Zombie Filmmaking – Got Gore?

One of the key features in any good zombie film is the gore.  Sanj here once again – i.e.  the zombie in the propeller beanie.

When I think back on Night of the Living Dead, I always fondly remember the sequence where a guy and girl leave the house to try to get to a truck that ends up exploding leaving the zombies with a nice barbecue.  And don’t even get me started on Dawn of the Dead (the original).  There are so many scenes of over the top gore in that one, it’s hard to pick favorites, but for me the ones that stick out are the zombie having the top of his head taken off by a helicopter rotor, or the biker being ripped apart and consumed by the zombies towards the end of the film.

It was with jubilant thoughts such as these that John and I dove into zombie filmmaking and started learning how to do blood and guts with no budget.  One of the more interesting things we came across was the use of edible vs. in-edible blood.  While stage blood can be purchase in gallon sized jugs and looks great spattered on clothes and dripping down your face, it just doesn’t seem like the kind of thing you want to go putting in your mouth.

The blood we use for effects where we are going to eat body parts is made of:

  • 3 parts corn syrup
  • 1 part water
  • red food coloring
  • chocolate sauce to taste (it also darkens up the liquid)

The final result looks – well – disturbing…

More blood with those guts?

When we made First Aid for Zombies, we decided we wanted to take a guy’s leg off.  This is much easier to say than do, particularly if you don’t want to hurt the guy.  Our friend, Jim, volunteered for the job of zombie lunch.

The day of the shoot, we had some ideas about how we were going to take his leg off, but we weren’t sure if they would work.  For an earlier shot, we showed him with a broken leg, which we shot by having him wear a pair of sweat pants and then cut one of the legs out so he could fold his real leg back out of view from the camera and then stuffing the bottom of his visible “leg” and bending it at an awkward angle.

Jim's "broken" leg

We applied the same technique when we took his leg off, but dressed the top of his leg and the fake leg with lots of blood and meat jello.  Meat Jello is a particularly noxious looking combination of Jello, food coloring and evaporated milk, which looks absolutely disgusting, and tastes like fruit punch with evaporated milk in it – I’ll let you decide how appetizing it really is;  however, because we care about our zombies,  it is one-hundred percent edible.


When we shot the scene, John and I didn’t pull the leg far enough away from the stump because I think we were too concerned with it falling apart on us – but in hindsight we would have been just fine.

Live and learn.

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