Horror 101: Body Horror vs. Splatter Horror

Alright, I’ve had something on my mind for a while and I think I finally want to get it off my chest. Going to take this opportunity to get up on my soapbox, grab my megaphone, and scream gibberish about horror narratives at unsuspecting passerbys.

Brace yourself, Daniel, I’m about to get super nerdy.

Body horror is not the same thing as gore.

Let me say it again, body horror is not the same thing as gore.

Now say it with me, body horror is not the same thing as gore.

If I had to pick my favorite subgenre of horror, it would be body horror and it drives me nuts when I tell people this and I get a response like:

“Gross, I hate gory movies.”

“Gore in horror movies is just lazy writing.”

“Ew, you’re nasty and you need jesus.”

I’m not going to deny the fact that I do like gory horror films and that I am nasty and indeed need jesus. There is something so satisfying about sipping a beer and watching buckets upon buckets of fake blood splatter across the TV screen.

But that’s not body horror. Those types of films are called splatter horror, which is a subgenre that demonstrates a fascination with the vulnerability of the human body through graphic gore and violence.

Body horror on the other hand is a subgenre of horror that intentionally showcases disturbing violations of the human body, like mutilation, mutation, disease, stranger behavior, or graphic violence. Unlike splatter, this subgenre is more focused on making the audience question what is means to be human and their own autonomy.

I think this is where the confusion between splatter and body horror comes from. Yes, body horror can use gore to achieve its goal, but it’s so much more than just gross special effects and fake blood.

A classic example of body horror is John Carpenter’s The Thing, a movie about an alien infiltrating a research outpost in Antarctica by killing off people and then taking that person’s place. The movie does show people dying and some gross mutations, but it’s never needlessly violent or gory. It’s the perfect example of body horror without having to disembowel anyone.

Another example of body horror that doesn’t use violence is The Faculty, one of my personal favorites. This movie is about an alien that takes over the teachers in a high school and it’s up to a group of students to save the world from in invasion. Again, this movie is scary and disturbing without utilizing over-the-top gore.

Body horror done well does not have to be gory or super gross. Body horror does not necessarily equal buckets of viscera and bad writing. Stop acting like I’m nasty because it’s my favorite subgenre. There are so many other factual reasons to call me nasty. Educate yourself.


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