"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, Two-Faced. Not to be confused with anything related to Face–Heel Turn or Heel–Face Turn.
— denofgeek.com's 7 shots horror filmmakers should never be allowed to use again
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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), Jonouchi 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, Judai and his non-zombied friends find Sho, who has been missing. He sits alone with his back to them, talking about how he was scared and alone. Judai goes over to reassure him that everything's all right now. Cue Sho turning and revealing: he's one of the duel zombies too.
- Subverted in Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex 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.
- A variation commonly used for the introduction of Baron Ashura in Mazinger Z and related works: Showing Ashura talking from its male side, then the female, then finally turning or cutting to a shot showing that they're the same being. Achieved vocally as well, by giving each half their own voice, with only one heard when one side is visible, and speaking in unison when both halves are visible.
- Played with in the spinoff Mazinger Angels, to show that their version of Asura was instead two separate people
- We're Alive even pulls this one off despite being audio only. In Chapter 11, zombies have broken into the Tower while the soldiers were away and they find a lone figure standing in one of the hallways. He won't turn around but does manage to respond to the soldiers' calls in a Creepy Monotone. When he finally turns we find out he is indeed a zombie. And the series' Big Bad.
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.
Donkey: (with a baby ogre face, and speaking in a demonic-sounding voice) Da-da!!!
- Dead Space: Downfall. A handsome man is lying with his head resting against a bulkhead. Then his head falls sideways to reveal he's a corpse with half his skull chewed off.
Films — Live-Action
- The post-credits stinger for The Avengers (2012) as the mysterious figure who's been aiding Loki slowly turns to reveal a grinning Thanos.
- Resident Evil movies (at least, the first two have examples)
- The most disturbing example was probably in Resident Evil: Apocalypse with the zombie child.
- The Silent Hill movie has this with a Grey Child and a slightly different version of this with Lisa Garland, who has lid- and pupilless eyes.
- The 2004 Dawn of the Dead (2004) did a variation on this. We met the little girl, alive and well, and the next morning she's standing in the hallway in shadows. Only when she steps forward into the light do we see that her lower lip is torn off.
- Similarly, late in the movie, Andy goes back up on the roof, and it looks like he was writing something on a board. Turns out he was already dead, and just went to the roof on instinct, and rather than write anything, he smeared the board with blood before showing it to them.
- A man is running along the street, but when he turns towards them we see an arm has been torn off and he's a zombie too.
- An excellent example is in Psycho. Not a zombie, but definitely a 'Face Revealing Turn.'
- A bad example in MST3K-featured movie The Horror of Party Beach, in that the dead guy's (lack of) face is actually pointed at the character who doesn't notice, but away from the camera. To be fair, he was drunk.
- Another really bad MST3K one: "Okay, okay, she's a werewolf!"
- Done in Shaun of the Dead. They don't even think the zombie in the backyard is an undead cannibal until they see the news.
Oh my God... She's so drunk!
- Well, the fact that she was impaled on a pipe and got back up may have tipped them off that something was wrong.
- In both The Grudge and its Japanese counterpart, Kayako's first on-screen victim (the original caretaker) suddenly shows up at the volunteer institution after being missing for several days. Her colleague calls her, she turns around... she's missing her jaw, causing her tongue to flap down helplessly and blood to pour constantly from her throat. It is quite obvious she's a walking dead, however.
- Something similar is done in The Orphanage. Where a certain character is hit by a van, she is taken away by the ambulance who put cloth over her body to hide her face. Then her hand reaches out, and she pulls back the cloth hiding her face, revealing that her entire lower jaw has been smashed beyond recognition, and is bleeding all over her as her tongue waggles in a horrifying manner. While she's SCREAMING.
- And someone gave her mouth-to-mouth. The guy must have a stomach of steel, though being a doctor probably helps a bit.
- There's also the old home movie of Tomas.
- The Elephant Man. "Turn around."
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Judge Doom does this when he reveals he's a Toon.
- At the end of The Midnight Meat Train, a horrible, hulking brute is walking down the isle of the titular train. He looks back at the camera, and it's the hero, turned into a monster.
- Kano in the Mortal Kombat movie first appears in profile in a poorly-lit room, talking on a cell phone. After he's finished his call, he turns, revealing his metal face prosthesis, to address Shang Tsung.
- Happens in all 3 versions of Shutter when the main character enters the ghost girl's house and finds her corpse.
- In the remake of House on Haunted Hill (1999), Our Remaining Intrepid Heroes are trying to find a way out of the haunted asylum, and logically decide to visit the control room. Hey, there's a maintenance guy, let's see if he can open SWEET ZOMBIE JESUS WHERE DID HIS FACE GO?
- Inverted in Dark Water. When Yoshimi realizes that she is in an elevator with Mitsuko instead of her own daughter, she slowly turns around to look at the child... Cue the audience jumping off their seats as the horribly rotted and slimy animated corpse of Mitsuko lunges at her while screaming for her mama.
