Shawn Knight of Child Bite Picks the Top Five Metamorphosis Scenes from ’80s Horror Films

Co-founded by metal lifer Phil Anselmo and true-crime author Corey Mitchell, the inaugural Housecore Horror Film Festival goes down in Austin, Texas, October 25 – 27. Brazilian horror legend Coffin Joe will be there, Nekromantik director Jörg Buttgereit will be there, The Manson Family director Jim VanBebber, Goblin will be there live-scoring a screening of Susperia while Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar will provide a live score to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari in his Void ov Voices alter ego. Down, Crowbar, Eyehategod, and Warbeast will play, as will Anselmo’s solo project, Philip H. Anselmo & the Illegals. All in all, it will be a sick, twisted, and terrifying experience for all who attend. In anticipation of the event, various members of the HHFF staff and bands will be providing weekly lists on a variety of ghoulish topics; here, Shawn Knight–the vocalist-guitarist of one of  the other performing bands, Child Bite–picks the Top Five Metamorphosis Scenes from ’80s Horror Films.

“The 1980s were a golden age for visual FX in horror films, and luckily several of those fucked up movies featured people (and dogs, amongst other things) being turned into some insane, disgusting stuff. Usually their mid-transformation state was actually creepier than the final result (ie: Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”). Makeup and special effects were reaching their pinnacle, before being all but replaced by not-ready-for-primetime CGI bullshit in the ’90s. A couple of my selections even took home Academy Awards for their makeup effects. It was a special time for demented filmmakers to gross out their audience and scar kids like me for life.”

5. An American Werewolf In London (1981)
“It’s safe to say that transformation sequences are an obligatory segment in any werewolf movie, and this one is probably still the biggest and best of them all. 1981 was a big year for werewolves returning to film (other high-profile examples being The Howling and Wolfen), as they hadn’t been this popular since Lon Chaney Jr.’s films in the 1940s. Nowadays we’re stuck with endless Underworld and Twilight sequels, but I digress.

“The living room scene in An American Werewolf In London shows a full-on, graphic transformation via Rick Baker’s groundbreaking special effects. These never-before-seen images of a man’s body painfully contorting into the shape of a beast were joined by three distinct layers of audio; David’s agonizing (and increasingly inhuman) screams, his body parts crunching/ripping/bubbling, and the joyfully inappropriate soft ballad “Blue Moon” playing in the background. I haven’t seen another movie so equally horrifying and hilarious since.”

 
 
4. The Thing (1982)
“Holy fuck does this movie rule. John Carpenter soundtrack? Check. Formless, abysmal creatures? Check. Antarctica? Check. This was probably Kurt Russell’s finest moment in film. No humor to break the tension, just pure brooding terror in the middle of a frozen wasteland.

“There are several transformation sequences throughout this movie, since the whole story is about a shapeless alien taking over living beings one by one. My favorite of the bunch is the scene where a whole pack of dogs is assimilated into one hulking, screaming canine mass. Thin tentacles and arachnid legs pop out, a dog face splits open, and putrid fluids squirt all over the place. They don’t show everything (something modern CGI horror films should take a cue from), but what they do show couldn’t be done any better.”

 
 
3. The Fly (1986)
“I generally hate modern movie remakes, but it seems like ’80s remakes ended up being just as classic as the originals. Maybe I’m partial to the films of my youth, but the ’80s versions of The Thing and The Fly have just as much character as the 1950s versions that they are based on, if not more.

“This entire movie is the slow metamorphosis of a house fly and a man becoming one, physically and mentally. The particular stage that I wanted to focus on is near the end, when Seth Brundle (played by Jeff Goldblum) finally becomes the Brundlefly. It’s the point where it changes from an actor in a suit to a full on puppet/prop, right after Geena Davis’ character accidentally tears off his jaw. Meat chunks start dropping off of his arms & legs as his face splits open, eyeballs dripping out simultaneously. It’s truly one of the most disgusting moments in a major motion picture. Long live David Cronenburg.”

 
 
2. Street Trash (1987)
“This one is definitely the least known on my list. There are tons of creative low budget effects; a fat man exploding, hobos playing catch with a severed penis, etc. But the most iconic scene is when a homeless man drinks a bottle of $1 booze called Tenafly Viper and proceeds to melt away until all that’s left is a toxic blob floating in a toilet. The vivid color scheme makes this one stand out; florescent blues & purples replace the usual blood and guts you would expect. At first it’s just bright paint drips, but the psychedelia really kicks in when the bum’s legs snap off and he starts to sink into the shitter.”

 
 
1. Hellraiser (1987)
“Last up is another true horror classic, Hellraiser. Everybody thinks of Pinhead and his merry band of cenobites, but the true star of this film is Uncle Frank. He’s obsessed with finding the ultimate in carnal pleasure, and on his quest he opens up a puzzle box and gets whisked away to hell. Later on, his brother accidentally cuts himself moving into the house and drips some blood on the floor in Frank’s room, somehow initiating the resurrection process. This all makes perfect sense, no?

“Regardless, the idea of using human tissue to bring back someone that has left our dimension is what we are working with here; the metamorphosis from a single drop of blood back to a fully formed human being. For most of the film Frank is pretty much just a skinless man, like one of those anatomy models in high school. But at the beginning of his transformation, a mucus-covered brain joins up with a simple skeletal form, nerves and veins reform, appendages grow, and internal organs begin to fill out a newly constructed rib cage. It’s almost like watching footage of a body decompose in reverse.

“WARNING! Turn off your computer’s volume before playing the following clip. It’s the only video I could find with the right footage and the asshole that put it up used the shittiest techno soundtrack possible. Fuck that guy.”

 

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  • Shawn Knight

    UPDATE: I now realize that The Thing was an Ennio Morricone score, though Carpenter directed the film. My bad! Still amazing.

    • Brandon Moses

      Ha! Street Trash! I love that movie!

  • David Dodd

    Great list, Mr. Knight. As for the 2 remakes on your list vs. the current glut of remakes, here’s my $0.02. Both The Thing (From Another World) & The Fly were classics from the 1950′s that stood out from that era’s standard BEM &/or Flying saucer films. Both works were adapted from excellent short stories. In the 1980′s, two talented directors (Carpenter & Cronenberg) each thought they could bring something new to these stories. Carpenter’s The Thing follows the original premise of the story much closer (a shape-shifting alien, instead of a Frankenstein-esque monster), while Cronenberg’s film, intentionally or not, served as an analogy to the then-hot topic of the AIDS crisis. Both films (as well as the originals!) featured excellent casts. Compare that to any more current horror remakes; #3 are they remaking classic, or even well-known/loved genre films? #2 Are the directors/writers/actors all high caliber? ..and especially #1-is the remake made because someone wants to explore an underused facet of the original, or because there’s a buck to made in it (both Carpenter’s & Cronenberg’s films were seen as gambles, & The Thing was not a financial success upon release)?
    Anyone who has such great taste in terror films must also have great musical taste as well. I will definitely check out your band Child Bite before the day is done!