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Designing The Living Dead

Designing The Living Dead

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Niamh Moyles and Linda Hanbidge practicing arm effects.

A major part of production on Night Of The Living Dead over the past 6 months has been figuring out exactly how our living dead will look. They are the title characters after all. After 6 months of intense conversations, designs and a whole trial and error, it’s probably about time we showed a few of our tests and give a sense of what they’re going to look like.

Bruising and bites

And believe me, there has been a lot of trial and error. There’s still quite a bit to go on that front, as if we haven’t gone all out on our living dead cast members just yet. But what we have laid down is exactly what type of zombies we’ll be dealing with. The big question in this day and age is whether you use fast zombies or slow zombies. And some people would actually be up in arms to discover a fast zombie in a Romero horror. What they wouldn’t be realising of course, is that Romero created not just the first zombies in Night Of The Living Dead, but the first fast zombie. Literally, the first zombie was a pretty damn fast zombie. Bill Hinzman’s famous graveyard zombie from the movie actually moved quite fast as he pursued Barbara, to the point that he could even pick up a rock and use it to smash in a car window. This apparently created a lot of continuity conflicts in Romero’s movie when they later shot a whole bunch of slow walking corpses. Personally, I thought the graveyard zombie was pretty damn scary because of how fast he moved.

Going for realism

So I guess, it’s fair to say that in our version we will be utilising the classic slow zombie but also the more popular fast moving ‘rage’ zombies of recent zombie fiction. Our reason comes down to a simple reason: we’re on a stage. We can’t edit our shocks and scares like they can in a movie so to achieve certain desired effect we need to use a quick moving zombie sometimes and other times it really benefits our blocking to use a slow moving ghoul. So best of both worlds really! In terms of the look, as you’ll see in the above photo, the effects will be more realistic. Personally, I wasn’t a fan of Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead or Dawn Of The Dead corpses (particularly the latter’s dead Smurf look) so we’ll be going for a lot of realistic skin tones with an emphasis on flesh wounds, bruising and cannibalism. So in short, bloody.

Latex: lots of trial and error. Mostly error.

The logic of both zombies boils down to levels of decomposition in the corpses. If one of the living dead is fresh and recently turned, they’ll move quickly, bloodthirsty, feral and able to move with a certain savage speed. If the ghoul has been dead for a lot longer, more decomposition has set in, rigormortis and a general rotting sense of deadness causes it to move slower.

If they can throw rocks, they can smoke cigarettes

This means our make up artists have a lot of variety within the types of zombies. On this show, our long standing make up designer Linda Hanbidge is joined by Michael Browne, both under the supervision of our production designer Niamh Moyles, who specialises in model making and making a lot of the gorier effects we’ll be using. Recently we’ve been experimenting with a lot of our effects and prosthetics and you can see a lot of the recent work in the photos here.

We’re not showing you any of our full on zombies just yet. Not until they’re good and ready.

Photos by Ross Costigan.

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