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Tetsuo: The Iron Man: Cyberpunk and Body Horror Collide

When someone mentions the word “cyberpunk,” what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Is it Blade Runner with its neon illuminations or maybe the black-and-chrome of The Matrix? Or something entirely else? Regardless of your answer, cyberpunk has left a mark on the world of fiction and has introduced new storylines to the adoring fans of futuristic concepts.

Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction that focuses on a combination of low-life and high tech. It is set in a dystopian future that is brimming with advanced technological and scientific achievements. Typically, the genre features powerful mega-corporations that govern the daily life of citizens. Only a handful of people decide to resist them.

On the other hand, body horror is a subgenre of horror that graphically depicts destructions of the human body. These destructions may manifest through mutations, disease, or unnatural movements of the body.

Now, at first glance, it might seem that cyberpunk and body horror are too different to actually work well together. However, filmmakers have been able to combine these genres to create astonishing and terrifying works of art. Just take a look at Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

This Japanese cyberpunk horror film was perhaps way ahead of its time, but it proved that the genre had a lot to give.

If you haven’t watched Tetsuo, get ready for a roller coaster ride of your life.

Shinya Tsukamoto and David Cronenberg

Die-hard fans of body horror know that David Cronenberg is the absolute master of the genre. The director became popular thanks to his movies that featured gruesome and graphic transformations of the human body. So it’s no wonder that Shinya Tsukamoto, who directed Tetsuo: The Iron Man, looks up to Cronenberg and his impressive body of work.

In fact, Tetsuo: The Iron Man is often compared to Cronenberg’s movies, especially to The Fly. Both filmmakers explore the possibility of men being terrorized by their own bodies and what changeling flesh can bring to them. The directors differ in their approaches, but they can both be credited with bringing the cyberpunk body horror genre to the spotlight. You should definitely step into their fictional worlds!

So, if you’re up for watching surreal and disturbing imagery and bizarre special effects, Tetsuo: The Iron Man will deliver just what you need.

Let’s take a look at the plot of this famous movie. Don’t worry, there won’t be any major spoilers!

Tetsuo: The Iron Man: A Brief Glimpse

In Tetsuo: The Iron Man, Tsukamoto doesn’t waste a second to get straight to the point. The very first images we see in the movie indicate that we are in for a body horror ride.

An unnamed man — introduced as “the metal fetishist” (and played by Tsukamoto himself) — cuts open his leg. His intention? To insert a large metal rod into the wound. The metal fetishist succeeds at this, but it all turns sour for him shortly after the intervention.

Sweating profusely, he removes the bandages only to discover that the wound is covered with maggots. This makes him leave his hideout while screaming in terror. But the metal fetishist won’t get too far. After trying to fuse biology and technology, he is hit by a passing car which serves as a catalyst for the ensuing events in Tetsuo: The Iron Man. 

The person who runs over the metal fetishist is credited as “the salaryman” (Tomorowo Taguchi). His girlfriend (Kei Fujiwara) and he decide to hide the corpse, but this won’t put a stop to the terrifying nightmare (literally).

Shortly after this event, the salaryman becomes tormented by disturbing dreams. He has visions of metal and industrial machinery, however, this is only the beginning.

The salaryman will gradually metamorphose into a living and breathing heap of scrap metal. That unintentional hit-and-run will ruin his life and propel him right into the heart of his own cyberpunk body horror nightmare.

The metal fetishist will exact his revenge.

Tetsuo: The Iron Man Is a Must-See

Tetsuo: The Iron Man shows viewers some of the ways in which advanced technology can become dangerous to humanity. Not only that, but it also presents that the loss of biology to technology is inevitable. In fact, it’s the logical next step for our species. All of this is shown through dark and horrifying scenes which make the movie so fascinating.

Absolutely bonkers and bizarrely sexual at times, Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a must-see for all fans of cyberpunk body horror. Released in 1989, the movie has garnered a cult following and it’s popularity won’t decline any time soon.

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