Zombie Pranks Revisited

I tend to ask silly questions, questions people avoid asking because it either may prompt a negative reaction or actually provoke discussion. Now you’re wondering what the question is.

Zombie Experiment NYC - Boy (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Boy (Photo credit: AMC)

What will it take to horrify people?

In my Monday Mayhem series, I’ve always included something to stir an emotional response. Given I’m writing horror in the context of terror, I wonder many times what horrifies a person.

Alfred Hitchcock was a master of suspense. He once explained how a person simply sitting in a chair could turn into a scene filled with anxiety and breathless moments. Of course, it’s not very suspenseful when someone sits in a chair. It’s actually quite boring. But, as he once said, place a bomb under that chair, and all of a sudden the scene becomes interesting, suspenseful and replete with horror. Will the person remain calm? Will they run? Will they try to defuse the bomb? What will run through their mind during the last seconds of their life? How did it get there? Who put it there? Why did this person have to be the one sitting there?

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock

Once again, I ask, what will it take to horrify people?

I’m an avid YouTube watcher. I have several set-top devices that can stream video directly to my TV or display device. Most of my viewing, though, happens on my computer. I enjoy searching for fascinating videos I feel no one else has seen before.

The other day, I came across a genre of videos I first found funny but under later analysis found equally shocking. They are zombie pranks. You can search for it yourself and you will see a multitude of content specifically geared toward humor.

The very first video I saw Zombie Experiment NYC deals with zombies roaming the streets of New York City. If you’re thinking actors in zombie suits and makeup, you must’ve seen it before. The video quality and presentation is top-notch. I later found AMC produced it as their answer to Dish Network’s removal of its network.

Zombie Experiment NYC - Mailman (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Mailman (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC - Girl 1 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Girl 1 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC - Girl 2 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Girl 2 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC - Girl 3 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Girl 3 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC - Bench 1 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Bench 1 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC - Bench 2 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Bench 2 (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC - Walker (Photo credit: AMC)
Zombie Experiment NYC – Walker (Photo credit: AMC)

What I find utterly fascinating is the reaction of people on the streets to these zombies. Some are dressed in city worker clothes, much of their costumes authentic, dripping in blood, skin in pieces, yet some folk do not react at all to the zombie invasion. Seriously—I write about zombies, and if one of these actors approaches me with death in its eyes and hunger in its jaw, I’d run for the hills!

Another video I found is London Zombie Prank. It’s one guy in London dressed as one of the undead, blood and all, horrifying the British in their parks, streets and historical sites. Funny stuff. But, again, what if the guy was real? I saw folks laughing at the thing. One fellow ran after the zombie. No fear.

The last video, which I will not link to, had a guy in a zombie outfit crawling into the middle of dimly lit road from a cemetery. You read that right. Cars passed, yet no one hit him. He should be thankful.

I’m not sure what to make of the reactions of the people in the videos. Perhaps laughter is the body’s mechanism to cope with shock and disbelief. Perhaps standing around doing nothing in a horrifying situation is the mind’s way of shutting down to other gruesome acts. Not sure. Or is it we’ve become so desensitized that we recognize truth from fiction? Your guess is as good as mine.

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What will it take to horrify people? Have you ever played a prank on someone?

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14 thoughts on “Zombie Pranks Revisited

  1. I am glad it wasn’t taken seriously or the zombie actors might be in danger. If some did fear they might lash out instead of run. And if spectators had trouble separating fantasy from reality, I would be afraid of them

  2. Seen some of these, the make-up is amazing. I think seeing a zombie on the street is so outlandish that most people assume it must be some sort of prank, which is going to be a serious issue when the real zombie apocalypse kicks off!

  3. A person made up to look like a zombie will never be taken seriously by a crowd of strangers. For that there has to be an element of plausibility. However, an ‘actor’ with a rucksack and an AK47 will have everybody running for their lives because that is a real world image they’re much more familiar with from news events. (And the actor will probably be pleading with the police it’s all a prank seconds before they blow his head off!)

    • From one extreme to the other, but yes, real world pranks such as those would definitely exacerbate the need for retribution. I’m now thinking about those pranksters who walk on a plane and yell, “Bomb!” I wonder where they are now?

  4. I wonder if part of the reaction is that the pranks were done in busy metropolises. I can’t speak for London, but NYC has a lot of people running around in costumes and doing things for attention/money. You become desensitized to the unexpected and immediately shrug it off as a stunt. Now this is really just with the wandering part for a zombie prank. It wouldn’t surprise me to see a different reaction if the zombies jumped out at people or gave chase. I’ve seen a few videos where people are dressed up as monsters or blood-covered killers in dark areas. They terrify those who they prank. Probably triggering the ‘fight or flight’ instinct, which an unaggressive zombie wouldn’t do.

    • I once saw this video where a woman was on a train trapped all alone, lights flickering and engine stopping until the screams of costumed undead hit her ears from one side of the train tracks. Watching it is horrifying, but then thinking about it, would our reaction have been any different? I’m not sure I’d even survive that kind of prank!

  5. Not answering the question asked, but reading this – in particular the portion regarding the guy chasing the zombie in London – make me think about if that could be the start of a zombie apocalypse. Undead rises from the gave; foolish onlookers, assuming it to be a prank or publicity stunt, start laughing and messing with the “cosplayer”… then get bit. Wackiness ensues!

    So far as the question goes, though… I honestly couldn’t say. I think most folks in a “standard” Western culture (if there even is such a thing) are so numb to anything, quick to assume its just another stunt, prank, publicity junket or what have you, that I think actually achieving “horror for the masses” would take something on the scale of a full-blown terrorist attack. And even then, it fades far too quickly. Everyone has their own individual terrors or fears (and statistics say they’re going to be shared by at least a handful of folks around the world) but nothing that’s going to “break” everyone… unless it’s real.

    Just my thoughts, though.

    • I’ve thought of it in that very same context where the apocalypse would happen and because of desensitization, no one would believe it is actually happening. Wouldn’t it be interesting, though, witnessing it happen. I guess that’s where YouTube comes in!

      • YouTube could go one of two ways; either it’d spread the word quickly and get folks moving… or it would doom us all as we sat in the vortex watching video after video. XD

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