Blood's splattering and penises are ablaze in director Lars Damoiseaux's feature debut Yummy, a gore-filled zombie comedy that's as confused as it is deliciously gross. An over-the-top violent tale of plastic surgery gone disgustingly array, Yummy exudes intentional camp and shows glimpses of old Italian flare - an ambitious combination that just almost works. Pair that style with sporadic gross-out comedy and a few moments of dry wit and you've got a fun enough film for fans of fast-paced butchery.
Yummy follows a buxom young Belgian woman, Alison (Maaike Neuville,) and her spineless klutz of a husband, Michael (Bart Hollanders,) as they head to an eastern European hospital for Alison's breast reduction. Also tagging along is Alison's vain mother Sylvia (Annrick Christiaens,) who's due for another facelift.
The opening scene shows a bus of teen boys pulling up alongside their vehicle at a stoplight. The horny young lads can't help but notice Alison's boobs, toward which they make inappropriate gestures. In this moment we see just how uncomfortably fed up Alison is with being gawked at. Her mother, on the other hand, believes Alison's body is a "gift from God." Michael voices, on several occasions, how much he likes Alison's body yet supports whatever it is she wants.
While on their trek Michael accidentally hits a rodent, which he's then forced to kill. Before he receives the chance to bash it to bits a car whizzes by, crushing the animal and splattering blood all over Michael. He's disgusted and disoriented, being notably hemophobic, and he torpedo vomits a comical stream of puke.
Between the horned up teenagers teasing Alison and Michael's throwing up, there's already a couple genuinely laugh-worthy bits just a few minutes in (at least for the juvenile.)
Once they reach the hospital, it becomes quickly evident there's a shady operation in place. Doctors aren't following standard procedures. One doctor gets overly handsy with Alison. Michael doesn't trust what's going on, and his discomfort is so palpable the staff make him take a walk. Daniel (Benjamin Ramon,) a sleazy hospital assistant, joins Michael in journeying throughout the facility.
While Daniel creepily steals drugs, Michael comes across a lone woman in a darkened room tied to a hospital bed with a mask over her face. After he removes her face covering, it's revealed she has a nasty case of zombie-mouth. Michael runs back to the room in which Alison is about to undergo her surgery to warn everybody, but it's too late - and zombie hell breaks loose.
Yummy wastes no time diving into the gory madness, and once the blood first sheds it's an onslaught of disgusting goodness. Running at an adderall-driven pace, there isn't a second that allows for viewer distraction, just as there's hardly a moment for the film's characters to catch a breath. In terms of pace and visuals, Yummy does what it sets out to do, and that's entertain gorehounds.
As for the gore itself - it's delivered in mass amounts, and rather impressive. The makeup and effects in Yummy are more remarkable than most other aspects of the film, and that isn't an insult to the story or cast. Between intestines dangling and axes splitting heads, the gooey violence certainly looks cool. There's buckets of blood for those who crave it, and silly slaughters for the sickest among us. Lars Damoiseaux does know how to deliver an excessive gorefest.
Stylistically, the film's perplexing. Scenes almost appear to be paying homage to the Bava/Argento palette - electric blues, burnt oranges, and striking purples. The look is interesting, no doubt, and old Italian horror lovers can appreciate the approach, but does it serve any sincere purpose? The cool colors of a nightmare sky seem at odds with the lightning-fast pace of all the brutality taking place in a gritty asylum-like setting. It makes you wonder, does a film with no real attention to atmosphere or build deserve the stylish appearance of renowned atmospheric greatness?
Furthermore, does the artful lighting have any chemistry with the overabundance of deliberate camp that runs rampant in Yummy? That's where matters get tonally confusing. It's a film littered with grindhouse violence, unsavory jokes, and the occasional dry wit. It could have just as easily fared with the lifeless, spotty lighting of a rickety overhead lamp in a basement workshop. Considering they went with a dark artsy flare, questions are raised about what the driving forces behind Yummy actually are.
Is this an effort to fabricate a cult-like B movie camp? That's difficult to do on purpose. Is the campy feel just a side effect of crafting a depraved, splatter-heavy horror comedy? The fact that these questions are being asked *does* make Yummy art. If it's art that raises eyebrows, is it at least good art?
The entertainment value was touched. There's no doubt it's a wild escape, and an interesting film to look at. As a horror comedy, however, it's a bit lacking in at least one department. Yummy is a strong horror film, and all the elements of anything good in the zombie cannon are present. It isn't "scare the pants off you" terrifying, but it most definitely isn't tame. Given the atmosphere wasn't priority, there's no tremendous sense of dread nor any pounding suspense, but there's plenty of shock. The premise is a refreshingly unique addition to zombie subgenre, and that in itself deserves praise.
Comedically, it's a hit-or-miss flick. Some slapstick bits find their way in for a slice of comic relief (an axe flying off the handle,) and a few kills are absurdly amusing (a paper shredder death in particular.) Dry quips are peppered in throughout the film's entirety. It all isn't enough to mark the movie "funny," per say. Perhaps most of the ride is just too gruesome, and a well-done gruesome at that, for the comedic moments to be fully realized. In that sense it's praise, really. Yummy is too damn good at being authentically gross and horrifying to be a horror-comedy.
Surface aside, it's worth noting that a theme, or at least a slight social comment, gets lost amidst the mayhem. Early in the flick, Alison and her mother are on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of feeling uncomfortable with their appearances. Alison wants to shrink her breasts, and be less preyed upon by men. Her mother wants additional facial work to be more physically attractive and youthful. Their cosmetic appointments at a shady eastern European hospital are how the horror ensues, after all. Once the zombies start chewing on ankles, though, you sort of forget about the plastic surgeries entirely.
Granted, a fella who wants a penis enlargement gets his dick set on fire, and Alison is still technically preyed upon by a man at the film's climax, so maybe it isn't lost. It's possible the parade of flesh-eating just makes personal insecurities seem like small potatoes. Plus, if these ladies weren't so willing to get their bodies worked on at a less than reputable establishment none of this mess would have even happened - there's a moral in there!
Whether Yummy succeeds as a horror-comedy or not, and no matter where a theme stands by the end, it's unbelievably gorey enjoyment. Lars Damoiseaux brings an inventive premise and overall memorable flick to the zombie canon with his feature-debut; thus making noise in 2 subgenres (zombie and horror-comedy) that have grown stale and oversaturated. It isn't "etch in your psyche" scary nor uproariously funny, but it's gruesome enough to satisfy the sick cinema crowd and just the right kind of outrageous. For those interested in an hour and a half of well-done gore and a slew of zombie tits, you can check out Yummy exclusively on Shudder.