Zombies on the Brain
Zombie Week brings the undead to Mizzou
ombies are coming to Mizzou.
No, not the caffeine-hungry students pulling all-nighters. We’re talking about the brain-eating, walking-corpse variety.
Mizzou’s first Zombie Week, sponsored by the Department of Student Activities, will take place Sept. 29 - Oct. 5.
Events include a 48-hour zombie movie challenge, a Humans v. Zombies mini game, a Centers for Disease Control-inspired zombie outbreak simulation and a day-long academic conference.
To close out the week, best-selling author Max Brooks will speak in Jesse Auditorium, followed by a screening of World War Z, the Brad Pitt blockbuster inspired by Brooks’ book World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War.
For those who crave brain stimulation, the conference — “Wanted: Brains!” — will take a more academic look at zombies.
“Faculty from romance languages, philosophy, biology, public health, English and a host of students and alumni will present on all things related to zombies from their disciplinary perspectives,” says LuAnne Roth, assistant teaching professor in the English department, who helped plan the conference. Roth studies zombies in folklore and teaches a film themes and genres course called “Zombies ‘R’ Us.”
“Believe it or not, there’s quite a bit of substance there,” Roth says. “Zombies have functioned as an allegory for slavery, capitalism, communism, pretty much any social ill you can think of. They rise up to meet whatever anxieties and fears our culture is experiencing at the time.”
Topics at the conference will include the evolution of zombies in film, the science of reanimation, zombies and viruses, gender in zombie films and zombie-apocalypse preparedness.
Zombies have experienced a recent surge in popularity, but the concept has been around for a long time.
“The legend of zombies has its roots in Haiti and the slavery experience,” Roth says.
Films helped shape the zombies we know today.
“People being eaten by zombies is a development that occurred in 1968 with George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead,” Roth says.
The 48-Hour Zombie Movie Challenge will make it easy for amateur movie makers to tap into their inner Romero.
“We've tried to make this a very accessible movie competition so we can have more participation,” says Chip Gubera, IT instructor and filmmaker who served on the Zombie Week planning committee. “We’re definitely encouraging people to shoot this stuff using their cellphones.”
The competition rules are simple. Each team will randomly draw one of 10 themes (such as love, hope or triumph) and one of 10 items (such as a computer, a pencil or flip-flops). Teams must incorporate these two things into their movies.
“They go out and they write, they shoot, they cut a two-minute film, and there has to be some sort of zombie in it,” Gubera says.
Participants can see their flicks on the big screen at the Zombie Week Film Fest on Oct. 2., where they can walk the red carpet and receive awards for their short films.
Gubera might be the perfect person to help organize this competition. In 2004, he wrote and directed a feature zombie film called Song of the Dead.
“Man, when I was a kid, I loved zombie films or films in that vein,” Gubera says. “The whole reason I became a filmmaker in the first place was because of Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead. It was completely inspiring to me.”
Gubera also helped direct the Zombie Week Web series, promo videos released episodically leading up to the week.
The biggest surprise of Zombie Week is the diverse group of people it brought together as the planning committee, says Joey Greenstein, director of student activities and a senior marketing major.
In the initial planning stages, the Department of Student Activities wasn't sure there would be much interest from campus.
“But we started contacting people and found out there are a lot of faculty and staff who are interested in this,” Greenstein says.
“I was somewhat surprised to learn people in other fields like biology or public health regularly get into these discussions about whether it’s possible, how it’s possible and how disease is spread,” Roth says. “It’s also a huge sub-area in the field of philosophy.”
“It’s our cultural fascination.”