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Journal of Popular Film and Television

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Mutations and Metamorphoses: Body Horror is


Biological Horror

Ronald Allan Lopez Cruz

To cite this article: Ronald Allan Lopez Cruz (2012) Mutations and Metamorphoses: Body
Horror is Biological Horror, Journal of Popular Film and Television, 40:4, 160-168, DOI:
10.1080/01956051.2012.654521

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01956051.2012.654521

Published online: 13 Dec 2012.

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Mutations and
Metamorphoses:
Body Horror is
Biological Horror
Downloaded by [El Colegio de Mxico, A.C.] at 10:54 06 October 2017

By
Ronald Allan Lopez Cruz

Copyright 2012 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC


DOI: 10.1080/01956051.2012.654521

160
Mutations and Metamorphoses 161

Abstract: Body horror, a


genre trope that showcases
often graphic violations
of the human body, is also
justifiably called biological
horror. The true biological
nature of the horror
elicited by these films is
here discussed in light of
hybrids, metamorphoses,
mutations, aberrant sex,
and zombification.
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Keywords: biological horror,


body horror, evolution,
hybrids, metamorphosis,
mutation, zombies

(left and above): The Fly (1986). Directed by David Cronenberg. Shown: Jeff Goldblum (as
Seth Brundle). Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp./Photofest. (Color figures
available online.)

What a book a devils chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful,


blundering, low, and horribly cruel work of nature!
Charles Darwin1

W hen the severed head of Nor-


ris (Charles Hallahan) grows
and skitters away on arach-
noid legs in John Carpenters The Thing
(1982), the horrifying image prompts
Horror Films, Philip Brophy states,
The essential horror of The Thing was
in the Things total disregard for and
ignorance of the human body (10).
Contemporary horror films play on the
revulsion can be approached in another
way that has not yet been adequately ex-
plored in this regard and in most other
genres of cinema: the biological.4 This
is not an effort to provide a biological
one of the other crew members to say: fear not of death but of ones own body explanation to the astounding anatomies
Youve got to be fucking kidding! and its potential destruction. Body hor- and physiologies often encountered in
The reaction is understandable; what ror is often used as a label for the string these horror films. Instead, the purpose
else can one say when faced with such of horror films by David Cronenberg is to show what makes body horror a
an abominable, inexplicable violation of in the 1970s and early 1980s and also truly frightening thing to behold even
humanity? for slasher films, which of course are from a biological perspective. The cen-
With this and many other scenes, The characterized by the violation of the hu- tral hypothesis is that body horror finds
Thing brings an extreme level of grue- man body. Anne Jerslev focuses on the strength in the way it goes against what
some disregard for the human body to splatter (e.g., zombie, gore) movies and is considered normal anatomy and func-
the type of horror film that is considered writes that, in them, The monster is the tion in biological species (not limited
body horror or biological horror. monstrous body not the monstrous char- to human): that it is indeed biological
This popular horror trope is character- acter (18). horror. The focus here will be on the
ized by the manipulation and warping The subject has been approached in creation of monstrous hybrids; muta-
of the normal state of bodily form and several ways, particularly with femi- tions and diseases that are manifested
function.2 In his influential article Hor- nist, psychoanalytic, and sociocultural as physical and behavioral deteriora-
ralityThe Textuality of Contemporary theories.3 Body horror and its powers of tion; metamorphosis; and zombifica-
162 JPF&TJournal of Popular Film and Television

