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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 Not a Zombie, Two-Faced.

Not to be confused with anything related to Heel Face Turn or Face Heel Turn.


Examples:


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.


Comic Books

  • In various incarnations of Batman, the villain Two-Face is sometimes revealed this way.


Film

  • Resident Evil movies (at least, the first two have examples)
  • 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.
    • The one-armed running zombie too.
  • An excellent example is in Psycho. Not a zombie, but definitely a 'Face Revealing Turn.'
  • Boris Karloff's initial appearance as The Monster in Frankenstein uses a version of this.
  • A bad example in Mystery Science Theater 3000-featured movie 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.
  • There's a scene in Land of the Dead where Zombie Infectee Cholo was heading back to the city, determined to settle things with his Bad Boss Kaufman before dying. When Kaufman is trying to flee the zombie invaded city, we see Cholo take a shot at him while standing in the shadows and miss. Kaufman shoots back, hitting him in the chest, and Cholo falls. Kaufman goes back to packing his bags into the escape car only to hear a noise. Turning, he turns to see Cholo walking towards him. "You're dead!" Kaufman shouts. Cholo then comes into the light, revealing that he must have turned into a zombie while walking back into the city, and he's now close enough to do a Deadly Lunge at Kaufman. Kaufman reacts by saying "Oh god, you are dead!" in dismay.
  • 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.
    • Well, the fact that she was impaled on a pipe and got back up may have tipped them off that something was wrong.
  • 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 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."
  • At the end of 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.
  • 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 the sequel, the gang disposes of the villainous toy 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.
  • 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, 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.
  • Unexpectedly, the film Inception fakes us out into thinking it's going to use this trope...but it doesn't.
  • 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.
  • 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!!!


Literature

  • 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...."


Live Action TV

  • Several examples in the Doctor Who 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.
  • 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 left 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 right side of his face is covered by a patch.
  • Double subverted in the Ben 10 live action movie. 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.
  • The televised version of Hogfather introduces Psycho for Hire Jonathan Teatime with one of these, revealing his extremely creepy Mismatched Eyes.


Music

  • Used perhaps most famously in the music video for "Thriller".


Video Games

  • Resident Evil 1: 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. Racoon 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 a certain 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.


Web Original

  • 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.


Western Animation

  • 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.
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