Skin-festation of the year:
Maggots in "King Kong" and "Corpse Bride"
Warning: The following investigates insect invasion into the skin. The understandably squeamish can return to their regular programming, the Skinnies Awards.

True love, Tim Burton-style:
If you look deeply into the eyes of your Corpse Bride, might find unwanted company.

In the Goth stop motion flick, "Corpse Bride," a romantic moment between a reluctant Romeo and his cadaver wife is interrupted, insect-style. The mood is shattered when her eye pops out, ejected by a worm that lives in her deceased skull. Talk about a bad first date. Turns out the critter is not just a squalid squatter, but also her companion and conscience. Only twisted director Tim Burton could envision the Corpse Bride's moral compass would be a flesh-burrowing worm called "Maggot." This creature is also available as a plush toy at your favorite online retailer. We wish we were joking.

"King Kong" director Peter Jackson also goes larval, returning to his zombie flick roots.

The popular vacation spot Skull Island...
...features these man-sized hungry maggots, giving new meaning to the phrase "tourist trap."
Guess who's on the menu?

On Skull Island, the ship's cook, Lumpy, played by cgi mannequin Andy Serkis, takes some serious lumps. In a bit of culinary irony, he gets grotesquely devoured by monstrous mud maggots. As if these lethal larvae weren't stomach-turning enough, the producers made them look suspiciously phallic and gave them fearsome fangs. Is there a psychiatrist in the house?

Actually, calling an entomologist (insect expert) might be more appropriate. Maggots are the infant stage of flies, fond of frightening feeding frenzies in whatever garbage, debris, or rotting offal that they manage to maneuver into their maw. Occasionally, that material is human skin. Yes, dear visitor, sometimes the leg ulcers of the unfortunate homeless or diabetics can be host to these wriggling worms. Not to panic. This can only occur in the very ill, especially if there is nerve damage, allowing tissue injury to go unnoticed. Surgical debridement and courses of antibiotics are needed to purge the pests and heal the wound.

Hollywood, always open to alternative medicine, shows the therapeutic benefit of these critters:

Wound care, circa 180 AD.

Maggots to clean the dead tissue.

Wound packed with dry material.

In "Gladiator," Russell Crowe has a bad shoulder day. Wounded in the stadium, Maximus is at risk of a life-threatening infection. Antibiotics won't be available for nearly two thousand years, to his Roman HMO approves cleaning the gash with (gulp!) maggots. The workaholic worms wolf down dead material, but avoid living tissue. Their use to clear dead flesh from an infected wound is theoretically reasonable. Nowadays, most insurance plans recognize that penicillin and topical wound care with sterile dressings have replaced fly larva treatments. Let's just hope that Tim Burton and Peter Jackson turn down positions as health administrators and keep their day jobs.

Runner-up, Skin-festation:
Flies in "The Amityville Horror"
Before anyone calls us bug-haters, we would like to point out how maggots contribute to our world. First, when they grow up, they become flies. Second...okay, maybe we are bug-haters!

© 1996-2008 Vail Reese M.D.

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