A mortician/coroner is only human and sometimes needs to eat, even when they’re hard at work. After all, when you’re hungry, you’re hungry. Of course, there’s a time and a place to eat a meal or a snack. Is it gross to eat food in a morgue? Is it morally ambiguous to chow down on a sandwich with a human corpse nearby? Well, you can be the judge. Here are 10 movies where morticians or coroners eat and/or drink on the job. Yum!
NOTE: Though morticians and coroners are typically different professions, they can technically be the same person which can lead to conflict of interest accusations and lawsuits. So, throughout this list, liberty was taken to use “mortician/coroner” rather than just one or the other, even if the movie character appears to be simply a coroner or a mortician.
1. Vengeance of the Zombies/Walk of the Dead (1973)
How to describe León Klimovsky’s Vengeance of the Zombies? Imagine a horde of smiling lady zombies attacking people in slow motion to a 1970s soul/funk soundtrack. Also, in the tentative notes while re-watching it, I actually wrote, “Why does the chicken sacrifice have to be black, huh?” I don’t even remember the context of that comment, but it suggests I was at least mildly entertained while watching the movie.
Above, you can see the scene in Vengeance of the Zombies where a mortician/coroner eats a sandwich.
2. The Howling (1981)
Because it’s on this list, you already know Joe Dante’s The Howling features a coroner/mortician and a meal. Of course, it’s not really the central focus of the movie. That would be werewolves (and especially the transformation scenes by Rob Bottin and crew). During the movie, we get to see the coroner/mortician (John Sayles) enjoy a meal. Of course, the basic irony is that the man likely isn’t a werewolf, yet his ravenous hunger won’t let a few nearby corpses hinder his appetite. Yum!
3. The New York Ripper (1982)
A good horror movie needs a horror gimmick.. Hell, even a bad movie should have one. In Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper, the main gimmick is that the mysterious killer makes Donald Duck noises as he goes around killing people. Weird, right? Maybe even kind of stupid, honestly. Equally weird is that mortician/coroner Dr. Barry Jones (Giordano Falzoni) refers to the kills as “good, efficient butchering” and hums while he works. By the time the film has about 14 minutes remaining, Dr. Jones eats some Lifesavers while he works. Certainly, this isn’t as egregious as eating a steak, lasagna, or good old-fashioned, all-American cheeseburger near a corpse, but it’s still slightly disconcerting.
4. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
This one’s a bit frustrating. Even before I started this list, I’d heard there was a morgue sandwich scene in The Return of the Living Dead. However, all I saw during my re-watch was mortuary worker Ernie (Don Calfa) drinking some coffee in the morgue. Was it a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment or am I as blind as Freddy (Thom Mathews) becomes as the zombie freak-fest unfolds? Here’s the kicker: I distinctly remember him eating a sandwich, too, but I somehow did not notice it if it happened.
Of course, another poignant scene is when Ernie decides to stay and work on cremating himself, presumably to avoid the suffering that comes with being undead. It’s an instance of the proprietor of the business literally being immersed in his work (ouch!). Ernie is truly one of horror’s most memorable corners/morticians.
5. Night of the Creeps (1986)
Morticians/coroners frequently eat food on the job in Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps. How do so many corpses end up on the slab in this film’s universe? If you’ll ever be infected by brain-invading alien slugs, how do you think it’ll turn out for you? Best case scenario: maybe you’ll go mad before getting changed into a zombie and, in desperation, shoot yourself in the head. You see, having an alien burrow into your brain typically ends badly, often resulting in some explosion that propels more slugs everywhere.
6. Street Trash (1987)
Before he was known for Steadicam work on James Cameron films like The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, and Titanic, J. Michael Muro directed Street Trash. As you might guess, the flick lives up to its title, featuring a hobo gang, poisoned booze, melting people, and plenty of vomitous bathroom humor (often brightly rather than faintly pigmented). If you find such fare to be extremely offensive, you won’t want to try drinking from this bottle.
Of course, part of the humor involves a mortician/coroner eating while on the job.
7. Arachnophobia (1990)
The dung beetle may be considered disgusting, but it doesn’t commonly evoke as much fear as one of nature’s more common creepy-crawlers: The spider. Frank Marshall’s Arachnophobia is very much about the fear of spiders, as you might gather from the very title. Sure enough, the story has plenty of material to work with, and a small town works wonders for providing hiding places for a frightening, newly discovered species.
Yes, Arachnophobia also has a strange, food-eating mortician/coroner named Irv Kendall (Roy Brocksmith). Specifically, it appears he’s eating a BLT, and his cat seems hungry for a bite, too. It makes me wonder how often the cat wags its tail for Irv, hoping the cuteness will make him say, “Oh, alright, you can have some of my sandwich.”
8. The Night Brings Charlie (1990)
Tom Logan’s The Night Brings Charlie is a horror flick that reminds me of Son in Law as it’s a little bit better than some suggest, but I still wouldn’t go around gobsmacked about how great it is. What makes it a horror movie? It has at least one murderer in the plot. The question is, is that murderer a mortician/coroner named Walt Parker (Joe Fishback) or local oddity Charlie Puckett (Chuck Whiting)?
Frankly, when I first heard the title, I assumed it would be a cult thing and Charlie would be the cult’s founder, like the Manson family with Charlie as the father. That being said, the movie does feature an amoral lunatic who’s trying to straighten his life out, which is somewhat interesting.
9. Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episode “Ring of Terror” (1990)
Clark L. Paylow’s Ring of Terror appears on the sixth episode of season 2 of Mystery Science Theater 3000. In a clever twist on the mortician/coroner eating food trope, host Joel performs an autopsy on a vacuum cleaner and starts eating an apple. You can watch the moment here!
As for the movie itself, it seems like it had more potential. There’s a medical student named Lewis Moffitt (George E. Mather) with a fear of the dark who finds the fears alleviated during an autopsy. There’s potential there already, right? It’s an example of background serving as an interesting storyline for a character. Then you have a fraternity tasking him with stealing a ring off a dead man, which sounds potentially compelling. Unfortunately, it all ends up boring.
10. Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh (1991)
Legally available for free streaming on Midnight Pulp, Dean Tschetter’s Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh is predictably about a creepy killer on the loose. There are a plethora of killings. What can I say? This one doesn’t disappoint. It is well written, paced, and twisted. I was surprised by the killer, even though I figured out the motive early on. Obviously, J. D. Salinger has given readers a nice, fast-paced read with plenty of suspense and surprises… Oh, wait. I forget we’re not talking about a master of literature but instead a movie called Bloodsucking Pharaohs in Pittsburgh! My mistake!
Are you a mortician or coroner who eats food on the job? Let us know in the comments!