Saturday February 2, 2013
Ghoulish fun at Malaysia’s first zombie run
By QISHIN TARIQ
How a group of like-minded (braaiiinns!) friends and collaborators steered Malaysia’s first-ever zombie run from dream to reality.
THE zombie apocalypse, which has been making the rounds from film to television shows, and even to pub crawls, has finally reached our shores in the form of a Zombie Run. Described as a cross between an obstacle course and treasure hunt, the twist is of course the inclusion of zombies.
The not-yet-rotting brains behind the idea, M. Charanpirabu, recalls that the idea had been festering among him and some friends for ages, but they finally decided to make it happen last November.
He says it started simply enough, with a Facebook page and a vague idea, and quickly gathered steam as more friends and strangers pitched in with help and ideas.
“When we put up a request for volunteer zombies, the 150 slots available got gobbled up in less than 30 hours! A lot of friends also offered to help organise,” enthuses Charanpirabu, who goes by the nickname Cha Cha.
“Though it’s called the zombie run, it’s not really a marathon. The participants’ goal is to find tokens which score them better prizes. The running comes in when the zombies start chasing you as you’re treasure hunting in a creepy jungle,” says Cha Cha, laughingly adding that the game was basically kejar-kejar (cops and robbers) with zombies instead of cops.
Volunteer Honey Ahmad adds that Malaysians prefer treasure hunts to all-out marathons, though her theory is that they just really hate running or getting sweaty.
Zombie Run Malaysia 2013 is set to take place in a “creepy jungle” at Canyon Paintball Park, Bandar Utama, today (Saturday).
Cha Cha warns that though the game takes place in a paintball park, it is strictly prohibited for participants to shoot the zombies or for either side to commit an act of violence, the penalty being eviction from the game.
He says though all 1,000 spaces for participants had sold out, those looking for a horror show could still come and watch.
From fantasy to nightmare
One of the people with a hand in the horror is makeup artist Felicia Chew, who had initially joined as a zombie, but let the organisers pick her brains when she heard they needed help in the makeup department.
“I signed up to be a Japanese maid zombie. It’s supposed to be a guy’s fantasy, but instead we’re twisting it into a nightmare,” says Chew, with a little too much glee.
The KL native says she had just returned from Norway for Chinese New Year when a friend told her about the Zombie Run.
“You don’t get many opportunities to do creative makeup in Malaysia. It’s mostly for weddings and TV dramas. The run gives me (the) chance to try some really fun creative techniques, teach others to apply makeup and let them come up with their ideas, which in turn inspire me too,” she explains.
Chew says she’s fairly comfortable with gore makeup, having recently worked on the Norwegian film Anne og Alet, about two sisters who are convicted of poisoning a family to death in Norway back in 1780.
“In the movie, the sisters get burned repeatedly and eventually decapitated. You could say it was a bloody mess, though a really good experience,” says Chew, quickly adding that learning to do prosthetic makeup was a good experience for her.
Chew, who will be working with Honey and several other volunteers on the zombies’ makeup, said there were basically two kinds of it for the run – one for the active “chaser zombie” and the more elaborate “shambler zombie”.
“Because some zombies will be running and sweating a lot, we can’t use prosthetics on them because it’ll just melt or peel off. Instead we’ll focus on foundation, powder and bloodstains,” she shares.
A less active group of zombies in more extreme makeup would lie in wait to scare the living daylights out of participants.
They want to eat your ... tags
Cha Cha explains that while the zombies’ general objective is to scare players and disqualify them by removing a velcro “life-tag” from participants’ vests, they may do so in two ways.
“We have shambler zombies, that are like the traditional ones you see in most movies. Slow moving, nasty looking ones that scare people stiff. Then there are chaser zombies, like the ones from 28 Days Later. They’ll come at you running, and make sure you run too,” he says, adding that there will be a 70:30 ratio of shamblers to runners.
“We have to give the poor players a chance,” laughs Cha Cha, before dropping a sinister hint that there will be some secret “super zombies” to further reduce players’ chances of survival.
