Your parents, your classmates, your co-workers and even your significant other have all laughed at you. They mock your wasted hours spent watching "Evil Dead 2"; they scoff at your memorized lines from "28 Days Later"; they giggle as you geek out over the differences between versions of "Dawn of the Dead."
But it's Halloween time again, and as you pop in your "Shaun of the Dead" DVD for the umpteenth time, the possibility once again crosses your mind: What if the dead really did rise from the ground? What valuable lessons have all your hours as a couch zombie taught you?
"I've been there," Sam Raimi laughed when we posed the question to him, having directed all three of the "Evil Dead" films. "If the dead should rise, you're going to want to get yourself a shotgun, a chainsaw and someone to watch your back. It's also good to have a partner, so that they can get taken down first. And that makes you not only the survivor, but also the star of the show."
If zombies should begin walking the streets this Hallow's Eve, the first thing you want to do — naturally — is take a moment to laugh while all those fools who wasted their time watching "The Notebook" get torn apart like a Hometown Buffet on a Friday night. Then, begin your own plan of attack by carefully monitoring the speed at which the undead are advancing.
"The majority of zombies can't run, unless it's the new 'Dawn of the Dead' movie you're in," pointed out "Saw" series director Darren Lynn Bousman. "So as long as you can run, you're OK. I myself don't run — so I'd be screwed."
"Mostly with regard to any zombie, all you have to do is run — because they can't move very quickly," agreed Bruce Campbell, the "Evil Dead" star who reigns as the most beloved zombie killer of all time. "And it's no use trying to speak to them, because they can't communicate. Just run!"
"One mistake people make is they get cocky, just 'cause they're fast, but it's like the tortoise and the hare," warned Eli Roth, director of "Cabin Fever," the "Hostel" movies and the upcoming zombie spoof "Trailer Trash." "People start running and running, and then they stop and take a nap. The zombies are lumbering, but they don't sleep!"
Although Quentin Tarantino is quick to dismiss the fleet-footed baddies ("Fast-running zombies," he scoffed. "F--- that!"), and Campbell insists, "A zombie is a zombie is a zombie," it's important to make the distinction between the loveable lumberers from the classics and the fast-running new-school zombies.
" '28 Days Later' technically isn't a zombie movie, it's a contagious [monster] film," noted writer/director Roger Avary. "But as much as I love that movie, I go crazy in films where characters do things I would never do — like when they're sleeping out in the middle of the country, on the ground! I would never do that!"
Sounding like any zombie-film fan, Avary added: "I'm the smartest guy in the world when it comes to stuff like that; I'd hide myself somewhere. That one ['28 Days Later'] scene when they're in the house and they have all the lights on in the bottom floor? And those things come crashing through? That kind of stuff just drives me insane."
"I'd pretend to be one of them, like in 'Shaun of the Dead,' " said "Black Christmas" star Mary Elizabeth Winstead. "I think I could work it. At least we actors have [the tools] to turn that on."
"Just like in 'Dawn of the Dead,' you need to find a big mall where you have tons of equipment and food that can take care of you for a while," reasoned Chris Marquette, who had a role in 2003's "Freddy vs. Jason." "So, I figure my best bet is I'm going to head to [L.A.'s ] Beverly Center the second sh-- gets crazy."
Once you and your fellow survivors have locked the doors to your hiding spot, however, movies have taught us to expect melodrama, irrational in-fighting and constant questioning of authority. "You have to create some hierarchy as to how things are going to go," Marquette said. "If anybody wants to whine and leave, I figure you've just got to kick them out the door. There's no mercy at that point."
There's a time to run, and a time to hide. When all that fails, however, it's time to kick some ass.
"I'd pull a shotgun out of nowhere and just start shooting them in the heads," advised Daeg Faerch, the 10-year-old star of "Halloween." "Just blow their heads right off!"
"I would do what 'Shaun of the Dead' did," added "Ghost Whisperer" actor Ross McCall. "Grab a bunch of LPs and start throwing them."
"I don't know if you've ever seen Lucio Fulci's film 'Zombie,' but there's a great scene where a zombie goes underwater and the shark bites the zombie, and then the zombie takes a bite out of the shark," noted Roth. "The zombie wins. So don't look to sharks for protection."
"Don't try to wrestle with a zombie, it won't work," advised "House of 1000 Corpses" star Sid Haig. "Head-shots. Nothing but head-shots. Don't worry about it, just whack them in the head and it's over. It's the only thing that will stop them — well, that and a good margarita."
"They've got to be the slow-moving kind — just shoot them in the head," explained Tarantino, thinking back to the hundreds of zombie flicks he's watched. "One bite, and you're done; you're infected. You'll have about an eight- to nine-hour incubation period after you die before you become one."
To avoid such unfortunate bites, it might help to keep the proper clothing at hand. "Get one of those shark suits, those chain-mail suits, where the sharks can't bite you," said Avary. "I guarantee if a shark can't bite you through one of those, a zombie's gonna have a hard time doing it."
"There's a great Umberto Lenzi film called 'Nightmare City' which deals with this kind of thing," Roth pointed out. "The zombies run around and rip every girl's shirt off before they attack them. So I'd say wear multiple layers of clothing if you're a girl, because the zombies don't actually kill until the breasts are exposed. ... If you're a guy, I would say get some good protective headgear so they can't bite through your head. ... Go to a sporting-goods store and get the football pads and lacrosse pads and a helmet."
Roth continued: "And don't ride a motorcycle! It's this Catch-22, because if you want to get around the cars that are stuck, you have to be on a motorcycle — but your arms are exposed, and you always get bitten in the arm!"
"You should not take your shirt off and run upstairs ... because that's what all women do, and it doesn't seem to ever work out for them," grinned Christine Lakin, star of the upcoming thriller "Red Canyon." "Wear a hardhat at all times; I carry one in my car just for the occasion."
"Always chop 'em up," advised Sam Raimi, insisting that it isn't enough to simply knock your zombie down with a head-shot. "You really want to go for the active body dismemberment when it comes to zombies because they can come back at you like a bad lunch. They'll keep repeating on you, unless you do your business.
"It's tough with zombies," he finished. "So be sure to do your due diligence."
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