"Someone facing the wall will always be dead, mutilated, or the killer in disguise. To the point where, now, if I walk into a room and find the person I'm looking for unresponsive and turned away from me, I'll just leave the room."
This is a must-be effect of almost every zombie movie. The hero sees a person who is facing away. The hero approaches slowly (as does the camera), maybe trying to enter a conversation with that person. More often than not an unnerving music plays. When we come close enough, the person suddenly turns around, revealing decaying flesh, bloody teeth and a missing eye
. Oh my God, it's a zombie! Cue the Scare Chord
Of course, the trope isn't limited to zombies. Multiple face distortions can be shown this way. Sometimes, a Face Framed in Shadow
can be revealed
in this way, generally with dramatic results
Compare Peek-A-Boo Corpse
. See also Emerging from the Shadows
, Not a Zombie
Not to be confused with anything related to Heel-Face Turn
or Face-Heel Turn
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Anime and Manga
- In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Bakura gets a moment of this while Yugi and his friends are looking for the door to the Pharaoh's memories.
- Yugi has one of these in the manga, before the others knew about his second personality. As he's facing away from them (as Pharaoh), Joey notices something's off with him and lays a hand on his shoulder. However as he turns around, he's reverted back to Yugi again.
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, when the duel zombie arc starts in season three, Juudai and his non-zombied friends find Shou, who has been missing. He sits alone with his back to them, talking about how he was scared and alone. Juudai goes over to reassure him that everything's all right now. Cue Shou turning and revealing: he's one of the duel zombies too.
- Subverted in Ghost In The Shell: The 2nd Gig. Boma suspects that the Individual Eleven essay contains a computer virus, but the only way to be sure is to download it into his cyberbrain. There's a tense moment when he doesn't appear to respond to the others, in which we only see the back of his head. He turns out to be alright though. However the virus actually needs a specific trigger to activate, which happens a few minutes later.
- Happens at least once in Uzumaki.
- In Pandora Hearts Retrace XXXVII, Glen Oswald Baskerville does this, showing his face for the first time.
- Happens in a nightmare Aya has in Ayashi no Ceres, shortly after the suicide of Miori. In the dream, she sees her Love Interest Tooya on a beach with his back against her, but when he turns around, he turns into Miori's bleeding corpse.
- In various incarnations of Batman, the villain Two-Face is sometimes revealed this way.
Films — Animated
- In Coraline, Coraline grabs Other-Wybie's shoulder and he turns, revealing that the Other Mother stitched his lips into a horrible grin.
- The Other Mother's first appearance could qualify as well. She is cooking in the Other Kitchen, and when Coraline calls "Mom," she turns, revealing her button eyes.
- In Toy Story, Woody hears something in the dark while in Sid's room and and points the flashlight at a baby doll's head. Said doll looks fine initially, but then it turns to reveal its missing eye and spider-like Erector Set body.
- In Toy Story 2, the gang disposes of Stinky Pete by strapping him to a little girl's backpack next to a Barbie. The Barbie chirpily tells him that they'll have so much fun when they get back to her little girl, and turns her head, revealing that half her hair is missing and half her face has been scribbled on. To that toy, who was pretty much obsessed with staying in mint condition so he could be preserved in a museum, this counted as a Fate Worse than Death.
- In Shrek the Third, Shrek at one point actually has a nightmare about being smothered by thousands of baby ogres, and as soon as he wakes up from the nightmare, he tells Donkey and Puss-in-Boots all about his dream, only to find out that they too have baby ogre faces, therefore causing the ogre to wake up from his dream for real.
(with a baby ogre face, and speaking in a demonic-sounding voice) Da-da!!!
Films — Live-Action
- In Neil Gaiman's wonderfully creepy kids' novel Coraline, the "Other Mother" turns and reveals that she has shiny black buttons instead of eyes.
- In Perelandra, the thought of this happening is one of the paranoid, demon-placed thoughts to go through the narrator's mind as he approaches Ransom's house in the beginning. "Perhaps I should see a figure which looked like Ransom standing with its back toward me and when I spoke it would turn round to reveal a face that was not human at all...."
- Doctor Who:
- Several examples in the two-parter "Silence in the Library"/"Forest of the Dead", when it's discovered that the explorers have been devoured within their suits by the Vashta Nerada.
- Subverted in the very next episode, "Midnight", where we get the whole build up in revealing Sky's face, only to find that she looks perfectly normal. Which is even worse.
- "The Name of the Doctor", the final episode before the 50th Anniversary, culminates with a canon-shaking revelation in which somebody turns to face us. The turn itself stands as a cliffhanger.
- At the beginning of the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "The Conscience of the King", we are introduced to the captain of a base. We only see the right side of his face for five minutes, until he says that he survived a massacre by Kodos the Executioner, at which point we see that the left side of his face is covered by a patch.
- Double subverted in Ben 10: Race Against Time. After they turn the chair around and find the dead body he turns out to be alive and explains the problem. Then his heart gives out. Probably the most disturbing part is that two children watch a man die and have no reaction.
- This was lampshaded in an episode of Monk in a sequence that was a hommage to Psycho. Entering a suspected killer's creepy old house and finding it empty, Monk goes upstairs and finds the killer's mother sitting in a rocking chair with her back to him. Even Monk, who doesn't watch TV, is Genre Savvy enough to instantly know what happens next. "Oh my God, you're dead aren't you."
- Happens in the very first scene of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in a situation where you would have expected the other character to perform one. (It was followed by many years of near-constant trope subversion.)
