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The Mechanics Of Body Horror

By Jerome Reuter

Horror is an art that’s very complex. It exists in many forms, as well as several different sub-genres. Although I tend to lean more towards psychology and suspense, body horror continues to be the most compelling for me. I sometimes ask myself, what draws us into these films? What makes us eager to be grossed out, and sometimes even appalled? What is our fixation with these visceral extremities? Why do they always make us come back for more? Perhaps there’s a deeper answer to these questions, one than we might not have originally thought of.

The first thing that comes to mind, is one’s comfort zone. As human beings, we have a need to be taken out of it from time to time. We love to see just how far the envelope can be pushed, and in some cases, completely ripped to shreds. Essentially this is what film is, the ultimate form of voyeurism. The horror film  however, turns us into a sadomasochist. We allow the images to play out before our eyes and shock us. We might not realize it, but we enjoy ever moment of it.

Even when a film might go to far for our liking, we’ll still revel in the experience. In that sense, the films done its intention. Weather you loved it, hated it, or were indifferent, you’re still going to think about it the next day.

All of these mechanics I’ve mentioned apply to several horror films. Which brings me back to the original topic, body horror. We’ve established our need to be shocked, and our desire for the visceral. However, it’s an element that some films lack, that gives body horror its edge–Familiarity.

If you take a moment to think about it, what is it you’re most familiar with? The flesh of our own body, it’s as simple as that. From the earliest memories, we’re well aware of how sensitive our flesh can be. When we witness imagery of the flesh being harmed in extreme ways, it resonates with us. We’ve all accidentally cut ourselves, or scraped a knee or two. The sights bring back memories, and our imagination does the rest. Subconsciously, our minds magnify what it might feel like, based on our own experiences.

Stories with exorcisms, ghosts, or supernatural beings always make for a good story. Although the story might be very well done, it still relies on atmosphere and suspense to establish mood. Aside from that, it might not resonate with you, due to your lack of experience. Not everyone’s seen a ghost, or been chased by a maniac. However, we’re well aware of what pain is, and shudder to think of how far it can go.

This is why we continue to come crawling back for more. Time and again, we’re eager to see how far our limitations can be pushed. Aside from all of blood, blades, and excess, there’s a form of psychology here. It’s also why the horror film will always be important.

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