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Here is the document that all zombie enthusiasts have been waiting for. Its time for zombies to be freed from the cinema and to walk the earth, here and now. If you are going to a Halloween party and want to make that extra effort rather than just hiring a costume or you are film director making a 5 minute student short or a 90 minute epic, then this is the guide for you. Good Zombie Practice covers zombie make up, zombie costumes and zombie behaviour, to enable you to create the most hideous and insipid forms of the undead in the comfort of your own living room. The document is based upon the Zombie Costuming written by Bob Bankard from Phillyburbs Specials Sections and appears with his kind permission, a link to the original article appears in our links section. Additional material has been added by Zombie Ed, from years experience writing, running and producing zombie events and acting as advisor on a number of film projects.
Gel blood being trowelled into an open wound.
So, you're thinking about trying to create a zombie costume and visage that will make people truly scared… You know as well as me that Zombies are not as cool as Vampires (but they do tend to wear too much crushed velvet and pale foundation) and are probably not as intimidating as werewolves (all that hair straightening, back combing and having to pee against trees) but a good zombie will astound, frighten and entertain far more than other forms of ‘fly by night’ monster.
Some of us can do that without a costume, but for those of you who are looking for something a bit more masquerade, here's a few zombie costume tips for the tyro corpus.
Latex being pulled from a face to be filled with gel blood.
This can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want: the only rule is, whatever you choose to wear will end up generally be unwearable after you're through with it. Did you have a nice burial? You'll need to ruin a nice dark suit. Did you get zombie bit playing football, scuba diving or cooking in your kitchen and subsequently zombi-fy? How dead are you - a little or a lot? All of these have to be taken into consideration when choosing wardrobe. The financial aspects of this can be reduced greatly with two small trips, the first one, just walk as far as your own wardrobe, is there anything in their that you haven’t worn for a year and realistically you probably will never wear again, if so drag it out and get creative, the other is the old favourite charity or thrift shops, you can find some truly awful clothes that you would never want to admit to owning here, all of which give you the added satisfaction of being able to destroy in a creative manner. You need to determine your character; who are - or were - you?
Just a brief note for film makers, for groups of zombies, you can do a lot worse than checking your local area for army surplus stores, not just city centre ones, but the bigger out of town ones. I have for a number of projects got police, medical, fire, security and military uniforms and accessories, like the proper belts, ties, holsters for a knock down rate compared to buying them from militaria or collectors shops… and to be honest, if at some point during filming they are going to be ripped to bits and covered in blood, paint and sputem and you are working to a budget, the cheaper the better.
a) In-ground Zombies: If you were in the ground, you had to get out, right? Sooo ... For those hardcore among you, bury your clothing, preferably in muddy ground. Leave them to soak for a while; a few days is nice, a week even better. Pull the mess out, and allow them to dry somewhere naturally - we want to encourage a nice colony of mildew. Yes - it will be gross to wear. But you'll have that nice, loamy, acrid smell and an authentic start on your costume. I've done this - it looks great, but remember this is probably a method best used for filming or barbecues, if you are heading to civilised Halloween dinner party with the in-laws, it’s a no-go. Too fastidious? Chicken. All right - we'll go with paints instead. You'll need dark brown and dark green, and just a smidge of florescent green if you're feeling brave. We're using a house-painting brush, folks. The trick is to SUGGEST the dirt and mold, not to recreate it. Lightly dip the TIPS of the bristles in the paint, then brush away 90% of the paint before applying it to your clothing. We want faint trails, suggestions of wear, with every stroke - we're not giving the bedroom a second coat. You can always add an additional feather-stroke if you want more, but once it's on, you can't take it back; be critical. (Personally, I still prefer the mud and mildew.)Now, you've made it to the surface. Follow the above-ground instructions. Remember, lighter colours on a dark outfit, darker colours on a lighter outfit… If I had to choose, I would always opt with a paler outfit as the claret stands out much better!
b) Above-ground Zombies: As a zombie, you aren't the most agile creature on earth and sometimes, your lunch fights back. Consequently, your wardrobe can take a beating. Rips and tears occur. Unless you're a real weenie, actually rip and tear - cuts tend to be too clean, and break the illusion. Knees, elbows, and/or seams; struggle points like shirt pockets or shoulder seams. If you are destroying new clothing with reinforced seams, then give it a snip with a pair of scissors and then tear away...
Grass stains can happen; either it's time for more painting magic, or go out into the yard in the trousers and do a few slides on your knees… Get a little creative with it - have fun. Wearing slip-ons? Maybe one slipped off - lose a shoe. Are you a bitten business boy? Carry around an open briefcase, and prepare to vacantly stare at your watch a lot. C'mon, kids - we're in showbiz now! OK, we have your clothing in bad order - now let's do something about that disgustingly healthy skin of yours. Why disgusting? Because of all of that nasty blood teaming through your flesh giving it that healthy glow. Once you die, the blood stops pumping, and the skin takes on a lovely robin's-egg blue colour. All of that nasty blood settles to wherever it is on your body that's closest to the ground, where it creates the biggest bruise you've ever seen.
