On Friday, Oct. 2, the cast and crew of Zombieland theater-hopped across Los Angeles to find out who, if anyone, was seeing their horror comedy on opening night. ?Is this going to be a disaster?? wondered Woody Harrelson. Hardly. By the end of its first weekend, Zombieland had sunk its teeth into $24.7 million — a bloody box office feast…and perhaps a turning point for zombie movies. What was once little more than an entrail-strewn footnote to the horror genre with a hardcore fan base of convention-attending, Fangoria-reading, and, yes, mostly male devotees seems to have officially gone mainstream. But whether Harrelson?s movie is your first juicy taste of zombie mayhem or your hundredth, you?ll want to devour our encyclopedia of all things undead. Read on…if you dare!
A IS FOR ANDREW,
the disappointingly mundane middle name of George A. Romero, the mad maestro behind 1968?s Night of the Living Dead and its five (so far!) sequels.
B IS FOR BRAINS
While your average zombie will happily nosh on arms, legs, or intestines (be they upper or lower), 1985?s Return of the Living Dead singled out this sweetmeat as their repast of choice.
C IS FOR COMIC BOOKS
AMC is developing a show based on the comic The Walking Dead. The giddy, gory Marvel Zombies has proven that even superheroes get cravings. Hulk…eat…brains!
D IS FOR DEAD
If it?s a zombie movie, there?s a good chance it has this word in the title. See: Dawn of the Dead, Shaun of the Dead, and…
E IS FOR EROTIC NIGHTS OF THE LIVING DEAD
Think you can?t mix ?80s soft-core porn and zombies? Think again.
F IS FOR FULCI
As in Lucio Fulci, Italian gore-teur whose infamous 1980 epic Zombie, a.k.a. Zombie Flesh Eaters, a.k.a. Zombi 2, featured an unforgettably awesome underwater smackdown between a pasty-faced zombie and a real live shark.
G IS FOR GOBLIN,
the colorfully named prog-rock band who performed the doom-drenched soundtrack to the European version of the 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead.
H IS FOR HEAD SHOT
How do you kill a zombie? Well, you can try kindness. But we?d suggest shooting it in the head.
I IS FOR iPHONE
Can you really put a price on preparedness for the inevitable zombie apocalypse? Of course not! So why not cough up 99 cents for the Zombie Survival Kit iPhone app?
J IS FOR JACKSON, PETER
Sure, we all think of the hirsute Kiwi director as the visionary behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But before he got rich and respectable, he was a zombie nerd. Exhibit A: his gooey 1993 cheapie Dead Alive, a.k.a. Braindead.
K IS FOR KARO SYRUP,
the key ingredient in fake movie blood for any makeup F/X artist (see ?S is for Savini?). Essential for splatter and viscosity.
L IS FOR LAND OF THE DEAD
Usually a ghetto for no-name actors, the zombie genre got a dose of A-list (okay, maybe B-list) cachet with 2005?s Land of the Dead, which starred Dennis Hopper, John Leguizamo, and the dude from The Mentalist.
M MONROEVILLE MALL
If you take Exit 57 off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, you?ll find yourself at the most hallowed landmark in zombie-movie lore — the shopping center from George A. Romero?s consumerist satire Dawn of the Dead. Come for the Auntie Anne?s Pretzels, stay to photograph yourself eating fake guts. But please don?t tell them we sent you.
N IS FOR NAZIS
What could possibly be nastier than zombies? How about zombies that sport jackboots, swastika armbands, and iron crosses? Remarkably, there have been at least three Nazi-zombie films: 1977?s Shock Waves, 2008?s Outpost, and 2009?s Dead Snow.
O IS FOR ORANGE UNIFORMS
Michael Jackson?s ?Thriller? video brought zombie choreography to the masses — which ultimately included Day-Glo-clad Filipino prison inmates, who re-created MJ?s moves in a 2007 viral hit.
P IS FOR PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES
?It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.? So begins this year?s unlikeliest publishing sensation, a tea-drinking, flesh-eating riff on Jane Austen?s romantic literary classic.
Q IS FOR QUARANTINE,
a Hollywood remake of the terrifying 2007 Spanish POV chiller [REC], in which a TV journalist is trapped in an apartment complex full of infected cannibals. Also: the only zombie movie we can think of that begins with Q.
