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Spring-Loaded Corpse

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Oh but this totally happens all the time, you wouldn't believe the amount of times I've seen dead bodies flop on the floor like that at work. They just fly out, they got like, rocket fuel stuffed up their ass. They go: "Whee! I'm dead! Kaboom!"

Almost a staple of the horror genre, this is when a character picks up an item next to or walk near a corpse, which then decides to suddenly come back to life and attack. The effectiveness of this scare technique tends to be inversely related to how many times it is used. Too many times, and players tend to fire a few rounds into every so-called 'corpse' they see, or the audience becomes jaded to the overused scare.

Commonly found in the Zombie Apocalypse, because what else is going to raise a corpse from the dead? Contrast with Zombie Infectee, where there's a chance of this happening but with a living person.

Related to Peek-a-Boo Corpse and Playing Possum, which is typically used outside of a horror context.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Subverted, and also played somewhat literally in Uzumaki. In one of the more odd chapters, not entirely focused around spirals, a young man has a habit for leaping out of nowhere to scare people. In the end, his habits get him run over by a car. After he's dead and buried, he surprises the main character by leaping out of his grave, but he is, in fact, actually dead, and his leaping is a product of a spring from the car that got lodged into his body as he died. Well, maybe.

    Film — Animation 
  • Invoked in The Castle of Cagliostro, with an apparently slumbering Lupin and Zenigata turning out to be skeletons clad in their suits that jump up and surprise some would-be assassins. However, rather than being reanimated, these corpses are merely on wires.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Happens a lot in the climax of Poltergeist, particularly when the Freelings' backyard starts disgorging en masse the corpses that had been left behind when the cemetaries were moved. They're not zombies, though - just anger props for the spirits.
  • Happens at the start of Zombieland to illustrate the main character's point during his lecture about the importance of making sure a zombie is dead.

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of The Greatest American Hero had a murder victim literally pop back to motion, reanimated by the same aliens that gave Ralph his suit. He didn't attack anyone, though, just delivered a message to Ralph and Bill.
  • Done by the cannibal corpse in episode 7x09 of Supernatural.
  • The Cryptkeeper does this in the opening of Tales from the Crypt.
  • Happens to Hershel in the third season premiere of The Walking Dead

    Video Games 
  • Avernum has a number of scripted events where getting near to or examining bodies will spawn undead creatures to attack you.
  • A version of this occurs in BioShock with Sander Cohen. His 'art' is actually corpses cast in plaster, which is creepy enough in itself in that they bleed when you strike them. However at some point "statues" you've seen throughout disappear and the splicers inside attack you.
    • Later in the game, Splicers start playing dead and attacking when you get too close.
    • The Minerva's Den DLC for BioShock 2 has Splicers encased in ice, some of which will break free and attack when you get too close.
  • Clive Barker's Jericho does this once, when Lichthammer, a female undead Nazi officer possesses a dead body and grabs your character. Combines it with Press X to Not Die.
  • Similar to the Bioshock example, Condemned: Criminal Origins has the mannequins in the department store. Some of them actually are mannequins, some of them are enemies who are just waiting for the right moment to attack you. Of course, if you just go through whacking everything out of pure fear...
  • Dead Space tends to do this ad nauseum. There is exactly one "dead" necromorph in the entire first game that actually is dead, and it's near the end of the game. The rest are faking it. Since necromorphs are quite distinctive from human corpses, it's very unlikely to trick anyone. On higher difficulties, though, necromorphs eventually start getting smart enough to play dead in the middle of combat by pretending to die when shot, then attacking you if you get near them again. If it drops an item after being shot, then you know it's really dead, but not all necromorphs drop items when killed, and it's common for groups of necromorphs to all die very close to each other...
  • In The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, enemy zombies and harmless corpses in the scenery use basically the same models and textures, but you'll always find zombies in their animate state. That is, until the Expansion Pack came along, and the developers started using the similarity to their advantage in some dungeons with zombies that don't get up and attack you until you get close.. It's almost certain to scare the shit out of you the first time it happens.
    • In Skyrim, some Draugr lying in the alcoves of tombs are animate, and some are just lootable corpses; ideally the only way to tell the difference would be with a Detect Life/Detect Dead spell. However, the animate ones look noticeably different and don't offer a "Search" interaction when you examine them, which means by the time you're encountering high-level Draugr you won't be falling for the trap any more.
  • As of Fallout 4, Feral Ghouls are now able to play dead. This will probably take you by surprise when a cymbal monkey toy goes off and they all suddenly rise to attack.
  • In Five Nights at Freddy's there is a literal Spring Loaded Corpse in the form of the animatronic Springtrap from the third game, who is a human corpse filled with animatronic spring parts. He's the corpse of the Murderer who caused the suits to be possessed by the dead children, he got into a spring suit to hide from their ghosts and it collapsed in on him, It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Used with the headcrab zombies in the Half-Life series.
  • In Manhunt, a bodybag is in the asylum next to some painkillers, if approached the bodybag shoots upright before sinking back down, it turns out it really was spring loaded.
  • Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has Samus exploring a GFMC base that is filled with Marines corpses. Once Samus activates a device at one end of the base, Ing start possessing the bodies, which Samus must destroy.
  • Penumbra: Black Plague has this near the end of the game. A mutated corpse is lying on a table while you mix up an antidote to the virus infecting you. Once you take the antidote, the virus infects the body on the table and attacks
  • Resident Evil tends to do this throughout with generic zombies, but there are specific examples below.
    • Used in Resident Evil 5, most notably in stage 6-2, where a hallway of dead enemies suddenly come back to life.
      • Experienced players can however spot the thread, as the "dead" enemies' stun rods are still active. A similar case occurs with the Chainsaw Majini, who will sometimes play possum when you damage them enough. If they aren't actually dead, their chainsaw will still be running.
    • In Resident Evil, the corpse of Forrest, who comes back from the dead when you pick up a nearby grenade launcher, and the Crimsom Heads from the remake, which are normal zombies coming back after you kill them and leave them for a while (unless you destroy the corpses with fire or a headshot).
    • The first Regenerator you find in 4 (you see a corpse covered by a blanket on a table, walk into a nearby room, which even contains a report on the creatures and pick up a key...)
  • Played with in the hands-on demo of ZombiU. During a dramatic horror buildup players notice a corpse lying in the corner. Players, anticipating it being spring-loaded and focusing on it instead of their surroundings, are shocked when a screaming zombie jumps out of a seemingly innocent locker next to them.

    Western Animation 
  • The Venture Brothers has this taken to the literal extreme with Boggles the Clue Clown. His corpse is hooked up to a Jack-in-the-box as one last riddle for Captain Sunshine, but it is just for a postmortem last laugh.