- Done in the 2010 Predators film. Unusually, the characters think that the man is alive because they hear his voice begging for help. After they realize they can't rescue him due to the traps around him, Isabelle puts a bullet in him, trying to save him some pain and suffering. Then he begs for help again. Then we get the Face Revealing Turn, when we realize he's been dead for the last five minutes.
- The end of The Ring plays with this when Rachel goes to check on Noah and turns the chair he's sitting around only to find he's dead... however, we the audience don't initially see him. A few minutes later in a brief clip that summarizes key events of the film, we now suddenly a new POV shot of Rachel turning his chair around and seeing his undead rotting face.
- The Dark Knight: When Gordon talks to Harvey in the hospital, the latter pulls off a chilling one to reveal that he had lost half his face in an explosion.
Gordon: I'm sorry, Harvey.Harvey/Two-Face: No. No you're not. Not yet.
- Frankenstein (1931) uses this to introduce Frankenstein's Monster. Weirdly enough, he had entered through the door to the room backwards before doing so.
- Done in the first Subspecies as Michelle is trying to escape Radu's castle with Lillan who was captured before her. Lillan however keeps acting odd, crying one minute, laughing the next. Michelle picks a spot to rest for a moment as she tries to quiet her, then Lillan suddenly goes wide eyed. The the camera cuts to her turning toward Michelle, smiling evilly as fangs have now formed in her mouth.
- Count Yorga does this at the end of it's film. After Micheal drives off the vampire brides. The camera suspiciously stays off Donna, the girl he just rescued, only focusing on her hand as it pulls away from him while he takes a moment to breathe. When he turns to her she bares her newly gained fangs and lunges at him.
- The sequel, Return of Count Yorga also does a variant. The hero, Baldwin, and Cynthia, the girl he's trying to rescue manage to kill Yorga and throw him off the manor. Cynthia then hugs Baldwin with the camera staying behind him. She senses something not right and pull back from him, gasping in horror He's now pale-skinned and has visible bite marks on him (presumably from getting bitten by Yorga's harem that cornered him). Baldwin promptly pulls her back and bites her.
- The Cabin in the Woods. The protagonists are in a glass-walled elevator going down to the Elaborate Underground Base, which they quickly realizes contain a menagerie of monsters. One of them is a child ballerina standing with her back to them; she turns to reveal she's got nested Lamprey Mouths instead of a face.
- "Amateur Night" in the horror anthology film V/H/S. Three college students invite a strange woman they met in a nightclub back to their hotel room, planning to secretly film the sex with a glasses-cam. She starts having sex with one man on the bed, but the other bursts into the bathroom (where the P.O.V. Cam guy is working up his nerve to join in) complaining that she bit him. They re-enter the room where she's humping away on top of their friend, but as Bitten Guy runs up to her to complain, she turns and snarls revealing that she's a Humanoid Abomination. Things get worse from there.
- Two examples in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Bootstrap Bill is seen silhouetted in profile, water dripping off his face, before he looks up and reveals his blue-tinged skin, barnacles and a starfish clinging to his face, and sea lice crawling over him. Later, Will searches a shipwreck for survivors; a man falls from aloft and crawls across the deck. Will helps him turn over, only to recoil in horror when he sees that the man's face is a twitching mass of sloughed-off skin due to an encounter with the suction cups on the Kraken's tentacles.
- Done with half-digested Billy in Deep Rising, when he's expelled from the gullet of a sea monster. In this case, it's more a lack of face reveal: half his head has been dissolved down into the bone.
- Perhaps the most shocking moment in Phenomena comes when Jennifer tries to escape from the killer's basement and hears crying. She enters a room and sees a little, normal-looking boy with his back turned weeping. The viewer knows from the start that something is off about the whole scene but doesn't know exactly what to expect. Jennifer approaches the kid and tells him that everything is going to be okay and he slowly turns and the noises start to change anddd... someone had a bad day.
- In the Korean zombie movie Train to Busan, the train stops at a station protected by the military. As the passengers travel down an escalator they see a line of soldiers facing the outside barrier, but as their faces are revealed as the escalator descends, it's obvious the whole lot of them have been zombified and are only facing away because all the normal humans are outside. Until now.
- 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...."
- In Heart of Steel, Julia first sees the right half of Alistair's face as she approaches. When he turns to greet her and reveals the metal plates and burn scars that make up the left side of his face, she is so startled she almost screams.
- 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.
- 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.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer starts with one. A guy and a girl sneak into the high school after hours to make out. The scene plays out to make us think the guy is the monster and is preying on her. Turns out the girl, Darla, was actually the vampire. After making sure they were completely alone. She turns to him, vamp-faced, and quickly bites him. The show would be followed by many years of near-constant trope subversion like this as well.