- A version in Dollhouse where the only significance is to the viewer happens in a flashback scene, where the head of the evil Rossum Corporation, and chessmaster behind the whole plot, steps out of the shadows and... It's Boyd, who the audience knows as Echo's handler, the one person she trusts above all others and the last person anyone would expect. This has no significance to the main character at the time as she has no idea who this person will be, but it came as a shock for the viewers.
- Used in Tremors: The Series, when an unconscious spelunker who's been attacked by the Monster of the Week is rolled over by Rosalita and Harlow, revealing that half his face and body have become wasted and mummy-like.
- Subverted in Boardwalk Empire.When We see Richard Harrow's horrifically scarred face with a missing eye,there is nothing dramatic about it,it occurs in a Hospital and Jimmy has no major reaction.Harrow later turns out to a very valuable ally
- Used in Game of Thrones with the resurrected wildling girl in the very first scene, staring at the camera with creepy bright blue eyes and stitched mouth.
- Also used in the final episode of the second season, when Jaqen reveals his new face to Arya.
- In Season 3, Stannis' daughter is introduced lying on her side in bed singing to herself. It's only after she runs up and hugs her father that the audience sees that the other side of her face is disfigured by greyscale.
- The televised version of Hogfather introduces Psycho for Hire Jonathan Teatime with one of these, revealing his extremely creepy mismatched eyes.
- In the Haunting Hour episode "The Most Evil Sorcerer: Part 1", Ned and Sarah first see Gresilda from the back as she saves them from a Hendra Beast. They talk to her, and she turns around to reveal a witch's face.
- Used perhaps most famously in the music video for Thriller.
- Toward the end of Tanz der Vampire, the young lovers embrace and sing of their imminent Happily Ever After, with Sarah pressing her face to Alfred's shoulder with her back to the audience. When she turns around again, though, she's developed an interesting new set of teeth...
- Resident Evil: Jill's/Chris' first Zombie encounter also counts as this. They see a guy leaning over a corpse, he stands up, turns around, and surprise: he's a zombie.
- Resident Evil 0, although it was with a colony of leeches taking the shape of a man rather than a zombie.
- A particularly strong subversion is seen in the beginning of Resident Evil 4. Raccoon City incident survivor Leon approaches a strange man from the back, the man doesn't answer his question and in general doesn't seem to be aware of Leon. Everyone who has a slightest notion of what the previous three games were about goes shrieking, "No, Leon, no, it's a zombie, and it will do its Deadly Lunge now!" The man turns around and - he's normal. He even answers Leon with a few insults in Spanish. Of course, he is still a murderous maniac as well as the other villagers, but definitely not a zombie.
- Silent Hill Origins also has an example. When Travis encounters the first nurse in the Alchemilla Hospital, he tries asking her for help. She turns around, revealing her deformed/melted face and inmediately attempts to stab Travis with a syringe.
- In the trailer and opening cinematic for Left 4 Dead, Zoey goes into a room where she hears someone crying. She finds a woman on the floor in a gown, crying, hunched in a fetal position, and turned away from them ( Actually The Witch special infected type). But once someone shines a light on her, she comes at them like a spider monkey.
- Uninvited for the NES had the infamous "Mysterious Lady." She appears with her back to you, and the game even tries to lull you into a false sense of security by playing a very pleasant piece of music that was written specifically for the sequence. If you do anything other than douse her in "No Ghost," she turns around, revealing her face to be a bare skull, and kills you.
- Sweet Home has several enemies that use this: they appear human from behind, but then turn their heads to reveal their horribly shredded faces. One also appears in the best ending...
- During a descent through the crypts of the RPG Arx Fatalis, the player encounters a locked room (one particular of many). Within is a woman, kneeling before a (presumably holy) symbol, either crying or praying... in a place in which no others of the living have yet been encountered. On entering and approaching the camera cuts to reveal the face of a zombie, before she turns on the player character, the symbols bursting into flame.
- Subversion: Half-Life 2 has you approach a person sitting in a chair watching television in one of the later levels. Going around and looking at the front of the person, he turns out to be dead, but just the regular run-of-the-mill harmless kind of dead. Then a legit zombie bursts through the kitchen door.
- In 6 Days a Sacrifice (the last game in the Chzo Mythos series), Theo enters the kitchen to see a child weeping in the corner. As he approaches, however, the child turns around—revealing that his/her eyes have been gouged out. It turns out, though, that it's All Just a Dream.
- Fear Effect 2: Retro Helix had a character's nightmare featuring one of these.
- One dungeon of Breath of Fire II ends with your team having to rescue a group of villagers down in a well. Each one you have to save is facing away from you, prompting you to talk to them. A few of them have an Alien-esque face-hugger thing on them that you'll need to kill.
- In the buildup to the fight against the Mother Harlot in Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, several demons will comment on seeing this lady who apparently looks really good "from behind." When you finally encounter, you see what appears to be this well-dressed veiled woman...until she turns around and reveals her Skull for a Head.
- The first entry of Marble Hornets ends with this, though given the character in question, it's more of a Lack-of-face Revealing Turn.
- Entry 31 does it again when Jay keeps spotting a guy in a hoodie on the same nature trail as him. He eventually just walks right up to the guy, who turns around to reveal an ordinary guy we've never seen before who couldn't hear Jay because of his headphones.
- This trope is invoked in this video of Is It A Good Idea To Microwave This at approximately 2:59 when revealing the effects of Pikachu getting microwaved.