[B]ody horror finds strength in the way it goes against Vessey, and Jakob 307). More often than
not, hybrids brought to term are weak,
what is considered normal anatomy and function in sickly individuals (Mayr 169). Nature is
not kind to these invalids; either they die
naturally soon after birth or, in certain
biological species (not limited to human) . . . circumstances, they are killed and eaten
by kin.8
it is indeed biological horror. These hybrids can be considered fu-
sion monsters in the scheme proposed
by Noel Carroll, in which contradicting
tion. Prime examples of body horror tify the other as a nonviable mate (Mayr categories are fused into a single en-
are The Thing, Cronenbergs The Fly 17071). Should fertilization still occur, tity (Nightmare 19). In this case, the
(1986), and the Alien franchise (prin- the sperm may be killed by the internal categories are species, reproductively
cipally the first three installments: dir. environment of the female or, if an off- isolated biological groups that are not
Ridley Scott, 1979; dir. James Cameron, spring is produced, it is sterile. A typical
supposed to be brought together. This
1986; dir. David Fincher, 1992). Exam- example of the latter is the mule, an in-
category confusion is especially fright-
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ples from these films will form the bulk fertile animal that is an artificial hybrid
ening when the monster is partly hu-
of the discussion. From this biological of a female horse and a male donkey.7
man, as in the Brundlefly, Xenomorphs,
perspective, an argument will be made Interspecies hybrids are abnormal
the Thing, and lycanthropes (Tudor 30).
for certain staples of body horror work- and undesirable not only in the sense
ing on the frightening aspects of sexual that their creation does not occur natu- This is the same type of horror invoked
selection and for the zombie being the rally, but also in that they are essentially by the products of genetic engineer-
ultimate example of biological horror. evolutionary dead-ends. They can pro- ing in such horror/science fiction hy-
duce no offspring of their own and can brid films as Vincenzo Natalis Splice
therefore not continue their lineage and (2009). The uncertainty of what will be
Loathsome Hybrids and contribute to the growth of the popula- produced by the unnatural union is what
tion. This goes against the inherent drive frightens. Human cloning is not yet be-
Monstrous Offspring of all species, which is to procreate, pass ing practiced because of the many com-
In The Fly, Seth Brundle (Jeff Gold- on their genes to the next generation, plications in the process. Many clones
blum) steps into a teleporter that he and have offspring that are themselves among other animal species are born
has developed but not yet adequately reproductively successful (Drickamer, with deformities and infirmities.9 The
tested, and he steps out with the genetic
material of a common house fly incor-
porated into his own. He subsequently
transforms into a human/fly hybrid (a The Thing (1982). Directed by John Carpenter. Shown: Kurt Russell. Photo courtesy of
Universal Pictures/Photofest. (Color figure available online.)
Brundlefly), whose transformation is
a sublime exercise in prosthetic grotes-
querie.5 Such an assimilation of traits
from one species to another is also seen
in the Alien franchise. The adult form
of the Xenomorph corresponds to the
identity of its embryos host; although
the aliens in the first two installments
have been incubated in human hosts and
are thus bipedal, there are quadrupedal
creatures in the third that are birthed
by canines.
Species are defined in several ways
even by biologists, but the most well
accepted is the biological species con-
cept, which defines it as a group of in-
terbreeding individuals that can produce
fertile offspring.6 In the wild, two indi-
viduals of different species are normally
prevented from mating by physical re-
productive barriers, such as genital in-
congruence and chemical cues that iden-
Mutations and Metamorphoses 163

horror of uncertainty of the health


or inhumanityof offspring is a real
biological concern and has also been
depicted in many films in the genre, in-
cluding Rosemarys Baby (dir. Roman
Polanski, 1968) and The Brood (dir.
Cronenberg, 1979).
Michael Grant sees the titular entity
in The Thing as both fusion and fission
monster (364), but it is still a hybrid, a
combination of elements not normally
brought together. And while the Thing
baffles and fools the humans around it,
dogs detect its abnormality easily. When
the alien/dog hybrid is brought into their
pen, they keep their distance from it and
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eye it with caution. They go wild with