R IS FOR RUNNING ZOMBIES
Zombie geeks are a pretty peaceful lot. Except when it comes to the heated debate over fast- versus slow-moving zombies. While Romero?s old-school series espouses the lumbering-undead model, younger directors such as Zack Snyder (2004?s Dawn of the Dead remake) and Danny Boyle (2002?s 28 Days Later, above) feature zombies that make Usain Bolt look like a slowpoke.
S IS FOR SAVINI
Ever felt queasy watching a zombie film? You can probably thank Tom Savini, the makeup F/X legend whose credits include 1978?s Dawn of the Dead and 1985?s Day of the Dead.
T ?THEY?RE COMING TO GET YOU, BARBRA!?
The most famous line in zombie-movie history is uttered by Russell Streiner, who?s attempting to creep out his scaredy-cat sister (played by Judith O?Dea) in 1968?s Night of the Living Dead. In a deliciously sick, ironic twist toward the end of the film, it?s Streiner who comes for Sis, after being turned into one of…them.
U IS FOR UMBRELLA CORPORATION,
the nefarious bioengineering firm responsible for the zombie plague in the Resident Evil videogames and the Milla Jovovich-starring big-screen spin-offs.
V IS FOR VAMPIRES
Yes, they?re also undead, but in a dreamy, come-hither, mooning-over-sulky-chicks sort of way. We?ll side with the zombies in a street fight, thanks.
W Woody Harrelson
We all remember his cold-blooded shooting spree in Natural Born Killers, and now we?re never going to forget seeing the country-bumpkin barkeep from Cheers blasting away at the undead.
What went through your head when the Zombieland script landed at your door?
I thought, ?It?s going to be terrible.? Zombie movies suck. 28 Days Later, I Am Legend, Shaun of the Dead are all exceptions. My agent finally said, ?Read the f—ing script!? I loved it from page one, and I liked the concept of playing someone who was fearless and also broken inside.
Was it funny to see yourself driving around in a Hummer and spraying bullets, considering that you?re a pacifist and an environmentalist?
That irony was not lost on me. There?s a lot about this guy that?s kind of different from my mind-set — including his overall fearlessness, you know? I couldn?t be that fearless. But yeah: I?m a pacifist and an environmentalist riding around in the Hummer, shooting a gun, and looking for Twinkies!
How do you feel about the fact that Zombieland and [November?s] 2012 could become back-to-back hits that relaunch you into the spotlight?
Every aspect of the business is okay except the paparazzi. They?re the parasites at the murky depths of this business. Bono told me one time that he took all these French paparazzis out to a bar, which is unfathomable to me.
Recently, you punched a paparazzo at the airport and then released a statement saying you were still in character and thought the guy was a zombie. That was a pretty canny move.
I got lucky. The night after it happened, I went to my favorite restaurant in New York and Paul McCartney was there. We?re old buddies, and when I told him what happened, he was like, ?Just say you mistook him for a zombie.? I had the press release written before I went to bed.
How did you get back in the game, after taking five years off to live in Hawaii with your family?
Admittedly, it was kind of like starting my career again. It wasn?t like I could pick and choose like I used to, but slowly and steadily it happened. Now I have four in the can.
Do you have your next movie lined up yet?
No. And I?m one of those guys who?s probably going to pretend he?s looking for work but who?s definitely going to enjoy cashing his unemployment check.
— Christine Spines
X IS FOR X-FILES, THE
Given the hit show?s monster-of-the-week nature, it was only a matter of time before Mulder and Scully wanted to believe in zombies. The episode in question: a doozy from 1999 in which they investigated a (possibly) zombie-related conspiracy with the assistance of Lance Henriksen?s Frank Black.
Y IS FOR YOUNG ZOMBIES
Kids. They won?t just eat you out of house and home in zombie movies — they?ll eat you, too! One of the many taboo-trashing scenes in Night of the Living Dead had a young girl in a flowered dress taking a chomp out of her father?s arm as a snack.
Z IS FOR ZOMBIE SURVIVAL GUIDE, THE
If you want to tie a sheepshank knot, the Boy Scout Handbook is your best bet. If zombies are attacking, try Max (son of Mel) Brooks? tongue-in-cheek guide to making it through World War Z.