Look a fright: Go as a zombie

Posted: October 26, 2011

Between AMC's The Walking Dead, a "zombie businessman" at Occupy Wall Street, and six zombie-related movies slated for next year, it's clear that the undead have lurched into the forefront of American popular culture.

Technically, a zombie is an animated corpse, between alive and dead - "undead." It's mostly a different state of being, mythically said to rise after the apocalypse.

It's also a great costume, taking on various degrees of camp and character.

To help you look your undead-est (and stand out from all of those regular zombies), we asked a professional makeup artist for strategies on the best way to look like you've risen - partly, at least - from the dead.

Giacomina Pluma, a specialist in costume and theater makeup who "zombifies" the workers at Eastern State Penitentiary's haunted-house performances, recommends using simple, easy-to-find ingredients to get that gory look. Pluma says that on a typical Halloween night, she sees everything from run-of-the-mill walking dead to campier takes on the ghouls. Go as gory or as pale as you like, she says. Zombies are like scary snowflakes - no two are the same.

Start with basic supplies: liquid latex, ground coffee, translucent powder, black or purple eye shadow, and a Popsicle stick. Any local Halloween or costume store will carry liquid latex (try Pierre's Costumes, 211 N. Third St.). Translucent powder is available in any drugstore beauty aisle. You'll also need liquid makeup or a monster makeup kit that includes the important zombie shades: red, purple, and white.

1. Clean face with soap and moisturize.

2. Mix the liquid latex and coffee grounds in a disposable cup. Use a Popsicle stick to spread the mixture on the face. Avoid eye area and areas with hair.

3. While the liquid latex dries, apply white cream makeup to skin with a sponge.

4. Set this white pre-makeup with translucent powder. Apply black eye shadow or other colors for a bruising effect.

5. When liquid latex is almost dry, peel bits off for extra gore. Paint inside the caverns with red or purple makeup.


Philly's zombie zeal

  The idea of the zombie has become so mainstream that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes light of the undead with a recently published "Zombie Pandemic" emergency preparedness kit and literature. A "Zombie Task Force" T-shirt is available from the CDC Foundation; a portion of the price supports the foundation's Emergency Response Fund.

Philadelphia is home to and pioneer of dozens of zombie-related festivities. Zombie walks, zombies at the annual "Terror Behind the Walls" haunted house at the Eastern State Penitentiary, and zombie pub crawls are just a few of the walking undead events in our area.

DJ Robert Drake of South Philadelphia began throwing zombie-related events about six years ago. Today, he runs the annual Zombie Prom, Zombie Crawl, and Zombie Beach Party.

Drake, 48, produces WXPN-FM's Kids Corner in the day and zombies at night. "It's zombies twice a day," he jokes. He credits the popularity of the undead to the uncertainty that came with the millennium. Americans are anxious in times of change, he says, and often look to lighten the tensions of the unknown. "There's anxiety in the air," says Drake. "The idea of making fun or making light of what could happen fueled a lot of people's passion for zombies."

When Drake threw his first Zombie Crawl in 2003, zombie subculture was popular in Canada but not in the United States. The turnout for that first pub crawl down South Street was small: mostly horror enthusiasts and the heavily inked set.

Things have certainly changed. Now, Drake's zombie events draw more than 1,400 people. When his Zombie Invasion overtook Dorney Park in Allentown in August 2011, he scored with the Guinness Book of World Records for most zombies (330) ever on a roller coaster.

So are the undead just a trend or here to stay? "It has similarities between the popularity of the werewolf in the 1980s, and vampires in the early 2000s," says Drake. But zombies, he says, "are finally getting their fair share."

For more information: www.phillyzombiecrawl.com.

  - Meredith Fineman

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