So you’ve seen Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and even Cooties...
...You probably think you’ve seen it all and that there is nowhere new for the Zombie Comedy genre to take you. Well, take a look at Shudder on June 25th and you will be pleasantly surprised and grossed out by the streaming service's latest original film, Yummy. The movie is a shocking, brutal, and hilarious tale of questionable doctors, ravenous zombies, and trying to find the worst possible time to get engaged.
Directed and co-written by Dutch filmmaker Lars Damoiseaux (writing credit is shared with Eveline Hagenbeek) Yummy follows Alison and Michael (Maaike Neuville and Bart Hollanders) as they travel to a questionable but cheap Eastern European hospital so that Alison can have a breast reduction surgery. Also along for the trip is Alison’s mother (Annick Christiaens) who is going to get a facelift. We immediately get the impression that Alison’s mother is neither a fan of Michael nor Alison’s decision to have a breast reduction. Beset by judgement from her mother, disappointment in Michael’s decision to leave medical school due to personal weaknesses, and leers from every man she meets, Alison is marked as the film’s “final girl.” And she makes a great one. She’s brave, decisive, and resourceful throughout the story.
These three arrive at the shady hospital and meet a creepy but hot hospital attendant (Daniel), a beautiful but severe head of the hospital (Janya), and the head surgeon (Dr. K.). A few other doctors and patients round out the cast of characters who are soon to be dismembered but these six are the primary focus of the film. When Michael does some snooping about the hospital, it becomes clear that this facility is experimenting with the type of science The Umbrella Corporation would be interested in. Soon, a zombified patient goes on the loose in the hospital.
From here, the film moves in so many surprising directions that you are better off avoiding any spoilers and just sitting down to watch the thing. The pace is frenetic, the kills are creative, and the surprises just keep coming. Like so many horror fans, I thought I had seen everything there is to be seen from the Zombie Comedy genre; then I saw one of the most shocking post coital scenes I have ever witnessed. Yummy is filled with scenes where in the set-up is something you’ve probably seen before but the payoff is so much more than expected. As every scene ends, the viewer is eager to see where the next set-up will place them and where this madcap adventure will end.
While most contemporary horror comedy films seek to subvert the genre and to draw comedy from pointing out how silly tropes are, Yummy manages to deliver humor and shocks while working in earnest to make a good zombie story. Watching the movie, viewers will have no doubt that Damoiseaux and team could make a thrilling straight up horror film, they just decided to make this one funny. The jokes and comedic elements of this film are among its strongest features. In a time where laughter is rare to come by, I found myself OMGing and LOLing more at this film than anything in recent memory.
One of the most consistently rewarding elements is how much this movie revels in punishing its characters for fitting the tropes that they do. Whether a character is a narcissist, weak-willed, or even our supposed hero, they will be mercilessly punished in the most creative ways imaginable.
Michael, our woefully unprepared boyfriend is particularly punished for being in this film and his pains and struggles are hilarious, brutal, and well earned. The film’s depiction of violence could be considered masochistic if not for how well everything is established at the top of the story. The violent ends that characters face are at times The Twilight Zone-esque but for the most part the film is just barely on the right side of the line in how it kills off characters. Brilliantly, a film that is stuffed with kills, manages to make almost every one count. You will be arguing with your friends for days about which death scene was the most shocking.
The primarily Dutch and Belgian cast plays their parts well. Morally dubious and outright evil characters are equally brought to life by the delightful performances of all the actors. While it’s clear to American viewers that English is not the primary language of the actors, their mastery of the language is clear and their performances transcend any language. Great casting, talented writing, and strong directing work together to produce characters that are equally exciting to watch. From the main players to the obvious zombie fodder, viewers will be engaged by all the characters on screen.
The setting for the film--a creepy hospital--leads to many exciting locations and builds an amazing amount of tension. I was reminded of the hospital setting for Halloween II and how disappointing it was to watch that movie fail to adequately use its setting. The main settings in that horror classic are, of course, Laurie’s hospital room, the parking lot, and the hospital hot tub (?) In Yummy we have the sense that the filmmakers really considered the myriad locations that can be found in a hospital and filled them with as much atmosphere and terror as is humanly possible. From the ICU to the stairwells to the rooftops and even down to the sewer systems, every room in that hospital is exploited for terror and thrills.
At no point does Yummy set out to say something important or make a clear thematic revelation. I believe most viewers will be perfectly okay with this. I know I was. Indeed, the film’s American tagline of “Face Lifts, Boob Jobs, And Zombies,” could very well have been the note that the filmmakers kept taped to the monitor to remind themselves of the aesthetic they were trying to capture. The film’s goal is to shock and entertain and it does both with the kind of glee that I have not seen since The Evil Dead films. And like Sam Raimi’s classic series, Yummy is every bit as re-watchable.
While Yummy is not a genre defining new classic or a paradigm shifting take on the zombie genre, it is exactly what it wishes to be. It is a film that succeeds in all that it strives to do. It tells a memorable story with all the twists and turns that viewers did not know that they wanted to see. At times shocking and disgusting, Yummy is always entertaining and the type of horror film we deserve to see more of.
Bite into Yummy when it arrives on Shudder June 25th.
By Mark Gonzales