Horror movies can strike fear in the hearts of viewers with hulking abominations shadowing innocent teens or phantoms haunting idealistic families in a new home, but sometimes turning to our deeper, most primal fears can lead to a horror movie that really makes our skin crawl - literally because of creatures crawling under skin.
Body horror is a genre all to itself and seriously not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. Turning to the universal, gut-wrenching fear of something living inside your flesh, body horror flicks often forgo the usual horror tropes to deliver a punch right to your subconscious.
There are the renowned skin-crawling films like Alien and The Thing, then there are pretty good horror movies with scenes pulled directly out of your nightmares. From worm-like alien parasites ambushing people relaxing in baths to carnivorous bugs burrowing into our limbs to snake-like tendrils writhing around under our skin, these films will likely give you goosebumps, and maybe even make you a bit queasy.
When an alien parasite lands on a meteor in Wheelsy, SC, it infects a local resident named Grant (Michael Rooker), who begins to transform into a tentacled mutant and infect locals to serve as his minions and breeding vessels. Meanwhile, Police Chief Bill Pardy (Nathan Fillion) and Grant's wife Starla (Elizabeth Banks) try to figure out what's going on and stop the incursion.
This over-the-top body-horror comedy is packed with gross moments and stomach-churning visuals that intentionally push boundaries - from alien worm parasites ambushing vulnerable women in bathtubs to Brenda (Brenda James) becoming an incubator for thousands of alien parasites, which causes her to swell before bursting with alien worm monsters. This is one of those rare horror movies that will make you want to take a long, hot shower to wash off the memories (but definitely not a bath).
Actors: Elizabeth Banks, Jenna Fischer, Rob Zombie, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker, + more
Directed by: James Gunn
This teen horror romp focuses on a Breakfast Club-like collection of mismatched students at Herrington High School in Ohio. They are forced to work together when they discover that an alien menace has been infecting and taking over their teachers in the beginning steps of a full-blown incursion.
Taking its cues from many, many other sci-fi horror films that came before it - including The Thing, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and The Stepford Wives, to name a few - The Faculty does an admirable job of reimagining the beats it borrows from better films to create an engaging and paranoid teen horror comedy. From featuring tendrils growing out of severed fingers and snaking around inside people's faces, this cult creeper will scratch that alien doppelganger itch.
Actors: Salma Hayek, Usher, Famke Janssen, Jon Stewart, Jordana Brewster, + more
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez
This frightening, brain-twisting suspense horror follows Lena (Natalie Portman), a biology professor and former US Army soldier who leads a team of researchers into an area of America that has been overcome by a mysterious phenomenon known as the "shimmer." Inside the zone, some unknown force has begun to radically change the evolution and cellular biology of living organisms, including their sense of logic and emotional stability.
While the film is perhaps best remembered for the giant albino alligator and the scenes in which the crew is being hunted by a massive mutated bear, one of the most disturbing scenes comes when the team finds a camera with a video recording made by their predecessors. The disturbing tape gives them a look at how badly things went wrong, showing one soldier cutting open another soldier's stomach to reveal his intestines slithering around like snakes inside his body. You can't really set a tone of abject terror any better than that.
Actors: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny, + more
Directed by: Alex Garland
As an anthology film, the 1982 cult classic Creepshow tells several frightening, often disgusting scary stories that run the gamut from ghost tales to alien parasite incursion parables, all told within a loose framework that ties the stories together. Two of the tales stand out when it comes to body horror. This first, "The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill," stars Stephen King as the eponymous Jordy Verrill, a lonely hillbilly who finds a glowing, hot meteorite that landed near his property. An ooze from the meteorite then infects him with a rapidly spreading moss-like plant organism that soon consumes him.
An even creepier, crawlier story comes later with "They're Creeping Up on You," which weaves the upsetting story of Upson Pratt, a mean, immoral businessman with germophobia who lives in seclusion in a sealed, clean apartment. When a blackout hits New York, Upson finds himself facing his greatest fear - a massive infestation of cockroaches inside his home. This distressing tale of paranoia and panic manages to truly get inside your brain, especially if you, like Upson, are not a big fan of roaches.
Actors: Stephen King, Ed Harris, Ted Danson, Leslie Nielsen, Hal Holbrook, + more
Directed by: George A. Romero