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Mortician shares his opinion on whether TV and film dead bodies are realistic

Funeral director Victor M. Sweeney breaks down dead body scenes to see how realistic they are – and while most pass the test one popular comedy got no points for accuracy

Recognisable films such as Psycho have been analysed by a mortician for corpse accuracy

There are plenty of gory looking corpses in our favourite TV shows and movies, from autopsies to creepy skeletons. But how realistic are they?

The internet’s favourite mortician and funeral director, Victor M. Sweeney, has taken to Youtube to break down famous scenes with dead body in a new video for WIRED.

From Norma Bates’ corpse in Psycho to Frank’s funeral home makeup in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Victor does the judging.

In the first clip with Norma Bates’ corpse, Victor is rather impressed with the work that’s gone into her creepy looking skeleton.

He said: “If you look at Mrs Bates’ face, you’re going to see that her eyes have completely decomposed, leaving only the empty sockets.

“Likewise, you’ll notice that her zygomatic arches are extremely prominent as the skin has tightened up.

“Desiccation would be the breakdown of a body by drying, so we’re talking about mummification here, Mrs. Bates’ skin would probably be similar to a football.

“It would be hard and leathery.”

Mortician shares his opinion on whether TV and film dead bodies are realistic
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When it comes to cosmetizing the deceased, Victor has plenty of experience being in the trade.

So, it’s only right that he judges a scene from Bernie, a crime comedy starring Jack Black, where Bernie is carrying out the process.

Victor said: “This clip gets so many things right. We see Bernie here removing facial hair, and this is very important across the board, male or female.

“Ideally, when someone is in the casket, we want them to look their best, so for the man it’s removing unwanted nose hair or ear hair.”

We also see Bernie glue the deceased’s eyes and mouth shut, to which Victor describes is “not always necessary.”

The classic scene from Mousehunt where the coffin handles break and the corpse flies out is one that we all remember.

Sweeney explains: “They’re usually weight tested and strength tested, so this terrible thing doesn’t happen in real life.

“You can see the light actually poking through, so that’s going to tell us that there’s no seal around it and it’s not locked.

“The lid shouldn’t be that wobbly, which is going to be a huge problem when you see him totally destroy the hearse and shoot up in the air.”

It may get points for laughs but Nathan Lane and Lee Evans’ comedy Mousehunt didn’t pass the mortician’s accuracy test
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Image:

DreamWorks/Getty Images)

Perhaps the most inaccurate part is the fact that the corpse isn’t wearing any trousers, which is typically unusual for an open casket.

Viewers would expect horror films to be spot on with dead body scenes, and in terms of preparing the body, The Haunting Of Hill House was pretty spot on.

We see a corpse resting on what’s known as a ‘head block’ which provides the ability to lift the head.

Victor M. Sweeney said: “What we’re trying to achieve with a head block is when it rests on the pillow in the casket it looks natural instead of flat.

“The lady in the clip here is tilted slightly to the right, ideally when someone is lying on the table you want to have them looking over the end of their right toe.

“If their head is too far forward it’s known as navel gazing, if it’s too far back we call it stargazing.”

Hit comedy It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia seems to have nailed it when we see Frank showing off his funeral home makeup.

Sweeney concludes: “Most embalming companies will have a specialised makeup for the deceased.

“Whereas most makeup is meant to go on warm bodies, this makeup is meant to go on cold bodies.”

While Sweeney praised the accuracy he did point out that the corpse was lacking a bit of colour, adding: “Ideally in the casket you don’t want to have that look, because that’s the look a dead body will normally take on.

He continued: “In this case, the mortician could’ve just used a little bit of rouge, and you don’t want to draw great focus to closed dark eyes.”

So, it seems that most of them are pretty spot on, but we’ll make an exception for Mousehunt because it’s a classic movie.

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