- Doctor Who:
- At the end of "Partners in Crime", Donna asks a blonde woman standing at a police cordon to give a message to her mother when she shows up. After Donna runs off, the woman turns to face the camera, revealing herself as Rose Tyler.
- 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 Beast Below": The robotic Smilers initially seem to have two faces, smiling and frowning. It's then revealed they have a third face, an almost-demonic angry one.
- "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.
- "Under the Lake": Pritchard, the guy from the oil company, was missing, but they've found him in the cafeteria — wait, whose body is that in the water outside? It's Pritchard — and the person inside turns around, revealed as Pritchard's ghost.
- 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 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.
- In the 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.
- The televised version of Hogfather introduces Psycho for Hire Jonathan Teatime with one of these, revealing his extremely creepy mismatched eyes.
- This was lampshaded in an episode of Monk in a sequence that was a homage 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."
- 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.
- In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Picard does one of these in "The Best of Both Worlds" to reveal that he's been assimilated. Oh, Crap!.
- 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.
- Used perhaps most famously in the music video for Thriller.
- 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.
- King's Quest VII does something similar with Lady Tsepish. Her face is apparently so scary that anyone who sees it dies. Though seeing as Rosella has in the past dealt with Zombies, a murderous cave troll, cannibal ogres, and evil living trees. how horrible could Lady Tsepish's face be to scare her to death?
- 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.
- In Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, in the cutscene that plays when you return to the Starship Phoenix from Kerwan after Dr. Nefarious turns everyone in Metropolis into robots, President Phyronix is being interviewed by Darla Gratch about his opinion on the incident. He states that everyone in the universe being a robot will have a positive impact on his re-election campaign as he himself is already half robot, then turns to the camera revealing that the right side of his face is robotic.
- Seen in the intro of Quake IV, with the dismembered body of a Marine floating in space.
- RWBY: At the end of Volume 3, we see the Female Narrator from the pilot episode, her back to the audience, completing the conversation she and Ozpin are having at the beginning of the show. It's obvious that Salem is a white-haired woman in flowing black robes until she turns around... revealing a face as white as a Grimm mask, the black sclera and glowing red eyes of the Grimm, a mark in the centre of her forehead like a partially-open third eye, and skin covered in what looks like reddish-black veins.
- 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.
- Futurama spoofed this "The Farnsworth Parabox", where at one point two versions of the Planet Express crew, (from two different parallel universes) are chasing both their Zoidbergs through other universes. In one Leela pops out and sees another version of the crew and asks if they saw the Zoidbergs. They all turn around, revealing that their faces have no eyes.
Hermes: We didn't see anything. Ever.
- Parodied in the Inspector Gadget title sequence. Gadget finally reaches Claw's hideout, whips the Cool Chair around, and snaps his handcuffs onto Claw's arm. Unfortunately, it's revealed that a) it's a fake "Claw hand" attached to the chair, and b) there's a Cartoon Bomb sitting in the chair.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: Outside the lair of Koh the Face Stealer, Aang is startled by something, then realizes that it's just a harmless monkey. Then the monkey turns around, revealing that it has no face. We see Koh wearing the monkey's face later in the episode.
- Batman: The Animated Series used this to reveal Two-Face at least once, notably in his debut appearance. The shot starts out with him in profile, with only his good side visible.
- Used in Rugrats when Chuckie (and later his father) have nightmares.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Twilight's Kingdom, Part 1", Tirek tries to suck the magic out of yet another unicorn bystander, before said unicorn turns out to be a waiting Discord.
Discord: Tirek, I prrrresume.
- Done traditionally in S6 episode, 28 Pranks Later, where Dash, expecting to see the results of her prank to give everyone colored mouths through prank cookies, arrives at the Sugar Cube Corner and sees Mrs. Cake from behind. When she doesn't respond to Dash's calls, she taps her on the back to which Mrs. Cake turns with said colored mouth but also moaning for cookies to Dash's horror. This is repeated when Dash comes across Twilight, Spike and Fluttershy with the same results.
- Subverted in The Simpsons during Homer's massive hallucination, in which he sees Marge with her back turned to him. He tries to apologize but she says nothing, then he tries to walk around to see her face, but she rotates as he walks around her, allowing the viewer to see that all the sides are identical and faceless.
- Happens once when SpongeBob has a breakdown after being forced to take a vacation. Patrick finds him in his house facing the other way, only to turn with a completely manic look on his face.
"I'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU, PATRICK!"
- In the extended theme song of Steven Universe, Yellow Diamond does this during her seconds-long first physical appearance, though it stops at a profile view. Combined with Death Glare and ominous silhouette for maximum sinister presence.
- On Star vs. the Forces of Evil, when Star and Marco infiltrate St. Olga's Reform School for Wayward Princesses to rescue Flying Princess Pony Head, the latter does this before the commercial break to show that she's been rehabilitated.