For so long, fans of AMC’s The Walking Dead have seen rotting and partial undead walkers that it has just become the norm. Each season of the hit zombie show brings more grizzled versions of walkers to the screen as time takes a toll on them. But how does that differ from its companion series, Fear The Walking Dead?
In the first two episodes of Fear The Walking Dead, fans get to see the fresh outbreak of zombies. These undead creatures are new and easily confused with the living — especially since the characters in this franchise do not actually know about zombies. They have no word to describe them, nor any Romero movies to teach them how to kill them. As Robert Kirkman has said many times over the years, there is no concept for zombies in The Walking Dead.
“One of the things about this world is that people don’t know how to shoot people in the head at first, and they’re not familiar with zombies. This isn’t a world the [George] Romero movies exist, for instance … because we don’t want to portray it that way, we felt like having them be saying ‘zombie’ all the time would harken back to all of the zombie films which we, in the real world, know about… These people don’t understand the situation. They’ve never seen this in pop culture, this is a completely new thing for them.”
It certainly is an interesting way to keep the story fresh rather than having the characters referring to books and movies to explain the undead. But how does that affect how the zombies are portrayed in the two shows? Traditionally, The Walking Dead has been shot on 16mm film. As special effects expert, Greg Nicotero explained recently to Tech Radar, this gives The Walking Dead a classic horror movie feel. Robert Kirkman also wanted the two shows to have a different feel to each other, as he explained to Fangoria. As a result of this, Fear The Walking Dead is shot digitally.
But because of this film swap-over, the old techniques used to get specific walker effects had to be changed to accommodate the switch from 16mm film to digital. In particular, there is a lot less room for error with digital shooting. Nicotero explains to Tech Radar the complications faced.
“The blend edges on the pores, the colouration of the make-up and prosthetics, all of that has to be much more precise. Even going from the pore texture on our performers compared to the pore texture on the prosthetics… There have been times when we’ve had to be cautious. When you’re filming a close up of an infected person, they have contact lenses in and you have to be careful you’re not seeing where they end. So we did a lot of different make up tests during our prep and photographed them. We looked at the colors of the blood and the way the make-up reacts to different lighting scenarios.”
Nicotero explains that the special effects of the walkers in Fear The Walking Dead are still being perfected, but thanks to the switch in filming medium, not only does Fear The Walking Dead have a crisper look and feel to it, filming this way will cut down on filming costs dramatically as 16mm film has to be converted to digital before CGI can be added.
While Fear The Walking Dead still has a while to catch up to the decomposition of the walkers in The Walking Dead, many find the creep factor of not quite being sure if it is a living human or an undead walker, more appealing than the outright gore of the ones in The Walking Dead. After all, this is how the outbreak spread so quickly, with people not knowing of the undead status and falling for the fact the undead looked just like an injured person and not some horribly disfigured, decomposing creature. Nicotero points out that it is also easier for the zombies in Fear The Walking Dead to tell part of the story, citing the first zombie to appear in Fear The Walking Dead, Gloria (played by Lexi Johnson).
“She was clearly attacking someone who’d stabbed her but they’d died in the attack so the knife stayed embedded in her chest. It’s all those little nuances that help tell the story. It’s something that’s very important to me in any character or make up effect that I design – it has to tell part of the story. The nice thing is in episode two and episode three we have similar instances where the effect is not just done for the sake of a cool gag or gore. But it’s done in service of the story.”
Fear The Walking Dead returns to AMC on September 13. The Walking Dead will premiere season 6 on October 11, 2015.
What do you think of the zombies in Fear The Walking Dead, creepier than in The Walking Dead or not? Let us know by commenting below!
[Image credits: AMC / Justin Lubin]