fright when the creature finally mani-
fests its aberrant, chaotic form. Canines,
like many other animals, use a variety of Rosemarys Baby (1968). Directed by Roman Polanski. Shown: Mia Farrow (as Rosemary).
chemical (i.e., pheromones) and behav- Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures/Photofest. (Color figure available online.)
ioral cues to identify strangers, whether
or not of the same species (Drickamer, In The Fly, Seths transformation to sire an offspring prior to his complete
Vessey, and Jakob 199202). Animals the Brundlefly is protracted and gradual. transformation, and this new hybrid ap-
normally respond to the presence of There is nothing particularly glorious pears in the sequel). He cannot mate in
strangers with aggression (285). about it, although Seth himself seems his final form, and his large body cannot
morbidly fascinated with his transfor- sustain itself for long on the body fluids
mation. Neither is it adaptive. First, the of prey. The Brundlefly is an abomina-
Baleful Metamorphosis Brundlefly is a clumsy, broken figure tion not only for its appearance and its
that cannot actually fly, thus removing corruption of an erstwhile human body
In biological parlance, metamorpho- that locomotory advantage enjoyed by but also for its physiological impracti-
sis is an organisms post-embryological insects that has allowed them to occupy calities and inefficiencies.
change in form, such as from larval to diverse habitats on Earth. The inability The alien in The Thing is a crea-
adult stages (Campbell et al. 655). Text- to fly is attributable to the simple phys- ture (or a conflux of many?) driven by
book examples are the swimming tad- ics of biological design: the thin, mem- metamorphosis. Rarely is its true form
pole turning into a leaping frog and a branous wings typical of a fly are not seen, for it spends most of its life in the
caterpillar growing wings to become a strong enough for an organism the size guise of another organism. It is in an al-
butterfly. The primary advantages con- of the Brundlefly. most constant state of flux, an unstable
ferred by metamorphosis are the ability Second, there is no competitor of the mass. The reason why shape-shifters are
to explore a wider range of habitats and same species to account for. By this not found among any known group of
the lack of competition between juve- time, the transformation has taken Seth organisms on Earth is that at a certain
nile and adult for resources (i.e., food beyond his species; what he is now is point during embryological develop-
and space). Tadpoles graze on algae, completely, wholly incompatible with ment, cells will commit to a particular
whereas frogs hunt for insects. Biologi- humans. He is of his own species, and fate, that is, turn into a particular set of
cal metamorphosis is thus adaptive and, there is nothing else like him. He is thus tissues and organs. This is called differ-
particularly in the case of the butterfly, a also an evolutionary dead-end (although entiation (Campbell et al. 36869). Even
glorious transformation. it must be noted, of course, that he did in animals that undergo metamorphosis,
structures in the larval form simply rear-
range to form the equivalent parts in the
adult. It would seem that the Thing is an
The horror of uncertainty of the healthor organism made of perpetually undiffer-
entiated stem cells. Although research
inhumanityof offspring is a real biological concern on these pleuripotent cells (they can be
programmed to differentiate into many
and has also been depicted in many films in the genre, different kinds of cells) is being pursued
in research laboratories worldwide be-
including Rosemarys Baby . . . and The Brood . . . cause of their vast potential in the field
164 JPF&TJournal of Popular Film and Television

