THEY’RE COMING. You can smell them from a mile away. An army of hunched figures stumbling over their own feet, with rotting, putrid flesh hanging off their dilapidated bones. They moan desperately for brains . . . more brains.
Call 2010 the Year of the Zombie. Since reclaiming the Guinness World Record for the largest zombie walk—4,233 people smeared in fake blood in Fremont over the Fourth of July weekend—Seattle’s love of the living dead has officially surpassed this once-a-year event. Time to introduce ZomBcon, the first-ever zombie-culture convention, taking place—when else?—over Halloween weekend. And who better to plan it than the guys behind the annual Red, White, and Dead Zombie Walk.
The convention “was about as close as you could get to a 360-degree movie or fan experience,” says artistic director and producer Ryan Reiter, who also organizes Fremont Outdoor Movies every summer. “People here love zombies so much. We wanted to find a way to celebrate that.”
But why? Why so many rabid fans of the undead? Filmmaker Kevin Hamedani—whose 2009 creature feature Zombies of Mass Destruction levels tiny waterfront town Port Gamble with a zombie virus—draws parallels between Seattle and England, the country that beat our previous record last year with 4,026 zombies at the Big Chill Festival. “They’re both gray and overcast,” says the UW grad, now living in Los Angeles. “Maybe there’s something to do with the gloom of the weather.”
Reiter agrees that our dreary climate is to blame: “In the wintertime, Seattle is the zombie capital because everyone is so damn pale.” Poor Mother Nature, always taking the blame for our eccentricities.
ZomBcon boasts an impressive lineup for its fledgling year, including special guests like director George A. Romero, maker of Night of the Living Dead and unofficial godfather of zombie movies; actor Bruce Campbell of Evil Dead fame; A Clockwork Orange star Malcolm McDowell (also appropriately creepy); and World War Z author Max Brooks, whose “oral history of the zombie war” has been adapted for the big screen and is set to star Brad Pitt. Throw in a “Prom Night of the Dead” launch party at Neumos and honest-to-god lectures on “zombie neurobiology” by a Harvard PhD and UC Berkeley neuroscientist, and you’ve got one weekend to die for.
Even if ZomBcon is a hit, will our zombie obsession live forever? Vampires have ruled the entertainment world lately, but Reiter says brain-munching beasts have always held their own. Consider the success of films reinterpreting—or ripping on—Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (Shaun of the Dead, anyone?). Not even Jane Austen is sacred; Natalie Portman will star in the film version of the novel Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, currently in preproduction. Looks like zombies refuse to be buried anytime soon.