So. In a nutshell: 7 hours in greasepaint and a surprisingly realistic looking prosthetic wound attached to my cheek and neck with spirit gum. Three hours on the road round trip. Roughly one hundred seventy five people dressed, with various degrees of success, as zombies. Almost six hundred pounds of non-perishable foodstuffs donated to the Shreveport Food Bank. Worth it? Does Zombie Jesus lurch around turning water into brains?*
But no Zombie Jesus for me this year. I settled pretty happily for a zombie priest: Monsignor Macabre, and the Missus went as Sister Mary Gruesome. Funnily enough we encountered enough other undead clergy to make a smallish convent and had quite a blast I have to say. But then again, how do you not? Lurching around a mall groaning in some of the most gruesome makeup you could imagine, in the company of almost two hundred other like-minded individuals, each marching to a different funeral dirge.
I really do have to say there's nothing quite like dressing like one of the living dead and enacting (well, sort of) scenes from a classic George A. Romero movie. A whole graveyard full of greaspaint and faux wounds and oddly enough a lot of smiles, too. I never knew the undead could smile. Young undead and old undead and even a celebrity or two: Zombie Where's Waldo showed up, as did Zombie Hotdog Guy and even a couple who did a really breathtakingly good version of Bela Lugosi's White Zombie from mid 1930's Hollyweird. They even brought their own hearse.
Surprisingly, after lots of trepidation on everyone's behalf about venturing into the world of semi-professional prosthetic wounds I have to admit that the hand-sized patch of icky-looking rubber I bought to attach to my cheek and lower jaw was a lot easier to use than I thought. And I discovered that all those 'skin tearing' scenes you see in the movies are done as simply as anything--a little fake skin attached with spirit gum. When I pulled mine off (slowly) it gave the exact same appearance, that sort of pulling, tearing look except in my case all it reveled was a patch of skin not sickly white with greasepaint. Who needs Skywalker Ranch?
I have to say too that there was some truly creative people there. Simple makeup effects that went a LONG way. One lady who had obviously had a knee replacement surgery showed up in her wheelchair with her freshly-healed scar, and had the local talent makeup lady apply some Eau De Undead and she was suddenly on tv, growling and groaning, rolling herself toward the tv camera like it was as natural as anything. Simple additions of mascara and rouge that produced some really ghoulish bruising and dead skin effects. Homegrown talent can produce some excellent fruits.
The evening for me was full of little moments of utter glee. Walking through Sears to the restroom, eating up every double take. Standing around watching the other zombies enter, drinking in the envious stares at my grievous wound that showed only from one side. Surprise! My cheek and throat are torn out! The giggling waves and exchanges of "dead skin" recipes with other undead. The weird freedom that comes with being in a mask, being something/someone you're not. Being a stranger in a very deeply strange land. Having people seek you out to get their photo taken with us was pretty cool too.
The local TV crew came out, and I so wished we could get to see the footage. A hundred or more of us pressing hungrily forward as the cameraman filmed us from his perch on the dais. Our hands reached for him, grasping at the end of straining arms, each of us together desperate to pull him down from his perch and into our seething mass. From our throats rose countless desperate groans and in the middle of that surge of bodies you could almost feel how it might be to be eternally hungry, forever cursed to walk the earth and devour the living. Lucio Fulci would have soiled himself to see us.
The walk itself was worth all the build up, worth all the wait. The costume contest winners were announced (we didn't place,) and the numerous door prizes were given away (we didn't win) and then it was time. A brief period of instruction from the Zombie Hotdog ("loosen up, think 'dead' and don't walk fast!") and all of us were off and shambling, lead by Undead Billy Idol and Undead Waldo from, I can only presume, the popular children's book series "Where's Undead Waldo?" We straggled out over almost half the length of the mall, each of us moving at our own pace, our own "old school" zombie stagger integrated into our costume. I let my mind go blank, let my limbs hang slack until I almost felt myself falling, then staggered away, bumping into other zombies, desperate to find that one bright spark of life to extinguish.
Oh yes, I had fun. Walking up behind kids who were foolish enough to have their backs turned, dropping heavy hands onto them. Turning suddenly toward people aiming iPhones and video cameras at us, startling them into staggering back into their giggling friends. Groaning at the windows, scrabbling fruitlessly at the retail drones all stopped to stare as the seething mass from the grave passed their plate glass walls. Oh yes I had such fun.
(Sadly I can't yet find any video from the 2009 walk but this is a nice little clip from 2008, the first Walk.)