Physicians as horror villains makes sense – they know what can be done for torture and colorful deaths. Mixing body horror and slasher sub-genres, surgical horror is great but it seems that these films are few and far between. Here are a handful that you should seek out – doctor’s orders.
Franke Potente stars in this German horror film about a young woman who’s accepted into an exclusive medical school only to find something sinister is afoot; a murderous plot of a secret society in the school. Fascinating, entertaining, and scary, Anatomy is a great horror film to add to your collection. When I first watched it, I didn’t know what to expect, having not really heard of it before; but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s far from typical. Rather than jump scares or gross-out, it mixes a sense of dread and mystery with the surgical/slasher/body horror spikes throughout.
A sequel, Anatomy 2, was released in 2003 and, while the body count was high, the originality and terror of the first film was no longer there.
Dr. Giggles (1992)
Dr. Giggles featured Larry Drake as the title role of a maniac who believes himself to be a heart surgeon. He returns to his hometown to reign terror as he stalks a young woman with a heart condition. Dr. Giggles is a fun horror film, more on the slasher side than that of surgical but I still feel it makes the list. One of the taglines for this film read “The Doctor is out…Of his mind.” This film eventually got lost in the shuffle of 90s horror but it was a favorite of my family’s for years. Horror and dark humor, this cult favorite is always a good time and you’ll be imitating his trademark giggle long after it’s over.
The Dentist (1996)
Corbin Bernsen starred in this film in the title role: a dentist who snaps after finding his wife cheating on him. Using his dentistry expertise, he can’t stop the onslaught of hallucinations or the gruesome killings at his hands. It’s a fine little horror movie, nothing amazing, but worth a watch. While the base story of a man who snaps is entertaining enough for its genre, the nightmarish fantasy scenes make this movie all the more enjoyable.
A sequel, The Dentist 2, came out in 1998 but, much like Anatomy 2, upped the body count and gore but lacked what the original had.
The Human Centipede (2009)
The Human Centipede (First Sequence) has quite the reputation. It’s known for being gross above all; however, the things this film (and its sequels) is known for makes up a very small amount of screen time. Its setup is one of classic horror: young people’s car breaks down and they seek help from a nearby house only to find the host has other plans. The premise and its surgical elements are more terrifying than the disgusting images shown. While using an old school horror template, it brings originality, uniqueness, and something truly new to the genre. Its sequels in 2011 and 2015 upped the crazy but lost the focus of the first film. While it’s not looked at as such, The Human Centipede (First Sequence) is a gem. Its mix of one foot in the unknown and one foot in the familiar has always stayed with me. Don’t listen to the naysayers and check this film out.
The Skin I Live In (2011)
This entry is truly terrifying. It’s not a typical horror film and it’s not loaded with jump scares and gore. Many would probably refer to this film as a thriller, or psychological thriller, because it’s not represented how horror is usually seen, but it honestly couldn’t be more horror. Antonio Banderas stars as a plastic surgeon who falls into madness while seeking revenge for his daughter. I don’t want to spoil it because it really deserves to be seen. I have highly recommended this film since seeing it upon its release. The premise, the mood, and once you realize what is happening, The Skin I Live In is scary as hell.
Be sure to watch these five films, and please submit any surgical horror films you enjoy as well as your thoughts on these suggestions. I’d like to hear what you think.