Shading before adding blood to the bullet wound.
Latex: Before we start on the paint job, allow me to introduce you to your best friend - liquid latex. You can buy liquid latex at any decent costume shop. It usually comes in something that looks like an oversized fingernail polish bottle. You can usually get it in a creamy white color or flesh colour, but both go translucent when applied, but the white stuff is better, as it dries clearer. Lets start with some shrivel. Open your liquid latex bottle, and puff out your cheeks, like a trumpet player. With hamster-like swollen cheeks, brush on the liquid latex - give it a couple of coats. Hold it for just a bit - let it dry. Now, let the air out. Your cheeks are now back to normal… but the latex, spread across a wider area initially, has no place to go. So, it wrinkles. Instant aging, at your service. How about peeling flesh? Apply the liquid latex, let it dry, and then artistically strip it off a leading side or two. You can for the more adventurous, apply a few layers, let them dry, add a single sheet of toilet paper and then latex that to the previous layers and then latex over it a few times. Once this is done, peel the toilet paper back and you have a handy ‘flesh pocket’ you can fill with thick gel blood or dark red and black make up to give you big open lesions, weeping with claret… nice eh?
Looking for something a bit more exciting? Some costume shops sell something they call "Zombie Rot". It is a soup of liquid latex and tiny black pebbles. Spread it on, and it makes the skin rough looking, and corrupted - like an advanced case of leprosy. It's a good effect. Body Effects: Another possibility - many costume shops sell 'breastplates;' fat guy bellies, rib cages, etc. Buy a ribcage, and cut the black spaces out from between the ribs. They show up nicely through a shirt. Wanna get even more gross? Get a second breastplate made of latex guts, and go for the layered look. If you got it, flaunt it!
Zombie Make Up: Now you're set for the make-up. Rule one: If it shows, Paint It. If your knee shows through a hole in your pants, it better not be nicely tanned, or it will spoil the look. If you reach for something, and your healthy wrist is exposed, you've lost first place. We'll start with a base white water-based cream. Our first choice would not be greasepaint, for the reasons below. The nice thing about greasepaint is that it covers fast and completely - you're going to have to work a little harder on the waterbased stuff, because it tends to tint more than it re-colors. the nice thing is, once done, you're less likely to shine like a mime and leave white skid marks on accidentally touched areas.
OK, if you decided you just have to go with greasepaint. Slather. AVOID any latex appliances, because they don't get along well together, and the appliance will loosen: you'll need to pony up for some water based cream for those areas, and match as best you can. Keep in mind that greasepaint will rub off on things, so be mindful where you lean, touch, etc. while in costume. There is a translucent powder that will minimize rubbing and the shine of greasepaint, but it will not eliminate all the ills, Be forewarned.Colours and Shading: There are as many colours of Zombie as there are fish in the sea, dark browns from Fulci, greens and greys from Romero, bright greens from Franco and even blues from some of the Asian shockers, but going with something more traditional is probably for the best. Now let's go with the robins-egg blue or a pale mustard yellow, as both colours even applied without shading give anyone a deathly palour. Apply artistically: Some areas - the chin, the bridge of the nose, any 'defined' areas will look more skeletal if it stays stark white. Apply to cheeks, temples, around the eyes, and meaty places like calve and thigh muscles. Build up a few layers of ever-darkening areas (yes - you'll need a few more make-up shades) to define shadows - eye sockets, neck tendons, the line above the chin, around the sides of the nose, temples and - if applicable - cheeks. But let's try to be rational. If you have big ol' punkin' cheeks, you won't hollow them out with anything short of a pair of black hole stars tucked inside 'em. Some dead folks have big cheeks, too. Relax.
Adam Breedon adds a little more shading.
