Zombie 101

Becoming a zombie may sound like lots of work. In the movies, it typically is the result of an unexpected bite or scratch by a friend or loved one. Or perhaps it's a nasty government-sponsored "placation virus" that got a bit out of hand. Either way, it usually involves some fairly uncomfortable experiences for the victim. So consider yourself lucky! All you gotta do for this zombie crawl is learn how to look and act like a zombie. No death required. Piece of cake!

Zombie Makeup and Effects

When establishing your zombie persona, you first need to decide just how dead you want to look. Are you a recent victim with fresh bloody wounds, or are you a Thriller style ghoul with shrunken skin and disintegrating clothing that just surfaced from the local cemetery grounds? Plan your wardrobe accordingly. If your skin is falling from your bones, your clothing probably should be, too. And if you just popped up out of the grave after 100 years of subterranean slumber, your fashions should reflect this. Time to hit the thrift stores! (Note: This is still a family event, so please no nekked zombies! Wear clothes that you don't care very much about, as they'll probably collect makeup and fake blood stains! )

Once you've established your zombie's post-mortem age (and perhaps a cause of death), and you've assembled some appropriate undead attire, it's time for makeup! There are lots of great videos online that can show you how the pro's do it. It all depends on how much time you want to spend applying makeup (and removing it later), and how comfortable you want to feel in your new face. (And don't forget your ears, neck and hands, or any other exposed skin - decay isn't limited to the face.)

There are lots of ways to apply zombie makeup. The different videos on this page are great examples. Personally, I prefer a quick and simple zombie makeover. I find that a base coat of "peely skin" is a good start. To do this, coat all or part of your face with liquid latex, school glue, or cosmetic face peel. Liquid latex makeup can be found online or at any Halloween costume shop. Since the zombie crawl is occurring just after Halloween this year, you can probably pick some up for cheap from the nearest Wal-Mart after-holiday clearance bin. Stock up, as you can never have enough when building up fake wounds. Latex should be brushed or sponged on in multiple thin layers. Thicker layers will take longer to dry and may be harder to work with.

If liquid latex makeup isn't your thing, you still have several other options. Elmer's school glue can be smeared on your face and will peel and crackle once it dries, but it takes a while to finally dry and won't last as long. My preference is for a tube of clear facial peel-off mask from the cosmetics department. It usually smells better than latex, and leaves my skin feeling soft and supple (ha!). Better yet, you can mix in cream makeup with it and get most of your base makeup coloring done in one step. I generally add some white cream, maybe gray, and blend it together in my hands before applying to my face. Any extra left on your hands can also be rubbed on your neck and ears, or even through your hair. I find that it makes me look more monochrome and lifeless. (Note: I have short hair, so it's easy for me to clean it out later. Not sure about you long-hair types. Also, before applying anything to your face, you may want to test it out beforehand on an unexposed arm or leg to ensure that you aren't allergic.)

To get the crackled appearance of dead, dried out flesh, you can embed thin strips of tissue paper in latex and carefully tug at it as it dries. This is also good for creating fake torn skin. School glue or cosmetic facial peel will crackle, peel, and flake on its own as your facial expressions naturally stretch it out. You can accelerate this effect by making very animated faces at those around you. Go ahead - it's fun.

Once the base makeup layer is nearly dry, you can start adding in some color. Start with white cream makeup, (if you didn't already mix it with a facial peel) and add/mix darker colors sparingly. Decaying zombies will probably sport gray-toned skin, and a tiny (and I mean tiny) bit of black creme mixed with white goes a long way. I've also tried mixing in a dab of blue or green, but you really need to be sparing or you'll end up looking like the Blue Man Group or the Wicked Witch of the West.

When I'm done applying cream makeup, I like to dust my entire face with baby powder. This gives me a less tacky finish and removes any sheen. Again, I also run it through my hair. On top of the baby powder you can then brush on some dark eye shadow around your eye sockets, under your cheekbones, and along those lines that run from the corners of your nostrils to the corners of the mouth. Blend it in with a dry brush. This will provide the sunken eyes and gaunt facial effect one typically expects to see on a corpse. To top things off, dip a small stiff brush in fake blood and gently flick it near you so that you get some bloodsplatter effects. Wear creepy white contacts if you've got 'em. Now go scare your neighors...

Want more? Check out some of the more advanced zombie makeup techniques found on youtube!

How to Walk and Act Like a Zombie

Although zombie makeup effects are important, the ultimate success or failure of this zombie crawl will really depend on our ability to stay in character. "Just great," you're probably thinking, "not only do I have to wear all of this annoying makeup, but now I gotta be an actor, too?" On the bright side, there are no lines to remember, and no strenuous stunts to perform. You're just taking a relaxing stroll down Spring Street...as a zombie. No big deal.

Zombies are stiff. Rigor mortis has made sure of that. Their muscles and joints don't function very well. They shuffle. They stumble. They crawl. Now I have to admit that I'm more of an "old school" zombie fanatic. In the early films, zombies moved slow. They weren't very intelligent. They didn't speak much, aside from the occasional gutteral moaning. And then something happened. Somebody decided that zombies should only eat brains, and that they'd call out for them like a spectator shouting for peanuts at a baseball game. Then they made them faster; they made then run. They learned how to use weapons, and to plan strategies, and seek revenge. Perhaps you dig that concept, and that's okay. But let's face it - if you're going to run through the zombie crawl, it's going to be over in a matter of minutes, and where's the fun in that? So please, take it slow, make it last, and remember that this is a "crawl", not a race.

And a few last notes: Zombies don't laugh. They don't giggle. Few of them have a reason to smile. They don't chat with their friends, or talk on a cellphone, and they certainly don't have the dexterity to text or take photos. They may moan and/or drool blood as they move. Maybe they're in pain, or just in a flesh-hungry trance. Some of them might drag a foot or bum leg behind them. They either stare blankly, or quite intensely at a would-be meal. They're the walking dead. They have no hopes, dreams, or ambitions. They just want to eat your flesh. Maybe your brain. They're just zombies. So please do your best to stay in character during the crawl, and enjoy the spectacle!

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