Floor, a white rabbit with a metal muzzle over her face, lies on the floor of her cage in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.

The Body Horror in ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ is Some Serious Stuff

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 delves deep into Rocket’s past—and as we learn the story of Rocket’s beginnings, we also meet some of his friends. The Guardians of the Galaxy series has never been a horror franchise, but the body horror in the labs of the High Evolutionary is first rate.

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To recap: Rocket starts his life as one of the High Evolutionary’s test subjects. The High Evolutionary is supposedly creating new, enhanced beings for his utopia, Counter-Earth, but as we find out later in the movie, Rocket and the other animals were never intended to live there. They’re the rough drafts of the High Evolutionary’s grand design. They’re disposable.

After Rocket’s chosen to undergo a hideously painful augmentation procedure, he’s thrown into a cage to heal from his new enhancements. He’s got implants all over his body, along with a large, circular incision where the High Evolutionary opened his skull to work on his brain. As we find out later, the surgery is done while Rocket is awake and aware, and the first thing he uses his new powers of speech to say is “hurt.”

Once in the cage, though, he meets the group of fellow test subjects who will eventually name themselves Lylla, Teefs, and Floor. Their modifications are just as hideous as Rocket’s. Lylla’s arms have been replaced with robotic arms. Teefs has wheels installed in his hips, and mechanical eyelids that leave his eyes pulled open and bloodshot. Floor has had her back legs amputated and replaced with mechanical insect legs, along with a forbidding metal mask fitted over her mouth.

As I’ve written before, there are two components to good body horror: transformation and violation. Poor Floor doesn’t just look forbidding in her metal mask and insect legs. She’s suffered painful, invasive, and likely irreversible changes to her body. It’s chilling to think of Floor enduring the surgery with no anesthetic, or Lylla wishing she still had her own arms, or Teefs craving the simple comfort of closing eyelids made of skin. The fact that they’re cuddly animals with cheerful dispositions—and a stubborn trust in “Sire,” who orders them incinerated the moment they stop being useful—makes the situation even more painful, and the stakes even higher.

Of course, the body horror in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 doesn’t stop with Rocket’s friends. At the end of the movie, the High Evolutionary gets a taste of his own medicine, when Gamora peels off his false skin to reveal the raw and bloody face underneath.

What Rocket and the others go through shows that horror elements don’t have to stay confined to horror flicks. When done right, horror can make a story absolutely riveting—and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 proves it.

(featured image: Marvel)

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Julia Glassman
Julia Glassman (she/her) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and has been covering feminism and media since 2007. As a staff writer for The Mary Sue, Julia covers Marvel movies, folk horror, sci fi and fantasy, film and TV, comics, and all things witchy. Under the pen name Asa West, she's the author of the popular zine 'Five Principles of Green Witchcraft' (Gods & Radicals Press). You can check out more of her writing at <a href="https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/">https://juliaglassman.carrd.co/.</a>