of medicine (Campbell et al. 41516), The Fly presents a type of mutation that progresses
an organism whose cells never com-
mit to a particular structural and func-
tional congruence is an abomination.
until the deformations completely destroy the body.
The understanding of the titular Thing
as a mass of independent infective cells
rather than a whole unified organism10 metamorphosis at work. Although the abnormalities (Mayr 9698; Campbell
is consistent with the fact that for true facehugger seems more like a motile et al. 471) and many disorders such as
multicellularity and thus formation of copulatory or gamete-transferring or- Down syndrome and sickle-cell anemia.
tissues and more complex structures to gan, much like the detachable (in some Patrick Gonder points out that muta-
occur, individual cells must have lost species) hectocotylus (i.e., tentacle) of tions, particularly those caused by ra-
their independence and ability to divide a squid that carries sperm into a female diation, were a common trope in 1950s
and differentiate as a distinct entity (Mi- (Ruppert, Fox, and Barnes 36364), the horror films, and that rebellious body
nelli 1920). stage comes from within the egg and so parts are a manifestation of those muta-
In a taxonomic classification scheme is likely an immature stage of the Xeno- tions (34).
that is based in large part on body plans morph. What then does it force into its Just like mutations themselves, the
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and their development within the life- host? It is likely a larva, which would fear grounded in these changes is within
time of organisms (giving rise, for ex- undergo its metamorphosis in the host. the realm of genetics, itself frighten-
ample, to distinctions between radially This type of life cycle seems closest to ing for its many implications. Gonder
symmetrical and bilaterally symmetri- that of hydrozoans, cousins to the jelly- focuses on this genetics-based horror
cal animals), there is no logical place fishes. The larva of the typical colonial in what he calls body rebellion films
for the Thing and its ilk (White 401). hydrozoan is a product of the joining of (33). It is intriguing from a biological
Tudor points out that there is a fear of sperm and egg from the mobile medu- standpoint that Gonder uses the central
certain things, such as cinematic mon- sae, which bud off from the adult for the dogma of molecular genetics (essen-
sters, breaking known classifications purpose of reproduction.11 The facehu- tially that DNA makes RNA, which in
(30), and in this case we may refer to gger is probably equivalent to the me- turn makes the proteins that determine
taxonomic classifications (i.e., Is it an dusa. On Earth, no vertebrate (which the our anatomy and physiology) to justify
animal? If so, what kind of animal is Xenomorph seems to be, by our defini- fear of disruptive, mutinous body parts.
it?). White describes it thus: Hideously tions) has a life cycle even resembling Mutations in the genetic makeup would
metamorphic, compounded of tentacles, this in its complexity. ultimately lead to those rebellious ap-
insect and crustacean-like appendages, A brief note here on one of the most pendages, such as in the Brundlefly, for
dismembered mammalian and especially blatant examples of a metamorphic which actual or symbolic dismember-
human bodies, and covered in slime, this creature in horror: the werewolf. The ment is the solution (39). Gonder also
unclassifiable presence transgresses ev- transformation is from human to wolf, points out that what is most frightening
ery attempt to impose a rational structure another species, thereby breaking down about genetics is our loss of power (34).
upon experience (399). This goes back the accustomed anthropomorphic clas- We are who and what we are because
as well to Carrolls assertion that crea- sifications, similar to the Brundlefly, the of our genes, and that genetic makeup
tures that are categorically interstitial, Thing, and the Xenomorph. It is mainly is beyond our control. Also beyond our
categorically contradictory, categori- because of the graphic depictions of control are mutations, which are random
cally incomplete, or formless (Nature bodily tearing and splitting in the films and unpredictable.
of Horror 55), such as the Thing, are an An American Werewolf in London (dir. The Brundlefly is, of course, an ex-
example of the impure. John Landis, 1981) and The Howling treme example of a mutation; Seth
The Xenomorph is a creature that (dir. Joe Dante, 1981) that they can be changes completely from human to
seems to undergo metamorphosis in the counted as body horror films and so inhuman. Here, genetic splicing is the
true biological sense, changing drasti- bear mentioning here. Tudor considers culprit, bringing us back to the horrors
cally in form in its transition from ju- these lycanthropes unruly bodies (33). of genetics; Gonder says that the earlier
venile to adult. What makes the alien body rebellion films were influenced
terrifying in this aspect is the bizarre- by genetic transplantation technologies
ness of its metamorphic pathway. Upon
Aberrant Mutations (33). The Fly presents a type of muta-
the hatching of the egg produced by Mutations, or random genetic changes tion that progresses until the deforma-
the queen, the facehugger phase at- (i.e., deletions or insertions of DNA tions completely destroy the body. In
taches itself to the head of a host and bases, genes, or whole chromosomes), The Hills Have Eyes (dir. Wes Craven,
delivers a propagule into its mouth. This are among the driving forces of evo- 1977), radiation produces a family of
parasitoid will incubate for a time in lution; they are our primary source of monstrous, violent, deformed cannibals.
the host before it emerges as a chest- genetic variability. But most mutations In both instances, the mutations have
burster, the true juvenile stage of the are actually at least slightly harmful, led to severe physical and behavioral
Xenomorph. It is certainly biological leading to morphological or behavioral aberrations.
Mutations and Metamorphoses 165