Have you eaten yet? If so, you'll probably want to leave some salsa stains; people are really, really juicy. Use some common sense in placement, and remember that, according to Savini, there is no such thing as too much blood. Most current theatrical blood is a mixture of Karo syrup and coloring, and this can be a problem if you're still warm-blooded - it tends to get sticky and runny when warm. Paint will dry better, but will be obviously paint - blood may be thicker than water, but nobody's pumping latex semi-gloss. Think about the nature of blood - go with just some creative dye placement. Remember - dried blood turns brownish-red. Start with a base that color, unless you're looking for that just-fed look.One area where greasepaint can be worth its wait however is extra blood, on top of your make up, as it runs less and is generally less messy than fake blood. So you should take into account the fact that zombies generally have one thing on their mind and that is devouring the flesh of anyone who isn’t a zombie, so if you are going for the bloody look, use either dark (venous) blood which is readily available from theatrical make-up suppliers and some fancy dress shops. The first step is to use a red greasepaint, try to use a dark or browny red colour and add a few spots of water and get as much of the grease paint as possible on to your sponge, then tip your head back and let it run down you’re your face around your mouth, chin and neck. Make sure that the colour is deep enough so it cannot be seen through and when it has dried, and then add some stage claret to the top of it. There you have it, you can never have too much blood and if you are involved in film production, you might as well drench yourself, as you will not have the blood on for too long… But if you are going to be at a party for a few hours (and beers) it’s probably a good idea to be a bit restrained with the blood or it will end up all over the carpet, bathroom, hosts and walls if you’re not careful.
A quick note on the finishing touches to a zombie costume, if you are simply looking for a quick halloween or fancy dress costume then this information is probably not for you, but if you are doing a photo shoot or making a film, then this is valuable information. Eyes are apparently the windows to the soul and depending upon which school of thought you are from then zombies eyes should either appear to be dead or blanked and this is something that is very difficult to re-create. The first method can be a little expensive but white contact lenses are worth their weight in gold, as far as this is concerned and if your main zombies still have 'human' eyes then they will lose something in their translation, if you are makiing a film then a couple of sets of these and a pile of sterilsing agent will make all the difference. Speaking from personal experience, if the zombies are make up tests or still for film production, then try and find a subject who can roll their eyes into their heads for the photos. The end result not only looks excellent, but stops a lot of time messing about in photoshop too!!! Which is something I wished I had thought about before starting on this document. The photos of zombies of zombies on www.terror4fun.com have not been interfered with in any way apart from a couple where the eyes have been tweaked a little, to make them a bit more zombie...
Adding broken capillaries onto the model.
Now, if you feel the desire, hit the costume store again, and grab yourself an accessory: an arm, a leg, some intestines... you'd be amazed at the horrible things moulded in latex you can buy nowadays. Remember, you are gonna have to carry these things round all day/night/party, I personally found that one good idea for not losing a prop was a zombie convict outfit that I put together a few years ago. A severed arm prop and a cheap pair of handcuffs from the same costume shop and for the night I simply had the severed arm dangling from the cuffs for the evening.
Zombies, as far as flying, running and aerobics are concerned, are shit… After all, from the moment that you have cacked it, your body begins to break down, muscles waste away, injuries do not heal and apart from an unearthly ignorance of pain, things do not well in the motor function department. You fall down, conk into things and get caught on obstructions that most earthworms would be smart enough to avoid. Some basic hints can help you to master zombie movement and become as one with your choice and mine for Undead of the year 2005/2006…
1) Move slowly… Your muscles have wasted... Shuffle...
2) Your neck is broken, so let your head loll from side to side with your movements, looking ahead of you with just one eye, this not only adds character to the zombie, but also gives you nicely bloodshot eyes and an inhuman gaze…
3) Have a limp… Dragging one of your legs behind you to catch up with the other always looks good, even wear a shoe on the ends of you feet and then thick socks, looks good, as though your ankle has snapped if you are wearing long trousers too…
4) Let your hands and arms hang loosely from your sides, only begin to raise them to grab your prey or open doors, if you are tempted to have them stuck out in front of you, then all you will do is make yourself look like the love-child of the Bride of Frankenstein and a Scooby Doo villain!
Of course there are loads of other ways in which a zombie can move and interact, the sky is your limit. As a traditionalist, I fall into the slow and shuffling zombie camp, rather than the remake of ‘Dawn of the Dead,’ and the ultra fast and deadly flesh seeking missiles the zombies seemed to become.
The final thing to consider, before finally stepping out, all zombie’d up is where are you going??? In the past I have made a couple of mistakes, doing subtle, but effective shading and highlighting on people heading to clubs and Halloween parties, where the lighting is subdued or even candlelight.No matter how effective your costume and make up job is, if no-one can see it, your have wasted your time! If you are using your zombie for film purposes then you will probably be using lighting and effects that will enable the make up to be seen, so subtlety can be an essential part of this, but if you are going to a dimly lit Halloween event... Then my best words of advice are use dark blood gels, surround your mouth with them, have lots of dark shading and have fun !!!
That sets you up with the basics, folks - the rest is up to you. Happy Zomming!
Don't forget, once you have made your zombie, take some pictures and email them to email@example.com and we will add them to the galleries....
With Special Thanks to Bob Bankard and his article. Based upon and inspired by Phillyburbs, Zombie Costuming Guide.
Please use this document for your own enjoyment and the creation of better zombies, please do not publish it or distribute it without prior permission of Zombie Ed at Terror4fun.