It is often said in the movie industry that nothing can compare to the uncertainty of working with babies and animals. They say that you wait around on set for hours for the baby or animal to “work”, and basically, everyone is at their mercy. I say we one up that and say working with zombies is probably the very worst. From their constant need for redirection to the risk of the ingestion of living members of the crew, the risks are aplenty. The payoffs, though, can be pretty remarkable as well. From the feral to the downright funny, here are 6 performances from zombies that will leave you wondering why there is not an undead category at the Oscars.
Bub the Zombie: Day of the Dead
This is the zombie that opened doors for a lot of the other zombies on the list to pursue their first true passion, outside the consumption of humans: acting. Bub is also the zombie most famous for starting the undead union, which makes sure that zombie workers are treated just as fairly as their living counterparts.
From the expressions on his face when you can see him recalling objects from his former life to his final patriotic act of defiance, Bub was the first zombie performance that really made us humans sit up and notice that a zombie was more than just a shambling sack of rotting meat.
The “Alive Inside” trailer just keeps getting more and more moving. God, I hope someone gets this incredibly timely reference.
George Romero does not often talk about his experience working with zombies, because it seems almost sacred to him. Being the man responsible for making the creature the pop culture icon it is today, he is oft tight lipped, but has said about Bub: Working with Bub was exhausting. Between the mental cognition exercises we had to do with him every hour, to conditioning him to stop trying to eat everyone, I do not recommend working with zombies to any director who is anything less than thoroughly patient.
All Kidding Aside: Howard Sherman’s portrayal of Bub injected some much needed humanity in a genre that, up to that point, was “dead”. Sorry about that pun.
Tar Zombie: Return of the Living Dead
Say what you want about the Return of the Living Dead movies, but if you were a child of the 80s, seeing punk rock and seeing zombies mesh up was about as cool as it could get. The tar zombie is one incredibly memorable moment from that film, and the performance itself is brilliant.
And while some people cried foul when they saw the film, thinking some poor defenseless zombie was covered in oil for the sake of a performance, fear not. He was actually detained from a spill on an oil rig, and his oil saturated clothes and body were just one benefit from casting him.
The other benefit can be seen in his strange movements. The oil has soaked his dead skin and old clothing, it had begun to eat away and what was left of him.
This is exactly how my Dad motions his arms when he is mocking rap music.
The real reason he moves like he does in that scene is because he is actually exaggerating his movement in an attempt to keep his limbs from falling off. In the same way some kid will walk bow-legged to keep his saggy jeans from falling off, tar zombie movements are more practical than anything else, but don’t tell the audience, am I right? HAHAHAHA *coughs
All Kidding Aside: Alan Trautman, who played tarman (as he has affectionately been dubbed by fans of the film) was an experienced puppeteer who was more known for working with Jim Henson than doing horror, but he played the zombie like it was attached to strings, and I can still see his sporadic movement in my mind, proving its timelessness.
Walking Dead: Bicycle Girl
Though the comic had been up and running for some time by this point, it was the performance from bicycle girl that caused people to realize that this Walking Dead was going to be its own beast, and this it was not going to be pulling punches.
She is a terribly sloppy kisser, though.
Crawling on the ground with no lower waist we see her, arms outstretched, and it is quite a jolt. The most remarkable thing about this was that they got her, with no legs, to give as powerful a performance as she did.
There was speculation that they may have been hanging a piece of human flesh on a hook, just out of frame of the camera to get that shot of her reaching toward the lens. Let me tell you, they would have never gotten away with that, only because the zombie union tends to come down hard. She was actually a classically trained zombie and was only doing what she knew, which was deliver the most honest and real performance she could. Even death can not stand in the way of passion and talent, and bicycle girl has that in spades.
All Kidding Aside: Melissa Cowan, who played bicycle girl does, indeed, have a lower waist. The makeup is the real star of this scene, make no mistakes. Melissa does an incredibly emotive performance for someone so layered in prosthetic makeup and anchored to the ground, though, so credit where credit is due. This really is the zombie that let viewers know this show was going to be raw and sometimes a little hard to swallow, like a chunk of human flesh. Damn, another bad pun.