Night of the Living Dead: “Zombie” Design


The design to the undead characters in NOTLD demo will be similar to Tom Savini’s approach to the remake of the original movie in 1990. Unlike the zombies of Day of the Dead (which were extremely grotesque, having been dead for a much longer period of time), or Dawn of the Dead (very blue in color, with extremely red wounds): the look should be distinct, yet more subtle mainly through a more realistic approach.


“When I read the script the word “zombie” was only in it once. I think George was on to something there. These aren’t zombies; they’re dead persons. I figure they’ve been dead for about three days at the most, and I want them to look that way”. –Tom Savini


“You should believe that they are your dead next door neighbors, not necessarily monsters from hell, because that’s what they are” -Everett Burrell (Make-up artist)


“One of the things we did was play up the nose and ears because when you die your body wastes away, you’re emaciated, and your face shrinks in. But your ears and nose stay the same because they’re made out of cartilage. It’s one of the details I don’t think other makeup people have picked up on” –John Vulich (Make-up artist)


In many games, “zombies” are exaggeratedly grey or blue. Many look as though they have been dead for a good deal of time (Resident Evil zombies are a perfect example of exaggerated rotten features). NOTLD will have a “zombie” design that will differentiate itself from Resident-Evil type undead in subtle manners. It will be important to keep the feel of the zombies in the original, which were horrifying due mainly to the fact that they seemed so human. The two main subsets of zombies are the recently deceased and risen, and the victims who have recently risen.


The recently deceased “zombie”:

The recently dead have the characteristics most similar to the zombies of the original movie. When a human dies, the flesh draws into the face, leaving some defining features of the bones more pronounced. (The cheekbones, jawbones, ribs and shoulders). The skin, contrary to popular belief, does not turn grey immediately but a yellowish color. Blood pools in key areas creating patches of darker, purplish areas that look much like bruises. A semi-opaque film covers the eyes, making them appear “whitish”.  


Examples of the risen dead



Flesh coloration swatches and eyes


The victim “zombie”:

The victims of the living dead lend themselves more to gore. However, we do not want to lean too heavily in the direction of “blood and guts” to make the zombies horrific. Gore should be varied and realistic to an attack. Why did this person die? Were they shot by a fellow human? Were they attacked and partially consumed by a zombie? Does it look as though they were attacked by a human trying to defend themselves? Small elements can make the design varied and interesting, without becoming gratuitous. They have many of the same physical characteristics as the recently dead, but died in a more violent way, and should show it.


“Victim” zombies