One prominent manifestation of a also metamorphosis, a staple of body wanted bodily fluids such as vomit,
physical abnormality is loss of symme- horror. Like in The Fly, the metamor- feces, and pus; and the maternal power
try. We have a natural appreciation for phosis is trans-species and thus non- threatens the paternal power that hu-
symmetry, a balance in proportions, in adaptive and, of course, a frighteningly man society has deemed acceptable
objects and other organisms, whereas literal loss of humanity. (4951). The animal kingdom must then
the lack of it is often an undesirable Some writings consider the deforma- be a truly frightening thing in this un-
trait. This is by no means limited to tion in The Fly an allusion to the AIDS derstanding, for it is easily dominated
the human perspective of beauty. Other virus, undoubtedly one of the most by species wherein the female has the
animals are also known to shun asym- feared human diseases (Mathijs 3334). power to choose its mate to the exclu-
metry. For instance, female gemsboks (a It is after Seths sexual misconducts sion of many others. In certain extreme
large African antelope) are less likely to that his mutation accelerates. Here we cases, such as the deep-sea anglerfish,
choose males with unevenly sized horns see how the concept of bodily dysfunc- the male evolutionarily becomes noth-
(Drickamer, Vessey, and Jakob 310 tions can be the central cause of fear in a ing more than an appendage for the
311). In the scheme of sexual selection, horror film, as in Cronenbergs Shivers female, and its sole purpose is to give
in most cases of which it is the female (1976), in which a sex-parasite causes sperm (Pietsch 781). In others, as is
of the species that has the prerogative an epidemic through sexual transmis- generally known in various mantids and
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to choose its mate, the advantage goes sion, and in his Rabid (1977) about a spiders, the female kills the male after
to males that look healthy, since they cancer growth gone wrong (Brophy 8). copulation. It is, quite literally, a game
will likely confer this health on their Aside from diseases, another example of survival for males of many species. In
offspring. Structural asymmetry is not a of bodily dysfunction is the inability of the body horror of Cronenberg, females
sign of health for many animals (Ander- an organism, because of mutation, to tend to represent the destructive sexual
sson and Iwasa 56). mate successfully. other, whereas males stand by watching
Astonishing examples of asymmetry (Beard 157).
are found in the Japanese manga Uzu- This sexual selection has led to the
maki (Spiral) by Junji Ito, which was Sexual Selection and the evolution of male characteristics that are
adapted into a feature film of the same supposed to make them more attractive
title in 2000 by Higuchinsky. It is an
Monstrous-Feminine to females. Female animals are in fact
underappreciated work of true body Among the more influential theoreti- very choosy and select potential mates
horror; in it, human bodies are twisted, cal readings of horror films are those based on their perception of health. The
stretched, and violated to unbelievable of Barbara Creed in her works on the monsters of slasher films are usually
extents by an unexplainable, unseen monstrous-feminine. Creed contends male and physically and mentally dam-
force that contorts human bodies into that horror films present the maternal aged. We cannot imagine sane women
spirals. With the transformation of cer- figure as abject, or abominable, as the choosing as viable mates and fathers
tain victims into giant snails, there is menstrual blood is akin to other un- of their children Freddy Krueger of
Nightmare on Elm Street (dir. Craven,
1984) or Leatherface from The Texas
Chainsaw Massacre (dir. Tobe Hooper,
1974). Says Tudor of these slashers:
The unruliness of his body, then, lies in
its failure to behave in a sexual fash-
ion appropriate to its presumed physi-
cal nature (34). It is interesting to ob-
serve that several writers, such as Aviva
Briefel, have argued that the audience
can find themselves sympathizing not
with the monsters victims but with the
monsters themselves, or at the very least
the audience is made to feel what they
feel because of the plight of the monster
(16). Indeed, can we not sympathize to
a certain extent with these abominable
males, losers in a culture dominated by
physical beauty, spurned by females?
Even more terrifying from the male
perspective is the concept of parthe-
Rabid (1977) aka Rage. Directed by David Cronenberg. Photo courtesy of New World nogenesis, wherein females are able to
Pictures/Photofest. produce offspring without the need for
166 JPF&TJournal of Popular Film and Television

