Isabelle Adjani in Possession (1981)
Possession (1981) by Andrzej Żuławski.
Stories & Ideas

Mon 23 Oct 2017

Five unmissable body horror movies


Back when we screened The Untamed, we put together this bloody list.

On one hand, Amat Escalante's The Untamed is a Mexican social realist piece that mounts a critique of the latent homophobia and toxic masculinity in Latino culture.

On the other, it has been described as "the second-best movie ever made about tentacle sex".

In its latter identity, Escalante's film joins the canon of monster horror films where social and psychological fears are transformed into slimy tentacled beasts with an insatiable appetite for sex and death.

In preparation for the opening of The Untamed this week, we've put together a primer list of five films films that set the scene for the monster uncanny on screen. Consider your Halloween viewing sorted.

Shivers (1975)

You can’t discuss body horror and sexual misadventures without diving into the work of Canadian auteur David Cronenberg. Shivers, not unlike The Untamed, imagines sexual desire as being both an agent of liberation and an agent of chaos. When a sexually transmitted disease breaks out in a modern apartment complex, the inhabitants are turned into ravenous, murderous sex fiends. Do not leave your keys in the bowl.

Possession (1981)

Using as a starting point the disintegration of a marriage, Polish director Andrzej Zulawski certainly puts his stars Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neill through the ringer. Neill plays a husband who suspects his wife’s (Adjani) erratic behaviour is the result of a guilty cheating conscience, but things escalate quickly when he discovers his wife in the embrace of – you guessed it – a slimy tentacled creature. The subway scene is a particularly unmissable moment which helped Adjani take away Best Actress at Cannes that year.

Re-Animator (1985)

The body horror genre would be a totally different beast without the deranged writings of HP Lovecraft. Based on the 1921 episodic novella Herbert West-Reanimator, the 1985 film depicts a mad scientist who discovers a reanimating serum and begins bringing bodies back to life. The comedy sci-fi twist on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein has a 94% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and features a scene where a recently decapitated head attempts oral sex. A cult classic.

Brain Damage (1988)

Moving away from tentacled beasts for a moment, Frank Henenlotter’s deliriously fun exploitation film imagines the sexual id as literally a small, disgusting phallus shaped creature with a smart mouth and an appetite for human victims. Injecting itself into our hapless hero's brain stem, the film riffs on the classic addiction tale via a very bad acid trip. Its outrageous centrepiece is a blow job that goes horribly wrong; trust me, it really does.

Under the Skin (2013)

Speaking of unnatural desires, none is more beguiling and deadlier than Scarlett Johansson’s sexy alien on the make in Jonathan Glazer’s brilliant Under the Skin. Aided by an eerie score from Mika Levi, the film places the audience under its hypnotic spell from the opening chords as Johansson cruises the streets of Glasgow for lonely male victims (mostly played by non-actors). Once she has them in her tar-like lair (not a euphemism!) they willingly give in to their sublime and terrifying fate.

- Spiro Economopoulos