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With a fully-CG remake of Disney’s Pinocchio out on Disney+ for all to see, audiences can relive one of the most terrifying parts of the film: the infamous donkey transformation sequence. It’s a sequence that still manages to terrify many, even 80 years on from the original, and it cemented itself in the mind of a whole generation of children.
It’s not just Disney prone to terrifying transformations, however, as some of the most chilling transformations include humans morphing into other frightening creatures. From several scientists trying to make groundbreaking discoveries to an alien deceiving everyone with a human disguise, the sequences for these transformations have made it hard to watch due to the discomfort invoked by the characters.
Pinocchio Turns Into A Hybrid Donkey
A childhood classic for many, Disney’s Pinocchio is a delightful tale that is much darker than it has any right to be. The movie tells of Pinocchio, a puppet bought to life by a puppet-maker’s hopeful wish, and his adventures into becoming what he wants to be: a real boy.
The sequence illustrates Pinocchio witnessing Lampwick transform into a donkey before ultimately transforming himself, which will no doubt amuse adults but will instill terror into any children watching. What makes it so scary is its inevitability and the fact that the human body is being twisted and contorted unwillingly.
A Young Woman Becomes An Octopus
A rather underrated horror movie, Spring is body horror at its finest (and its grossest). The movie follows an American caught in a personal tailspin, who flees from the US to Italy. Once there, he meets a beautiful young woman and falls in love, but she’s not quite what she seems.
Depicting a bizarre love story between “monster” and man, Spring is a darkly comedic picture, but it is no less scary as a result. Indeed, the sight of the creature in its fully transformed state is enough to turn anyone’s stomach. Despite the ickiness of the effects, the movie’s overall message of nonjudgmental love is a rather positive one.
A Bear Echos A Dead Woman’s Voice
Written and directed by Alex Garland, Annihilation is a science fiction tale full of coincidences and impossibilities. The movie follows a biologist, who loses her husband to a mysterious expedition, and how she joins an expedition under false pretenses.
Boasting a visually stunning presentation, Annihilation has several terrifying transformations, none so more frightening than ‘The Entity,’ which assumes the shape of a bear and speaks with the voice of a dead woman. What makes it even scarier is the fact that the movie’s protagonists are utterly powerless to stop it – they can only sit silently and hope.
An Alien’s Guise Is Blown After Blood Test
The Thing (1982)
Boasting a myriad of memorable mutations, John Carpenter’s The Thing is a classic of the horror genre. The movie follows a research team out in Antarctica who stumble across an alien spacecraft and quickly lose themselves to paranoia when the alien escapes.
The iconic blood test sequence features two particularly terrifying moments. Firstly, it builds on the brilliant reveal after a painfully tense and drawn-out build. Secondly, the alien’s facade becomes exposed, which leads to a scary uncovering — the face contorts, eyes pop out of their sockets, and mouths appear out of nowhere. It is a very gory and haunting scene, but the transformation exemplifies the ease of the alien’s deceit by simply blending in as humans until their covers are blown.
A Mother & Son Morph Together
Color Out Of Space (2019)
In one of his best movies, Nicolas Cage shines in Color Out Of Space, a very stylistic sci-fi horror. It is an adaption of Lovecraft’s short story, as Richard Stanley revealed that he is a big admirer of Lovecraft’s work (via an interview with Discussing Film). The movie follows a strange meteorite, one that emits an indescribable color and smell, that lands on a farm and changes the inhabitants.
While several characters undergo a variety of changes, there are a few metamorphoses that stand out. When Theresa and Jack, mother and son, morph into one grotesque monstrosity, it makes for uncomfortable viewing as the characters endure pain and agony. It’s reminiscent of I Have No Mouth But I Must Scream, as the characters are so unbearably resigned to their fate.
A Man Becomes An Animated Mask
The Mask (1994)
Featuring Jim Carrey as the iconic and likable titular role, The Mask reminds audiences that they should never judge a book by its cover. The movie follows Stanley Ipkiss, a bank clerk whose nice guy persona gets him nowhere in life, and the magical mask he discovers that makes him a hero.
When Ipkiss first puts on the mask, the last thing audiences expect is something that’ll haunt their nightmares. Unfortunately, the change is unnerving as Carrey contorts to an over-the-top, energized Mask. Carrey’s befuddled groans and moans make the sequence creepier, as audiences can only wonder how much it hurts.
A Scientist Turns Invisible
Hollow Man (2000)
From director Paul Verhoeven, Hollow Man brings the work of H.G. Wells into the modern day. The movie follows an ambitious scientist who wants to be the first human to turn invisible. Success, however, brings its complications.
Starring Kevin Bacon in a fantastically nuanced performance, Hollow Man is chock-full of memorable transformation sequences. When Bacon’s character takes the serum to turn invisible, it leads to an unsettling visualization of the skin vaporizing and bits of muscle disintegrating. Though the results were what they wanted, the experience alone looked very painful.
A Water Accident Forms More Babies
A beloved classic from director Steven Spielberg, Gremlins is among the darker movies on the Christmas essentials list. It follows a young boy who is given a pet Mogwai to look after, only for him to disobey the vital rules of care and suffer the consequences.
When the Mogwai transforms and lays its eggs, the sequence is genuinely unsettling. The disgusting buboes that form on the creature and the billowing steam make it seem like some kind of chemical waste. What makes it worse is how afraid the once-adorable Mogwai seems and how its little yelps of terror mimic those of the audience.
A Man Transforms Into A Werewolf
An American Werewolf In London (1981)
Directed by John Landis, An American Werewolf In London is both horrifying and hilarious. The movie follows two American college students who vacation in London, out to the countryside, and are attacked by a werewolf that none of the locals will confess to knowing about.
While the protagonist changes into a werewolf several times in the picture, no transformation comes close to the one that takes place in his apartment. With long, bone-crunching adjustments to his physique, all accompanied by endless screaming, the sequence is a masterclass in practical effects wizardry.
A Scientist Mutates Into A Human/Fly Amalgam
The Fly (1986)
One of David Cronenberg’s most accessible films, The Fly is actually a remake of a 1958 B-movie. The movie follows Seth Brundle, a brilliant but eccentric scientist, and his gradual transformation into a human/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes awry.
What makes Brundle’s transformation so terrifying is the pacing. The transformation is so subtle that, at first, the characters struggle to even notice it; Brundle even believes himself to be invigorated. Then, all of a sudden, he’s a hideous man-fly thing. The pacing also makes every change feel real.