We cannot imagine sane women choosing as viable ber of organisms that will put stress on
the resources supplied by the planets
ecosystems. Additionally, the decompo-
mates and fathers of their children Freddy Krueger of
sition of dead organisms is of vast im-
portance in ecological balance; bacterial
Nightmare on Elm Street . . . or Leatherface from and fungal activity returns vital nutri-
ents like nitrogen to the global cycles
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre . . . (Campbell et al. 1,234). It can be argued
that zombies do decompose, albeit at a
much slower pace; it takes more effort
sperm (Campbell et al. 998). This pro- ferent from other forms of the undead
for decomposers to process a moving
cess is known to occur in rotifers, in- in that they are basically mindless au-
body than a stationary one.
sects, and even a few vertebrates such tomatons driven by base instincts. De-
Physically, zombies are truly hor-
as the Komodo dragon. It is a form of spite the undead label, vampires are
rifying creatures. Romero has taken
asexual reproduction, but unlike truly distinguished from living humans by
asexual bacteria, parthenogenetic spe- only a few, superfluous physical char- his creations to various states of decay,
cies still have distinct males and fe- acteristics. They consciously think with flesh stripping away and append-
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males. It just so happens that males are and make decisions. Zombies do not. ages falling off. The zombies in Lucio
not necessary for the continuation of Vampires are often portrayed as hav- Fulcis Zombi 2 (1979) are utterly de-
the population. The general consensus ing heightened awareness, strength, and composed, with half-eaten and worm-
among fans of the Alien franchise in on- beauty, whereas zombies are shuffling infested faces. There are those who can-
line forums is that Xenomorph queens and decaying. There are few cinematic not stomach the mere appearance of the
are parthenogenetic, producing their examples of the human body wasting cinematic zombie, for there is a natural
eggs by themselves.12 Males are likely away and being utterly torn apart that human repulsion to corpses, the state
produced only to protect colonies. In are as blatant as in zombie films. Tudor of death, which is why human cultures
The Brood, Nola Carveth (Samantha describes them thus: ... entirely out of almost universally have ways of iso-
Eggar) spontaneously gives birth to control: cannibalistic automatons, with lating the dead from the living (Allen
monster children that are manifesta- variously damaged and decaying bod- and Hauser 230). Even other animals
tions of her feminine rage. She has no ies.... They are simply unruly bodies avoid or dispose of their dead (228
need for men for reproduction; in fact, made manifest (33). 230). There are many examples of ani-
she has her brood kill males who have In the field of biology, which is the mals that are able to identify and avoid
wronged her. study of life, what is the place of un- chemical signals coming from dead
One other horrifying aspect of the death? How, indeed, can the term be conspecifics (i.e., animals belonging to
Xenomorphs life cycle is their being defined? An organism is either living, the same species), because these signals
parasitoids, which are animals, usually with the ability to utilize energy (prin- may indicate the presence of a predator.
of the group of wasps, that lay their eggs cipally through digestion and circulation Thus, for these animals, the scent of a
in other insects. When these eggs hatch, of gasses) and self-replicate (through conspecifics death is an alarm signal
the larvae literally eat their way out of reproduction) at the minimum (Hick- for their own mortality. This avoidance
their host (Drickamer, Vessey, and Ja- man et al. 67), or nonliving. Undeath is behavior is seen in many invertebrates,
kob 139). This is a terrifying behavior a purely supernatural state of biological including arthropods and echinoderms
that we actually see among our existing death, not life, and therefore has no bio- (Drickamer, Vessey, and Jakob 204).
animals, bizarre even in the already dis- logical (i.e., scientific) definition. Given Animals also remove their dead to avoid
concerting scheme of parasitism. that zombies are not known to reproduce spread of diseases, as in ants (Allen and
or digest the food that they eat, they seem Hauser 23031). It is very interesting in
to be the epitome of undeath or nonlife. the context of this discussion to point
The Zombie: Ultimate in out that some ant parasites such as the
Considering zombies as walking
Biological Horror soulless corpses, they are the ultimate fungus Ophiocordyceps have evolved
With the slew of projects inspired by in abjection, even from a biological to control the behavior of the host such
George A. Romeros cycle of zombie perspective. All organisms die because that the ant moves away from its colony
films, the walking dead have become their cells die, and death limits the num- before dying because its colony mates
among the most famous examples of
what are generally referred to as undead.
Julia Kristeva, in her influential Powers There are few cinematic examples of the human body
of Horror, considers soulless corpses
a description that covers essentially all wasting away and being utterly torn apart that are
undead (Creed 4748)as the ultimate
in abjection (34), but zombies are dif- as blatant as in zombie films.
Mutations and Metamorphoses 167

