Friday, August 14, 2020

Fantasia Fest 2020: Yummy (2019) Review

Fantasia Fest 2020: Yummy (2019) Review Aug 13th 2020

Directed By: Lars Damoiseaux

Starring: Bart Hollanders, Maaike Neuville, Clara Cleymans, Eric Godon

      In the last couple years there has been a noticeable up-tick in zombie films. And, actually really good ones. One Cut of the Dead, Train to Busban and Zombie for Sale, all have been entertaining takes on the undead but seemingly never-ending horror sub-genre. Surprisingly, all these films have been made internationally, giving us a cool and interesting cultural take on the living dead.In this case Yummy comes from Belgium. A young couple named Allison (Maaike Neuville) and Michael (Bart Hollanders) and Allison s mother all go to a sketchy bargain basement plastic surgery facility. Allison wants to get a breast reduction and her mother wants a host of work done. But, when a mysterious patient is let loose, a host of zombies are let loose inside the building.

     I think I groaned out loud when I when the films tagline Face-lifts, boob jobs and zombies. Thankfully, the film is not as overtly crass and, its surprisingly a decent movie. For the most part the film is nicely paced, with characters that were more developed than I would have suspected. Director Lars Damoiseaux's zombie film also has a sense of flare, even if its the now over-used neon pop-style used by Bava and later Argento. But, you know what, i`ll give him this one. Yummy is also well edited with camera work that is handled with a lot of skill and thoughtfulness. Though, it does have its host of issues. I think the main one is tone, which it never seems to nail down. Like, it seems to be going for a over-the-top Shaun of the Dead (2004) outing but, unlike Shaun, which expertly balances its horror and drama, Yummy misses the mark. Yes, it has comedy (some of which works, some of which does not), and it has some very well handled (if not a bit predictable) dramatics. But, I dont think it actually marries the two in a way that makes sense. It starts out as a humorous horror film but takes a jarring left turn into a harrowing zombie film. And, for all its gross-out moments and gore (more on that in a bit) it actually could have used some more outrageous or over-the-top moments. In the film it makes several very pointed references to the faculty doing abortions, so much so I was expecting some zombie babies or something like it. Thats the thing though, the film isn't sure when to have fun with the premise and when to take it seriously. 

     Lars Damoiseaux also seems to not know the correct ways to pay off set-up
situations and, also, taking time to introduce seemingly important characters to the story only to kill them off too prematurely.  For example, we are introduced to what we think is going to be a main character who we learn (because he is given a good deal of back story) is a famous television star and is at the clinic in secret. Its revealed that he is there for a penis enlargement. In a very out of the place scene he encounters a woman patient and he decides he wants to, shall we say, give his new implant a test run. It falls off and naturally hes enraged. But, moments later he is promptly eaten by zombies. Not only does it waste what could have been an interesting character but the joke and pay off again, clash with the tone (which by this point is drops the comedy for horror) and isn't satisfying nor does it add or move the plot forward. The filmmakers are strangely took the time to set up this character only to kill him off pretty early. That is sloppy story telling. Its unclear if the film has deeper meta-textual or indeed any views on plastic surgery, you know the main thrust of the film. The view Lars seems to take it, if indeed you can call it having a view, conflicting as, on the one hand the main character Allison is wanting to improve her life by getting her breasts reduced. Yet, later on condemns her mother for wanting to look like a quote "teen-aged whore".  This film wastes the opportunity something interesting about the topic. Its stuff like this that gets into the films own way because, it's actually a good film bar some needless sub-plots, well worn cliches and a lack of anything provocative to say. What I did like about the film is it showcases some decent writing with a female character that is pro-active and, for as much as it leans in on old familiar plot devices, it also subverts things as well. The finale is bleak and actually pretty powerful which I was not expecting. 

At the end of the day, Yummy is a mixed bag, as it is tonally a mess, it weirdly both uses conventional zombie troupes but, also throws some wonderfully nasty little curve balls, works at a break neck pace, yet has some odd filler stuff which makes it feel uneven. As flawed as it is, it is a pretty wonderful splatter film. While gore doesn't make a movie good, I think it makes this one better because it allows you to enjoy it on a base-level of adrenaline fueled guts and gross out moments while also having a decent (but not groundbreaking) story to go with it. I only wish it would have trimmed 10 minutes and maybe swung a bit bigger at times. Had it done this, I could easily see this as a modern classic. As it stands its fun time but never really finds its own voice despite being well directed and put together. If you love gore and practical effects and really good looking zombies Yummy will satisfy. Just keep expectations on the low side.  

Yummy premiered at Fantasia Fest 2020 from August 20th until September 2nd and is completely virtual this year. 

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