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The Best Transformation Scenes of Horror, Part 3: Deadtime Stories (1986), Hellraiser (1987), A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4 (1988), and Dangerous Seductress (1995)

November 20, 2017

This article is rich with images you do not want your boss to see when he’s looking over your shoulder at work. View at your own risk.

Transformation scenes are often the coolest things we see in horror films–especially when they’re executed with practical effects.  Some of my favorite transformation scenes are also the most gory and brutal.  In The Best Transformation Scenes of Horror Parts 1 and Part 2 we reviewed the transformations featured in Tales from the Darkside (1990; the short story Lover’s Vow), Zombeavers (2014), Wolfcop (2014) (the latter two are discussed in the Podcast Episode 17), The Company of Wolves (1984), Late Phases (2014), and A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985).  Of course, coming as no surprise, there’s a bias towards werewolf movies.  Before we discussed films in which the transformations had the “new form” push its way out of the “old” (human) form much as a moth emerges from its cocoon…but deliciously GORIER as it tears its way out!  Transformations like these are gory, laborious and to the point; like the human skin was just an ill-fitting suit entrapping a monster.  The first films (that come to mind anyway) using this transformation method were the werewolf movies The Howling (1981), and far later by the werewolf character from Hemlock Grove (2013-2015; Netlfix show).  The Fly (1986) also utilized this method, in which Brundlefly’s transformation was a slow mutation and his human form was gorily “molted” off after phasic shifts.  I feel like an honorable mention is owed to Spring (2014), which features hints of on-screen transformation frequently and in interesting ways but limits all significant changes in form to off-screen events (i.e., revealing the final form but not witnessing the actual transformation beyond sounds and/or shadows).  If only that film had a larger budget–but then, that might have spoiled the more elegant tone of that special romantic horror film.


Much to the contrary of Parts 1 and Part 2‘s “molting” of old forms, today we’ll be discussing reconstitution (or reanimation, perhaps) scenes.  In case you’re wondering what that means–imagine a face/body melting slowly revealing the muscle and nerve tissue under the skin, the white tendon beneath that, and the blood and bone and organs in between.  Now–run that in reverse in your head.  Yes!  That’s how old school practical effects often handled these scenes.  That, or stop-motion animation for the lower budget endeavors.  To me, though, it’s all solid gold and one of the things that made the ’80s the greatest decade for horror!

Stay tuned for future installments in this series of articles…but for now, let’s dig into some gross scenes!!!!



Deadtime Stories (1986)–excepting the middle story, I really love this horror anthology. I loved it as a kid in the early 90s (when I rented it from Ellis Street Video in Haddonfield, NJ) and I still love it today. It’s an excellent, cheap B-movie with fun short stories of dark fairy tales. The budget is low but the effects are diverse and the music was surprisingly interesting.


The first story is about a young boy and the witch sisters he serves. They intend to resurrect their long dead sister (another witch). This dark fairy tale is surprisingly loaded with fun special effects. They use illusions to seduce a priest and make his disembodied hand crawl asunder from his arm. They then remove the heart from the corpse of their long dead sister, apply a magical potion to restart its beating, and return it to her chest cavity. What follows is a gross, slimy, stop-motion display as tendrils of nerves and sinew emerge from the heart and envelop the skeleton in a crust of cadaverous filth, from which their sister would then emerge. The effects, however low the budget may be, had me squealing in delight as it reminded me of the Hellraiser (1987) transformation scene.



Hellraiser (1987) was Clive Barker’s introduction to Pinhead in this ultra-creepy, practical effect gorefest with a solid story.  A crowd pleaser to horror fans of all ages, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser tells the story of a man who escapes Hell, the temptations he exploits in order to freely roam the Earth again, and the consequences that befall those nearest him.  This film steers clear of paradigmatic horror with creepiness and awesome practical effects.  In 1987 horror was already becoming predictable, but Barker takes us into uncharted territory that lacks the predictability of his peers.  Even the gore and effects take us down a more rare and satisfying path.  This film will fulfill your darkest pleasures.  The catalyst for the movie’s most famous scene is when some blood is accidentally spilled where Frank was torn apart by an otherworldly evil and this blood initiated the beginning of the transformation of his remains to a rather “incomplete” facsimile of infernal Frank.


This scene is a testament to the patient practical effects of the 80s.  We see organs develop from blood droplets and his body slowly finds form from a gory muck.  The scene is long and gross, and it includes some creepy stop motion of his decrepit skeletal arms and bloody resurrection.  This transformation scene is one of the most memorable scenes in 80s horror.


Deliciously gooey!  Now a skinless, weak, macabre husk of his formal self he tempts Julia (Clare Higgins) to “help” him by bringing him more blood.  And thus, the transformation actually progresses further with the story.



A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 4: Dream Master (1988) included a great early scene depicting Freddy’s resurrection in the junkyard (from the end of part 3).  In Kincaid’s dream, his dog Jason bites Alice (connected in the dream) warning that Freddy’s return is imminent and, subsequently, resurrects Freddy with a flaming stream of urine.  A crack opens a portal to Hell, his bones reassemble and, just like Hellraiser, fluids congeal and amass over his joints and skull to form sinew and flesh (like reverse time lapse melting of wax).

nightmare-on-elm-street-4-01 373650054_18


Much as Deadtime Stories (1986) and Hellraiser (1987) featured reconstitution/reanimation scenes with reverse-time lapse wax melting, so followed the meagerly budgeted Dangerous Seductress (1995).  This scene basically copied the aforementioned movies’ scenes, but with greater effects limitations.  Despite that, and the generally campy nature of the flick, it’s still a pretty neat scene.  Once reanimated the ’90s seductress in “incomplete,” looking more like Evil Dead 2‘s (1987) undead ballerina Linda.

Luckily there was a stray dog for her to eat to finish forming her other leg, right?


I hope you enjoyed these gore-slathered movie memories and perhaps you have been directed to new things you need to see for yourself.  Stay tuned for future installments…


9 Comments leave one →
  1. November 20, 2017 9:30 am

    Frank’s resurrection in Hellraiser is still such an awesome scene, and the return of Freddy in Nightmare on Elm St 4 was also done in an inventive way. Goes to show how practical effects always look so much better than the CGI we often get now.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 20, 2017 3:29 pm

      Well said.
      Yeah, at times the CGI is thoughtfully done. Yet even today’s great CGI runs the risk of looking out of touch years later as we hone our eyes. These movies, however, have scenes whose excellence persist.

      • November 21, 2017 9:44 am

        The longevity and impact of these classic transformation scenes show just how good some of these films were. If CGI is done well it can work, but these old practical effects just have more impact.

  2. November 20, 2017 8:08 pm

    Cool topic!

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 20, 2017 9:14 pm

      That’s all we know how to do it here. lol
      So…your favorites???

      • November 20, 2017 11:13 pm

        The Howling and American Werewolf in London, of course. The “Tongue Girl” in Demons is pretty wild too. For sheer absurdity, The Beast Within is hard to top. There are a good 4 or 5 shots in that one that probably should have been edited out.

    • John Leavengood permalink
      November 21, 2017 7:53 am

      I really need to see The Beast Within. Folks on FB keep mentioning it to me regarding that transformation scene.

      • November 21, 2017 7:50 pm

        It’s a trashy little monster movie with some good gore and the aforementioned scene, which borders on make-up abuse.


  1. John’s Horror Corner: Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday (1993), mixing The Hidden (1987) creature, The Evil Dead (1981) mythology and The Dream Child (1989) twist. | Movies, Films & Flix

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