Zombie movies are — by now — a tired dime a dozen, so it can be extremely difficult to make one that stands out as worth watching. You’ve got to bring something new to the table. Belgian bloodfest Yummy puts the zombie subgenre under the knife; there’s a fresh, attractive face, but ultimately it’s the same (undead) body.
In the film, a young couple travels to a shady Eastern European hospital for plastic surgery. The young woman, Alison (Maaike Neuville) wants a breast reduction. Her mother Sylvia (Annick Christiaens) comes along for yet another face-lift. Wandering through an abandoned ward, the boyfriend, Michael (Bart Hollanders), stumbles upon a young woman, gagged and strapped to an operating table; she’s the result of experimental rejuvenation treatment. He frees her but doesn’t realize she’s patient zero and he just caused the outbreak of a violent, deadly virus.
Yummy is director Lars Damoiseaux’s feature film debut, co-written with Eveline Hagenbeek. The film isn’t trying to reinvent the shambling, groaning, zombie film wheel — all the familiar tropes are there — but the hospital setting gives a lot of gruesome flexibility.
The gore is where Yummy really comes out to play, thanks to the amazing work of makeup effects artists Daphnée Beaulieux and Erwan Simon (billed as “Heroes of the Movie” in the end credits). Damoiseaux wears his influences on his sleeve with his heavy use of splattergore that takes each surgery-gone-wrong opportunity (one scene hits reverse on a liposuction, another poor woman was abandoned in the midst of a chemical peel… it’s gross, it’s great).
The script is full of characters that you’re quite ready to see devoured; they’re shallow, vain, and deeply unlikable. It jabs at certain personalities with a dark, unapologetic sense of humour. Only our leading lady is even remotely tolerable. Alison is strong-willed and capable, but her beau is mostly useless.
As a clever detail, Michael has hemophobia, the last thing you want in a zombie film. When the shit goes down, you better be ready — and he is definitely not. But it’s not given the full exploration that you’d expect, which is actually quite disappointing. It’s a great set up and leaves the door open for some quality character development, but it’s dropped pretty quickly.
Because movies have rules, Yummy does take some effort to explain the origins of its virus by way of a side plot that probably doesn’t need to be as melodramatic as it is. It throws a bit of a wrench into the pacing. That said, this seems to be a staple of just about every zombie film (right up there with the guy who hides his zombie bite from the rest of the group), so it’s not unexpected.
Taking a step back, the film itself looks fantastic. The shots are clean, the cinematography clicks, and when things start to unravel, the lighting washes the hospital in panicked emergency reds and blues. The effect is arresting. I should also note the opening title sequence, which caught me immediately. It draws you in and setting the tone for a fun, splashy zombie flick.
Fans of the zombie genre will find a lot to love in Yummy. If traditional gore is what you’re here for, you won’t be disappointed. It’s a loving addition to a roster of zombie films that thrive in viscera, nudity, and pitch-black comedy. It’s a sure crowd-pleaser that would be perfect for a late-night screening with a rowdy audience.
You can guess most of the beats through the movie (if you’ve ever seen a zombie film at all), but the ending certainly changes it up, and it’s an enjoyable ride all the same. If you’re tired of zombie films, you can probably shamble past this one. But if you love a good ol’ fashioned bloody mess, Yummy is a film to devour.
Yummy is playing as part of Fantasia Fest 2020. You can watch it On Demand here. For more from Fantasia 2020, click to read my review of The Mortuary Collection.