Body horror and the fear of unknown

Reyes (2014), describes Body Horror as being a “fictional representation of the body exceeding itself or falling apart, either opening up or being altered past the point where it would be recognised by normative understandings of human corporeality.” How do The Void and Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth make use of this definition to explore themes of the unknown? 

The connection between body and unknown is that human body is evaluated as experimental resource for exploring the meaning of new life (hybrids) and this new form of life is beyond the moral boundaries and human knowledge, which is technically unknown to the mankind. Reyes (2014) identified that “body horror stages a celebration of corporeal instability, mutability or capacity for transformation unashamedly.” Both the movie and novel had successfully aimed to scare viewers by body horror and unknown features. Marginalized people practiced human sacrifices in order to fulfill their own purpose and seek protection from unknown power. Body horror is demonstration of the fear of unknown. (                                          

Body has centralised the horror that embodied the limitation of human through process of mutilation, transformation and corporal transgression. Its horror evades the boundaries of between one single race and others that also means assimilate human and alien creatures that adopted in Lovercratian horror. Human body such as skeleton, viscera, artery, cells and nervous system, in our knowledge, we acknowledge they are well-designed. But body horror has overthrown the concept of body-for-single race in order to achieve distortion, smash, fission, transformation such as genetic modification and primitively exploitation of female womb as alien possession. In the Void, Allison and Maggie had transformed into the carrier of alien species whilst part of their human body and consciousness were still exist and active. Beverly had turned into non-human creature after her human body was shot to dead. The movie has featured the combination of two living species into one body, which applied in the body genre. The novel has depicted the hybrids featured with “a narrow head, bulging, watery–blue eyes that seemed never to wink, a flat nose, a receding forehead and chin, and singularly undeveloped ears.” H.P Lovecraft and the movie makers were like to Cronenberg who embraced the process of biological change in order to “questioning the human as a fixed category” (Reyes, 2014). It seems metamorphic yet it’s a celebration of new life.         

Director was fascinated on unknowable horror and they visualise the imagination of the body horror through practical effect, cinematography and intense sound effect. Audience could only see the abnormal movement of Allison’s belly without the physical appearance of the tentacle baby. This scene of body horror built up the fear of unknown in her belly and a procedure for Daniel to unveil it afterwards. However, the procedure of operations was not depicted by filmmakers. Thus, it left audience a space to imagine. In an interview, writer/director Gillespie (2017) suggested that “so much of it in something like (H.P.) Lovecraft, Prince of Darkness or whatever, it’s so ambiguous when you’re doing it through a visual medium, I think you have to leave things open, to kind of communicate that same feeling.” In rhetoric, it’s more noticeable in Lovecraft’s novel as he used first person perspective to lead the readers follow the narrator whom he witnessed and explored the Deep-Ones and their hybrid with human in Innsmouth. It was glimpsed in the beginning as the narrator was motivated by the secrets of Innsmouth and search of his family tree. His family ancestor’s identity was revealed in the final chapter. Both media reflect visual and psychological anxiety by manipulation of flesh and blood.          

Ignorance protects human from fatal reality and infusion of exterior life. Body horror and perpetuate fear of unknown are the consequence people who violate their roles. These uncanny, blood-curdling, haunting atmosphere created anxiety and developed dissolving detriment. Eric Henderson state that “Lovecraft made a world where humans are alone, floating on a rock a terrifying larger universe that we cannot possibly comprehended because our time in it has been so short and we are so insignificant compare to the horrors from the Cthulhu mythos.”

Reference: Aldana, Reyes,, Xavier. Body Gothic : Corporeal Transgression in Contemporary Literature and Horror Film, University of Wales Press, 2014. ProQuest Ebook Central, Philip Rogers. (2017). Interview: Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski – Writers/Directors of The Void (2016).

Sophie Tse

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