Monday, May 4

Zombies and the Zombie Walk

With the popularity of the TV show The Walking Dead, more and more people are getting into zombie fandom.  But where did all this zombie love come from or what started it all?

First, What are Zombies? 
Zombies are fictional undead creatures, usually depicted as mindless, reanimated human corpses with a hunger for living human flesh. Zombies are most commonly found in horror and fantasy genre works.

The term Zombie comes from Haitian folklore:  The Haitian /French “zombie” and the Haitian / Creole “zonbi” is a dead body animated by magic. Modern depictions of zombies do not involve magic but invoke other methods such as a virus or illness.

What Started the Zombie Craze?
Zombies have a complex literary heritage of authors ranging from Richard Matheson and H. P. Lovecraft to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, all drawing on European folklore of the undead. 

But really the modern conception of the Zombie owes itself entirely to George A. Romero's reinvention of the Zombie monster for his 1968 film “Night of the Living Dead.” 
That film led to several zombie films in the 1980s and a resurgence of Zombie popularity in the 2000s. Romero’s "Zombie apocalypse" concept, in which the civilized world is brought down by a global zombie infestation, has now become a staple of modern popular Zombie art.

The Walking Dead is (in my opinion wonderful!) a television series developed by Frank Darabont. 
It tells the story of a small group surviving during a zombie apocalypse and is based on the comic book series of the same name by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. 

Promotional photo from The Walking Dead website

In 2013, the first season airing on AMC, had the highest audience ratings in the United States for any show on broadcast or cable with an average of 5.6 million viewers in the 18-49 year old demographic, making it the most-watched drama series telecast in cable history.  And that’s not all.  The Walking Dead’s season 5 finale had the highest rated finale in any series history, having 15.8 million viewers.  I love the show, and in case you wondered, I am a follower of the Ricktatorship!

A few of my favorite Zombie movies:
  • Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead, 1968 (They’re coming to get you Barbara)
  • The newer British/French film Shaun of the Dead, 2004 (absolutely hilarious!)
  • Dawn of the Dead, 2004 (took my teenage son and scared us to dead)
  • 28 Days Later (love the British zombie films)
  • And of course Zombieland, 2009 (grossed more than $60.8 million in 17 days) 

Government Zombies as a Learning Tool?
On 18 May 2011, the United States' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a graphic novel, Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse, providing tips to survive a zombie invasion as a "fun new way of teaching the importance of emergency preparedness". 

It was used to underscore the value of laying in water, food, medical supplies, and other necessities in preparation for any and all potential disasters, be they hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, or even hordes of zombies.

In October 2011, The Weather Channel published an article, "How To Weather the Zombie Apocalypse" that included a fictional interview with a Director of Research at the CDD, the "Center for Disease Development". Questions answered include "How does the temperature affect zombies' abilities? Do they run faster in warmer temperatures? Do they freeze if it gets too cold?"

A really great book to add to any Zombie collection is The Zombie Survival Guide, written by American author Max Brooks and published in 2003. 
It’s a survival manual dealing with the fictional potentiality of a zombie attack and contains detailed plans for the average person to survive zombie uprisings of varying intensity and describes "cases" of zombie outbreaks in history.

Zombie Walk History:
Although many locations such as Sacramento California, and Toronto and Sherbrooke, Canada try to claim the original Zombie walk, the earliest zombie walk styled event on record was put together rather last-minute at the Gencon Gaming Convention in Milwaukee, WI in August 2000. The event was created to poke good-natured fun at the Vampire LARPERS that were taking over large portions of the convention, and disrupt their games. Michael Yates, Mark Stafford, Jacob Scowronek and several others organized the event with roughly 60 participants.

In comparison, the first zombie walk held in Sacramento, California was not until August 2001.  The event, billed as "The Zombie Parade," was the idea of Bryna Lovig, who suggested it to the organizers of Trash Film Orgy (Sacramento Production Company) as a way to promote their annual midnight film festival.
And the first gatherings, specifically billed as a "Zombie Walks" in Canada all occurred around the same time in October 2003.
The mid to late 2000s saw a huge gain in popularity for zombie walks and soon spread across North America and many cities around the world.

The Zombie Walk
A Zombie walk is an organized public gathering of people who dress up in zombie costumes. Participants usually meet in an urban center and make their way around the city streets and public spaces in an orderly fashion. Zombie walks can be organized simply for entertainment but usually has a purpose, such as promoting donations for a charitable cause.
On October 29, 2006, nearly 900 "zombie walkers" gathered at the Monroeville Mall outside of Pittsburgh, which served as the set of George A. Romero's classic zombie film Dawn of the Dead, to participate in Pittsburgh's first annual Walk of the Dead.  