would remove the dead ant before the The uncoordinated, jerky movements of the typical
fungus has time to produce a reproduc-
tive stalk (Hughes et al.). Ants affected
in this way are called zombie ants even
cinema zombie are indicative of severe damage to
in the biological literature.
Zombies cannot (and should not!) the cerebellum.
reproduce. Indeed, the drive to mate
and produce offspring is completely ments and depth perception (Kardong when we see self-mutilation of the most
eliminated in them. They are, therefore, 63840). Damage to the cerebellum has sensitive human parts, as with Charlotte
truly unnecessary: waste that needs to been documented to cause gross lack of Gainsbourgs unnamed She in the dis-
be purged. Turning other humans by coordination, poor muscle tone, and ab- turbing Antichrist (dir. Lars von Trier,
infection, usually through the infamous normal walking patterns. 2009). Biologically, we are predisposed
zombie bite, does not count as repro- to caring for our bodies for the purposes
duction, for zombies are not a distinct of prolonging our life and attracting
species from humans. They are dead hu-
If We Cannot Rely on mates. Jerslev points out that zombies
mans, physically and mentally damaged Our Own Bodies Then on are an abomination precisely in light of
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beyond salvation. The destruction of the this ideal physique (2426). Even males
body is complete in zombies.
What Can We Rely? of other animals groom themselves and
This holds even if one were to con- These words from Tudor (37) capture create fascinating behavioral displays to
sider zombies as being only on the verge the essence of the terror derived from make themselves attractive to females
of death and not completely dead (so as works of body horror. It is easily one of (Drickamer, Vessey, and Jakob 30812;
to allow for their continued locomo- the more horrifying flavors of the hor- Andersson and Iwasa 5358). Bio-
tion and breathing). The uncoordinated, ror film genre, for it plays on our natu- logical horror throws all of that out the
jerky movements of the typical cinema ral aversion to pain and damage to the window, giving us the natural horrors
zombie are indicative of severe damage human body. We cringe when we wit- of mutants, hybrids, transforming crea-
to the cerebellum. The cerebellum is ness those blood-soaked scenes in films tures, and walking corpses. Ultimately,
responsible for fine, coordinated move- put under the label of torture porn, or it relishes the destruction of the organic

Zombie (1979, Italy) aka Zombi 2. Directed by Lucio Fulci. Photo courtesy of The Jerry Gross Organization/Photofest. (Color figure
available online.)
168 JPF&TJournal of Popular Film and Television

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tor Jean-Pierre Jeunet in the DVD release Grant, Michael. Body Horror. The Cin- Biology at the Ateneo de Manila University
(Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, ema Book. 3rd ed. Ed. Pam Cook. Lon- in Quezon City, Philippines. He is also a
1997). For instance, in most honeybee (Apis don: British Film Institute, 2008. 35560. published fiction writer. He is currently writ-
mellifera) colonies the workers remove Print. ing a book entitled The Biology of Science
larvae infected with the bacterium Bacil- Hickman, Cleveland P., et al. Integrated Fiction.
lus larvae, which can destroy the entire Principles of Zoology. 13th ed. New York:
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