginal discs then reconstitute this primordial goop into a new body for what ultimately becomes the butterfly.