Body horror, a wide sub-genre focusing on disturbing mutations and violations of the human body, is a hot topic this month and for good reason. It is consistently a popular subject for filmmakers and is always effective for audiences since, well, nobody wants their body mutated or destroyed in the most horrifying ways imaginable.
To continue our celebration of all things body-horror, here are some fun promotional items and collectibles from classic body-horror movies.
The Fly Swarms Video Stores
An undisputed classic of the body-horror sub-genre, The Fly flew into theaters in 1986. Directed by David Cronenberg, it was the second adaptation of the short story by George Langelaan following Kurt Neuman’s 1958 adaptation. The new version starred Jeff Goldblum as Seth Brundle, a brilliant scientist who has potentially created a teleportation machine. When he makes the fateful decision to teleport himself, an ordinary house fly sneaks into the pod at the last second, causing Seth’s horrifying transformation into the half-man, half-insect Brundlefly.
The Fly was a critical and financial success upon its release, going so far as to win an Academy Award for the horrifying practical effects depicting Seth’ grisly transformation from man to insect. 20th Century Fox promoted The Fly with t-shirts and visors bearing the movie’s logo and an image of the titular menace.
“I bet Seth Brundle really wishes he had one of these [fly shooters] on that fateful day.”
When The Fly arrived in video stores on VHS, it was accompanied by a fun promotional item: a small fly shooter that launches a plastic fly swatter to kill pesky flies, packaged with the movie’s logo on the front. I bet Seth Brundle really wishes he had one of these on that fateful day.
As with virtually any successful horror movie, a sequel wasn’t too far behind. The Fly II arrived in theaters three years later in 1989, and though it didn’t achieve the same success as its predecessor, it still received a sizable marketing campaign. Window clings featuring that always pesky house fly were distributed to video stores, along with a hanging mobile featuring a small swarm of the titular characters. Buzz Buzz.
We Can’t Get Enough of The Stuff
In 1985, audiences were introduced to The Stuff, a B-movie directed by Larry Cohen with a satirical edge about a mysterious, yogurt-like substance that is discovered bubbling out of a hole in the ground. Naturally, the decision is made to market and sell it, and it quickly becomes a nationwide craze as people literally cannot get enough of The Stuff. Things quickly take a turn once it is discovered that once consumed, the white goo literally begins eating its way out of people, leaving their bodies a gooey, disfigured mess in the process.
The Stuff received a limited theatrical release, but it became a cult favorite once it hit video store shelves. New World Home Video released the VHS, along with a multitude of promotional merchandise to go along with it. The movie was prominently displayed in video stores with inflatable beach balls and over-sized replicas of the containers that The Stuff was sold in.
“…people literally cannot get enough of The Stuff”
Another rather obscure item that was created for The Stuff is a small container of the substance, complete with the white goo forming a human hand and rising out of the top. Little information can be found online about this item, but it was presumably another promotional piece distributed to video stores.
There are many replicas of the iconic pink and purple containers of The Stuff available online, but one particularly cool version was available at the 2010 Sci-Fi Spectacular Movie Marathon in Chicago. The Stuff was screened for fans, with director Larry Cohen in attendance, who also had autographed containers available. These sometimes pop up on eBay so keep your eye out of you can’t get enough of The Stuff!
Catching (And Collecting) Cabin Fever
After years of self-referential 90’s horror being all the rage, Eli Roth’s debut feature film Cabin Fever was a grisly little throwback to Cabin-In-The-Woods films with a gruesome body-horror twist. Following a group of five college students the movie differentiated itself with its horrifying new villain: a flesh-eating virus that quickly spreads among the group, causing confusion, paranoia, and quite a few cringe-inducing gore moments as their bodies begin deteriorating from the inside out.
With a release date in September of 2003, right in between genre heavyweights Freddy Vs. Jason and the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this low-budget horror picture based on an original idea needed something to stand out. The tagline invited fans to “Catch it!” in theaters, and several cool promo items were created, as showcased by Hostel Nation.
“Medical face masks […] with an ominous spray of blood ensuring they won’t actually be too effective in keeping the virus away.”
Medical face masks advertised the movie’s tagline and release date, along with an ominous spray of blood ensuring they won’t actually be too effective in keeping the virus away. Luckily for those showing signs of infection, bandage-shaped stickers were also available. The luckiest of fans received an “antidote” for the disease, actually a syringe-shaped highlighter pen advertising the movie and its release date.
Cabin Fever was a success, leading to a sequel, prequel, and remake. The third movie in the series, and prequel to the previous two films, Cabin Fever: Patient Zero was released in 2014 and continued the series’ theme of medical items for promotional purposes. This time it was a small bottle of hand sanitizer, available in the Box of Dread subscription box. With all of these items, the flesh-eating bacteria shouldn’t stand a chance!
Keep An Eye On May
May might seem a bit different from the other body-horror movies on this list, as it features a very human villain rather than a gruesome mutation or disease. However, any movie that features a lonely woman stitching together severed body parts to create the perfect friend counts as body-horror in my book. Directed by Lucky McKee and starring Angela Bettis in the title role, May received a limited theatrical release in 2002 but has become a cult favorite in the years since.
The horror in May is as much psychological as it is physical, but there are still plenty of cringe-inducing body-horror moments. May has an obsession with different body parts on the people she knows, and as she becomes more disturbed and detached, this somewhat innocent fascination transforms into something far worse.
“…a single lonely eyeball with a message asking recipients to “Please return to May”. Seeing as this would make a killer addition to any collection, most probably chose to keep it.”
Fans will remember a memorable scene that bookends the movie, involving a character violently losing one of their own eyeballs. To capitalize on this disgusting scene, Trimark Pictures created a fun promotional item for the home video release, a single lonely eyeball with a message asking recipients to “Please return to May“. Seeing as this would make a killer addition to any collection, most probably chose to keep it.
Promotional merchandise is a useful tool for studios to grab attention for their upcoming movies, and it also provides some really cool stuff for fans to collect. The possibilities are endless, so stay tuned for our next spotlight on horror collectibles, and if you have any promotional items in your own collection, share them with us on Twitter, Reddit, and Facebook!