Without its own texture or style, Lars Damoiseaux’s camp-adjacent feature debut exists in a vacuum divorced from its inspirations.
For a long while now, the line between camp and camp-influenced seems to have blurred away. The former is something made for earnest consumption that finds an ironic fan base; the latter is a pointed and intentional emulation of the former. Now that the general label of camp itself has become more nebulous, another delineation comes further into the forefront: the difference between camp and pastiche.
Granted, the two can clearly—and often do—intersect. The main issue is how much a certain work posits itself as one, the other, or both. Take Yummy, for example. Lars Damoiseaux’s feature debut is too timeless in its presentation to be pastiche, but it’s not subversive or literate enough to be campy. Its filmmaking is economic at its best moments and woefully workmanlike at its worst, and the concept, despite promising much more grit beneath its embalmed fingernails, is somehow both juvenile and inoffensive.
That concept revolves around Alison (Maaike Neuville), a Dutch woman who’s decided to get a breast reduction operation. She’s sick of strangers catcalling her. She resents others for telling her to appreciate her God-given beauty. Now with her ex-medical student boyfriend, Michael (Bart Hollanders), and belittling mother, Sylvia (Annick Christiaens), she heads to an Eastern European clinic to get the procedure done. And it seems they do everything: skin rejuvenation, facelifts, abortions, and… experimental stem cell research that may or may not turn clients into zombies. Yep, it doesn’t take long for the blood and freshly suctioned fat to hit the fan.
When it does, however, it doesn’t add up to much of anything. There are some fittingly gnarly practical effects, but there are just as many visual effects that break the illusion. The film attempts to blend Giallo lighting, Bava-esque gore, and the atmospheric neutrality of those films’ imitators, yet the execution is too neutered to come to life. Damoiseaux and co-writer Eveline Hagenbeek are more game to throttle Yummy into the red zone. The performers, however, are content to play it all too straight, while cinematographer Dean Nieuwenhuijs and colorist Tom Mulder dull the visuals until the movie feels like a shadow of its potential.
And while these issues do detract, they also stem from a more pervasive problem. Yummy has no momentum. It takes a concept that would work as a short film, pares it to its bones, and removes the tendons. What this leaves Damoiseaux is a handful of set pieces and a contradiction of a movie. The more the blood flows on screen, the more it seems the picture itself bleeds out. It’d be easier to forgive its structural flaws had Yummy zeroed in on a tone given that its violence and comedy could have complemented each other. Alas, they make up a collection of slapstick bits and body horror that cancel each other out.
The more the blood flows on screen, the more it seems the picture itself bleeds out.
Perhaps the picture would have fared better if it didn’t rely so much on these conflations. Maybe, just maybe, it would have appeared savvier than it actually is. Because while Yummy has its nuggets of potential, the delivery is so bisected that it prevents itself from ever really finding its own texture. Its humor is too dated to subvert any expectations of decent taste, its presentation too vanilla. If anything, the biggest question ends up being to what extent Damoiseaux had a specific grasp on the irony of his project.
It, like many of its ilk, further drifts from the difference between camp and camp-influenced. The big difference here? It feels completely unintentional, a quasi-parody that exists in a vacuum apart from its influences.
Yummy gnaws its way onto Shudder this Thursday, June 25.
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