As many undead hordes as have shuffled across screens in the past two decades, Lars Damoiseaux’s Yummy is likely the only one created with the assistance of the VAF, a Flemish arts grant usually reserved for staid historical dramas. With a poster boasting a bloody handprint and the tagline “Facelifts, Boob Jobs, And Zombies”, Yummy makes clear from the onset the film’s mission is to bring some gory gut munching to the Fantasia Fest programming.
Allison (Maaike Neuville) is roadtripping to a cut rate eastern European clinic for a breast reduction. Her boyfriend Michael (Bart Hollanders) joins her on the journey to assist in her recovery, possibly more nervous about the surgery than she is. Allison’s mother Sylvia (Annick Christiaens) is blithely unconcerned about her. An obvious fan of surgical interventions, Sylvia is only tagging along because she has a full slate of procedures booked for herself.
The clinic is clearly nothing like what was advertised on the Internet, located in a grimy, graffiti covered industrial building in the middle of nowhere. Hospital transporter Daniel (Benjamin Ramon) looks like a community theater Tyler Durden, and openly leers at Allison. Hell on high heels receptionist Janja (Clara Cleymans) hustles the group inside before any of the patients can have second thoughts. Even the head of the clinic (Eric Godon) spends more time groping Allison than not, and assumes she wants an enlargement rather than a reduction.
Michael is understandably nervous about the hospital’s utter lack of anything resembling proper procedure or decorum. He used to be a med student, but had to drop out due to his fear of blood. Michael rushes into the OR, trying to convince Allison to leave. Instead, he ends up nearly passing out due to his phobia, and accidentally sedating himself.
Desperate to keep Michael out of the way, Janja sends him to tour the building with Daniel. Daniel is looking to steal some of the drugs kept in the lower level pharmacy. Left to his own devices, Michael’s attempts to help a distressed patient in restraints. By removing her face mask, Michael unleashes Patient Zero. She was part of a secret project at the hospital. Rather than stop aging, the stem cell experiments have created a zombie virus. With the undead now loose in the hospital, predictable carnage ensues.
There are some decent splatter set pieces here, even if the plastic surgery angle is mostly underplayed. An abandoned liposuction goes wrong, causing an explosion of blood and fat. Chemical peels left to set melt a face with a slow sizzle. Infected blood drops into a specimen jar and zombifies a fetal animal. A torn in half zombie nurse munches her own intestines like an undead ouroboros.
With gore flying in every direction, all that is left is the guessing game as to who will make it into our ragtag group of survivors. Yummy complicates this by tossing subplots, tonal shifts and pieces of internal logic into and out of the film at seemingly random intervals. Some characters are infected by human bites, some by zombified animal specimens, some by a mere splash of infected blood. Meandering plot threads are set up for characters to die moments later to thundering indifference.
The first half of the film certainly aims for black comedy, even though throwaway lines about how similar “hemophobia” and “homophobia” sound is about as clever as it gets (not very). There’s also an incredibly flaccid subplot about a television star’s secret visits for penis enlargement.
With only an 88 minute run time, a good ten of them are wasted to set up a comedy of errors penis explosion that fails to rise to the occasion of being remotely funny.
It’s almost a relief when Yummy instead sets it sights on bleak and gritty, but that too is bogged down with characters we’ve never gotten to know or like enough to care. Michael has been painted as an inefficient fearful buffoon, fainting, puking or bumbling into things the entire film. By the time he attempts something noble, even Allison no longer takes him remotely seriously.
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As for Allison, while she is clearly marked as the final girl, it seems that is only the case to further fetishize her chest. This impression is certainly helped along by the bizarre addition of an attempted sexual assault in a very late stage of the film. The fact that this scene was considered a vital inclusion rather than even the thinnest characterization or consistent internal logic is likely the most truly horrific thing Yummy has to offer.
A plastic surgery clinic is actually a very strong backdrop for a zombie film. It is unfortunate Yummy didn’t fully utilize the philosophical or body horror implications of that choice. Instead the film can’t quite decide if it wants to be a vintage Troma style bit of slyly sleazy splatstick, or a grim march through torture-fueled Hostel territory. The promotional materials call Yummy “an orgy of blood, violence and fun”. Aside from gorehounds and zombie completists, most viewers will find themselves settling for two out of three.
Wicked Rating – 3.5/10
Director: Lars Damoiseaux
Writer(s): Lars Damoiseaux, Eveline Hagenbeek
Stars: Maaike Neuville, Bart Hollanders, Benjamin Ramon
Release date: December 18, 2019 (Belgium)
Studio/Production Company: 10.80 Films, A Team Productions, Everstory Productions
Languages: Dutch, English
Run Time: 88 minutes