In May of 2009, the Long Beach Cinematheque hosted the first Long Beach Zombie Walk to kick-off a midnight screening of "Night of the Living Dead." It was so popular that the group did it again in October. "We decided to make an annual event of it," said Logan Crow, executive director of Long Beach Cinematheque. Crow says he has a special affinity for zombies.
"What I love specifically about the zombie genre of horror cinema is that zombie films can be side-splittingly hilarious, or absolutely horrifying. The genre works at so many levels." Today, pop culture is exploding with zombie-themed commercials, films and shows. "They're everywhere!" Crow says. "And it can be any one, at any moment - that's such a scary thought to me. At one moment you're running from a horde with your grandmother, she gets bitten, and you've got five seconds to decide if you have the stomach to...well, do what you have to do. It's a truly terrifying genre, when you think about it."
The Long Beach Zombie Walk proceeds go to the Long Beach Cinematheque and help the organization program films for the rest of the year. "We just launched Long Beach's very first cemetery screening last week; we've screened five free outdoor movies around Long Beach in the last two months alone. Zombie Walk ticket sales helped us do that," Crow said.
Whereas the event used to be just that -- a zombie walk -- it has morphed into a full-on festival, featuring music, film, and more. "From the get-go, I was dead-set against the idea of charging people simply to walk," Crow said. Now that the event costs $15, it's a full-day, ten-hour, two-stage festival.
Crow says, "The idea is basically: OK, so the world has been taken over by zombies - what would a festival programmed by zombies look like? So the bands fit that theme, the films and the decor fit that theme - it's an undead festival!"
Next: How to be the best zombie you can be in four easy steps!
1. Do your research
Watch everything from George Romero movies to "Shaun of the Dead" for ideas. Play "Plants vs. Zombies." Know that the 1929 novel The Magic Island by William Seabrook was the first tiem the term "zombi" was introduced into U.S. speech (Time magazine said it.) Perpetuate the myth of the undead. Crow says shows such as "The Walking Dead" have helped the event tremendously. "It is such a phenomenon. We have a ton of zombie-loving followers on Twitter, and 90 percent of the time they're talking about 'The Walking Dead.'"
2. Go all-out with those costumes
Crow says that since the visuals of the genre provide such exciting possibilities with costumes and make-up, people go all-out. People walk attend the event with missing limbs and exposed jaws. (Professional make up artists will be on hand at the event to do makeup if you can't do it yourself.) "One guy last year had a head that would sort of pop out and roll down his torso. I don't think that guy could make it two steps all night before someone else shooting a picture or video of him. Amazing stuff," Crow said.
3. Go for brains, stay for the Long Beach community
The Long Beach Zombie Walk Festival is a one-day event focused on community and the arts. The price speaks to that -- $15 is a fraction of what other Halloween-themed events would charge, and children 12 and under are free of charge. It's a community fundraiser, with a focus on incredible and thematically-relevant bands -such as this year's headliners, Metalachi and The Dickies.
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4. Ignore the guy on the megaphone
Crow says, "Every year since the third walk we get this guy and his megaphone, screeching about hellfire and impending damnation. And my thought continues to be, US!? OUR event!? Dude, you've got a lot of energy, and somewhere, I am sure you believe your heart is in the right place - but this event is far from the sort of "Den of Sinners" you'd think those people would take the time to protest. It's families, it's the young and the young-at-heart, it's people in fun makeup having fun, listening to music, watching movies, joining their neighbors in a night of community and revelry. But he keeps going - and people start dancing around him and interacting with him, but he keeps going. His tenacity is actually quite impressive."
Long Beach Zombie Walk, 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 26, zombiewalklb.com, Downtown Long Beach, $15,