We have been to a couple Zombie Walks and they’re always fun.  It is amazing to see the extent people will go to for an “authentic” Zombie look.
And these events attract all ages and all walks of life, with everyone having fun.  And did I mention it’s a great place for photographers or a photo-club meet up?
This year our local Zombie Walk Columbus (Ohio) benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Ohio and will take place on:

 Zombie Walk Columbus 2015, Friday, May 29 from 4:00 to 7:30 pm

To find the times and dates for your area or state check out ZombieWalk.Com or click the link to check the List of Zombie Walks by State

We’re lucky enough here in Central Ohio to also have the Midwest Haunters Convention held on the same date as Zombie Walk Columbus.  Founded in 2004, the Midwest Haunters Convention is the largest Halloween show of its kind.  

At the Midwest Haunter's Convention 

At the Midwest Haunter's Convention 

At the Midwest Haunter's Convention 

How To Act Like a Zombie
If you plan on attending one of this year’s Zombie Walks in your city, here are a few tips from Greg Nicotero. 
Greg Nicotero started out on AMC's "The Walking Dead" as head makeup-effects supervisor, but today, he has a more prominent role as one of the show's executive producers and directors.  He was featured on and in the article he gave these tips on what it takes to look and act like a zombie or walker.
Greg Nicotero on the set of The Walking Dead (Pic from

1) When you're not born with the undead look, customize:
"There's a visual attribute to it. We always go for people who have really good bone structure. Sometimes they have big eyes. On the show, all the walkers have contact lenses. All their eyes are dead, cloudy, bloodshot and disgusting. The better their eyes read, then the more effective their look is. Often, we'll do custom dentures so it looks like their lips are peeled away, revealing more teeth, which is a visual we took from the graphic novel. Sometimes you'll look at real mummified corpses, and the lips shrivel away, revealing teeth, which is this horrific look. We mimic that."

2) Don't be a textbook monster:
"We audition people and have Zombie School every year. It gives me an opportunity to see everybody ahead of time and get a gauge of what they look like and how their performance is. Our extras are unlike any extras. They're not just sitting at a table in the background pretending to have dinner and sip wine. Our extras are the guys who come up to the table, flip the table over and attack the actors, so it's really important that they can perform and take direction. So I work with them quite a bit to make sure their movements are realistic. We try to avoid the Frankenstein look where their arms are outstretched. Or someone will drag their leg and look like the Mummy or another person has their hands in claws next to their face like The Wolfman. All these people are going for the classic movie clich├ęs, which we try to break."

Prom Zombie

3) Act (kind of) drunk:
"We kind of refer to our walkers like a lion stalking an animal. It can be slow and methodical, but when there's a human nearby, they can get pretty riled up and active. And I will always tell people, if you see people walking out of a bar at two in the morning, you'll notice there's a disconnect between their brain and their feet and their arms. They think they're walking straight but they're walking crooked. So when I'm on set, I'll always tell people, keep your shoulders slumped, relax your body. If you're too tense and you're too stiff, it looks fake. I'll always say disconnect. Don't be too aware -- if you hear a noise, don't turn around quickly. Your reactions should be dulled down. It's a lot harder than it sounds or looks."

My Josie as a Zombie Doggie

4) Don't blink:
"I directed the episode in which a walker killed Dale. I was very specific with him. He had really good bone structure and he literally looked like a horrific doll. It was a really neat makeup my guys did. In editing I made sure to cut out any instances where the actor blinked. When people blink, that's an involuntary reflex, so with zombies, I try to take those lifelike performance bits away. You watch it and it's so weird, and you might not realize why."

The undead  with the living  (that's me on the left)

5) Watch your mouth:
"On the show, we have this flavored stain, and any time we shoot zombies close up, we make them swish this stain in their mouth. It's like cake icing. It turns their tongues and gums black. When you see someone with a pink tongue and pink gums, that looks very alive. But you figure once these walkers die and everything starts decomposing, their tongues wouldn't be pink. They would be black. I always look for stuff like that. The minute you see pink flesh underneath what's supposed to be dead and decaying flesh, for me it takes me out of the story."

6) Act like an animal:
"One day I was showing a zombie how to eat human flesh. I said, 'You know when you watch Animal Planet or National Geographic and you see a hyena eating a zebra? That's what you want. We want it to be raw, intense. You're not using your hands to rip meat out; you're literally using your mouth. When you see a hyena eating a zebra and it's tugging at the body trying to wrench meat free.' They look at me like I'm crazy. I don't get it."

I hope you're able to make it to one of the Zombie Walks this year and while there don’t forget to donate to their charitable cause. 


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Anonymous said...

I love zombies and the whole zombie craze! Jane

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Yep, me too. Just sitting around waiting for the new season of Walking Dead to start or a new Zombie movie to come out!