Films That Used Real Bodies

Films That Used Real Bodies

by | Aug 7, 2015

Sometimes, it’s easy to become desensitized by the graphic nature of films. We tell ourselves that the things we see are not real, that they are just special effects and illusion. However, sometimes, things ARE as they seem. The films on our list used real human bodies to shock and scare the audience. Using death, as a form of entertainment. Here are 5 films that used real human bodies!

Men Behind the Sun (1988)


Men Behind the Sun is a 1988 Hong Kong–Chinese historical war horror film. The film is a graphic and disturbing look at the war atrocities committed by the Japanese during world war 2.  The film was so extreme for it’s time, that it caused huge outrages with censor the world over. The film was banned in Australia and caused a public outcry in Japan, where the director received death threats.  And whilst the director claims that a cat, thrown into a room full of starving rats, was not harmed, the real controversy was over some footage of an autopsy.

Director Mou Tun-fei’s claims that he used actual autopsy footage of a young boy, for a scene were surgeons harvest the organs of a local mute child. The film became the first movie to ever receive China’s equivalent to an NC-17 / 18 rating. Mous intended to make an anti-war film that would educate people, but instead he was criticised for creating something heartless and exploitative.


Unrest (2006)


Unrest is an independent horror film shown at the horror film festival 8 Films To Die For back in 2006. Set in a Hospital, where students are learning anatomy, The film weaves a dark tale about a cadaver who seems to bring misfortune on those who come in contact with it. Whilst the film was not that interesting or unique, it did have one big selling point. The films trailer was not shy in revealing that the film used real bodies.

Shot in a real morgue, the filmmakers claim that they used real cadavers for some of the autopsy scenes. Shooting in a live morgue is handy if you need a constant supply of bodies, and it would seem that the film makers to advantage of this supply. The film did not make any big waves, but it certainly raised a few eyebrows with regards to it’s content.


Poltergeist (1982)


When actress JoBeth Williams’s slid down into a muddy pool, she knew that dark, murky, water contained a few surprises. As she struggles to climb out, some skeletons submerge from the sludge, their faces grinning at her with empty dark sockets. It’s a terrifying scenes and one that hid a far more darker secret from the actress. The events of the scene have been blamed for the mysterious curse that plagued the film, which included several cast members deaths.

You see, back in 1981, rubber was expensive and casting and moulding took a fair bit of time. The prop guys found that it was far cheaper, quicker and easier just to buy a bunch of real skeletons, add a little gore and then throw them into the pool, which is exactly what they did. The gruesome creations that pop up from the water were the bodies of real human people. At some point, these skeleton were walking talking people, that had no idea that they would eventually work in a multi million dollar movie produced by Stephen Spielberg!


Dawn of the Dead (1978)


Tom Savini was working on Dawn of the dead back in 1977 when he Spotted an old medical training skeleton it in a little costume store. He borrow it from the store so he could use it as an extra body in the film. The skeleton had wires in its joints and springs in its jaw and appeared to be just an ordinary medical tool. Tom covered it in latex and cereal and left it curled up in a corner for one of the movies scenes. After filming was done, the skeleton was returned and at some point it turned up in a shop window. In the DVD, commentary Tom claims that local Police Spotted the “rotting” corpse, and became convinced it was a real body. They took it away and buried bury it in an unmarked grave. Tom jokingly claimed that buried out there somewhere is a prop from the film. However, that’s not the whole story!

You see, it turns out that the police were right. The prop sat on display in the back of the costume store, in a glass topped coffin, until the store closed some years later. Another store owner bought out all the stock in the early 1980’s, and upon finding the skeleton, plopped it her stores window in a completely different town. It would seem that the skeleton caused a bit of a stir, as the local police came knocking and took the corpse away for examination. The film prop then underwent an autopsy. Well, as much of an autopsy as you do on a skeleton. The surprising result was that the medical skeleton/film prop was actually the bones of a 35-year-old woman who apparently died of natural causes around a century earlier. The body was eventually buried in an unmarked grave. But in 2014 a group of diehard fans were trying to raise money for a proper headstone for the worlds oldest working actress. Savini still claims that it was just a prop!


Apocalypse Now (1979)


Apocalypse now is well known for being a disastrous production. Expected to be a be a 14-week shoot , the film spiralled into a 16 month nightmare for all involved. Between cast members being fired and and bad weather, the drugged and drunken crew had to fight of tigers and salvage shoots as the Philippine President kept stealing their hired helicopters. But that’s not even the most crazies thing that happened.

Some over zealous prop guys started getting creative, using rotting dead rats to decorate sets, hoping the rancid smell would help the actors. Just as star Martin Sheen’s wife complained about the health risk, producers discovered the dead bodies. There had been rumours on set, but producers had dismissed the idea as ludicrous, until they investigated a terrible smell coming from the prop store. They discovered a row of cadavers all laid out in a tent not far from where everyone was eating. The prop guys were convinced that they were going to hang the bodies from trees to add authenticity to the upcoming scenes. It turns out they had bought the bodies from a local man who supplied hospitals with cadavers for medical training.  However a visit from the police revealed that the man was really a grave robber. yep, the crew had just bought a bunch of stiffs that had been recently dug up.


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