Chew lets the undead cat out of the bag when she ventures a guess that these secret ghouls are probably “parkour zombies”.
“Those guys are so hyperactive I could barely put their makeup on. I had to shout ‘Oi, duduk diam-diam’ (sit still) to get them to stay still during the makeup session,” she recalls.
Honey, who is the co-founder of events company Fried Chillies, admits that this is the first time she has been involved with an event of such magnitude, with 1,000 participants and hundreds of volunteers.
“The day of the run is going to be a logistical nightmare, getting an assembly line to prepare waves of nearly 100 zombies every two hours!” she exclaims.
Cha Cha agrees, saying that though the Zombie Run is based loosely on an American obstacle course called Run For Your Life, no one has done an event quite like theirs – and so, for all the organisers’ planning, they are essentially going to be winging it.
Pre-dawn of the dead
Though the first of five waves starts at 8am, volunteers need to arrive at 5am to get their makeup ready. Chew says the volunteers had four sessions to train them to apply most of the makeup themselves, while a makeup team would help them get blood in those hard-to-reach places, like the back of the head.
“Gore makeup is easy to do, the goal is just to look gross and nasty. It’s being beautiful that’s hard, which is why I have to help a few cross-dressing guys do their pondan makeup,” says Chew, giggling at the list of zombies which include a Sari Aunty, Miss World contestant and a pregnant zombie – all played by guys.
Honey found another challenge that came up was the high cost of makeup. Just 50ml of fake blood costs around RM40, while liquid latex costs RM80 for 100ml.
“The ingredients of the makeup was a jumble of scientific words to me, but one of the chefs I worked with recognised most of the ingredients as basic cooking materials,” she says.
Honey, who is a scriptwriter by profession, shares that due to watching one too many behind-the-scenes shows, she developed an interest in movie makeup, specifically in monster movies.
“Once I knew what the ingredients were, a whole new world of makeup possibilities opened up (when) I stepped into a bakery goods store,” she gloats.
Through trial and error that was literally blood, sweat and tears, they realised that oil-based colouring made the most realistic blood and was also less likely to run when mixed with sweat.
As they were using cooking ingredients, the blood also ended up having yummy flavours including maple and coffee.
“Zombies will be given a bottle of blood for in-the-field top-ups and because it’s edible, volunteers can even put it in their mouths to vomit blood at participants,” says a not-so-sweet Honey.
Bloody boot camp
Chew believes that overly detailed makeup isn’t as important as the shock factor.
“It’s their actions that will scare people. Seeing a bloodied person running at you would freak anyone out too much to worry about how realistic details are,” she says.
Cha Cha says zombies were also put through “zombie school” which covered basic movement, acting and feeling the mood. As Bill Murray proved in Zombieland, with the right acting chops, you can even convince other zombies you fit in among the undead.
“Part of it is getting in the zone. It’s no good if the zombie chasing you starts sniggering. There’s also the right way to moan. Imagine singing classes for the undead,” says Cha Cha.
Chew, who attended zombie school, says the hardest thing to master was moving like she had broken bones.
“Most people who assume zombies just move really stiffly end up moving like penguins or grandmas!” laughs Chew.
Honey expressed surprise at how many girls joined both as volunteers and participants, saying that she figured zombies are more in the realm of gross “guy stuff”.
“With shows like The Walking Dead, which is basically a family drama set during a zombie apocalypse, more girls have turned to zombies (not literally) as their choice of undead,” she speculates.
Cha Cha is all too happy to see that the “lifestyle” of zombies is spreading like a proper outbreak, saying it bodes well for more zombie runs in the future.
“Maybe next year, we’ll even let participants killed by zombies become zombified, instead of just being removed from the field,” plots Cha Cha.
Either way, it doesn’t look like zombies are going to return to their final rest anytime soon.
Zombie Run Malaysia 2013 takes place between 8am and 5.30pm at Canyon Paintball Park, Bandar Utama, today. For those who didn’t manage to join, attendees are allowed to watch. For details, visit facebook.com/ZombieRunMalaysia.