Every genre has a beginning. Edgar Allan Poe is attributed with the first detective story. Bram Stoker translated vampire lore into literature. H.G. Wells sparked interest in the possibilities of time travel. When it comes to the zombie film as we now know it, George A. Romero — who turns 73 today — fathered the fundamental vocabulary of the genre with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead. His contributions to how the walking dead move, kill, and die, have helped propel the zombie to its current wave of widespread popularity.
Not just content to ignite the genre, Romero made five more zombie movies in his career; each film representing a vision of the zombie apocalypse that is uniquely his, and adds up to create an insular Romero universe. In honor of his birthday, we recently marathoned all his living dead movies and noticed consistencies that reveal what would help you survive if you found yourself in a Romero film. Should that ever happen, we’ve gathered together ten tips for you here to ensure you have a long and healthy life in the zombie wasteland.
1. Find a Big Vehicle
Navigating an apocalyptic landscape full of the walking dead can be hazardous to the state of your attached flesh. Your best bet is to get yourself into an abandoned truck, RV, armored car, or a custom built missile-firing faux-tank called “Dead Reckoning.” They’re a safe way to travel and a handy weapon for killing zombies while en route. Helicopters are a potential alternative, just be warned they are prone to always being out of fuel, and leave you more vulnerable on the ground.
2. Don’t Go Near Anyone Resembling a Subtext If you notice that your survival companions somehow seem representative of some bigger social message – say, the hubris of science or the state of race relations in 1960s America – run like hell. Chances are that some unseen force is going to send a wave of zombies their way, and you’re probably not going to survive.
3. Wear a Helmet We know the chances of you wearing a full body pillow suit, armor, or football gear are slim, but do yourself a favor and at least wear a helmet. Zombies are very prone to biting cheeks and necks and digging their fingers into your eyes so as to then rip your face apart. A helmet can make that harder for them and buy you crucial seconds to get away. We’d also highly recommend finding bike-sized rear-view mirrors and attaching them to the helmet to counter zombies’ annoying habit of popping up out of nowhere.
4. Don’t Use Racial Epithets or Be Misogynistic This is actually a general rule you should follow to be a worthwhile human being — regardless if millions of zombies are trying to gnaw on your brains or not. But especially in that scenario you should be careful to not say offensive things to minorities or women. If you do, you’re almost guaranteed to be disemboweled.
5. If You’re Shooting An Automatic Weapon, Aim High We’re not all natural born marksmen, and automatic weapons can have a good deal of recoil. Still. Yes, the living dead are bearing down upon you, but that’s no excuse for the fact that all of your bullets are hitting their stomachs. It means you need to adjust and aim a little higher. It’s especially no excuse if you’re trained military personnel, or curiously don’t have the same problem with pistols.
6. Try to Find Some Joy Amidst the Apocalypse Out of all the survival tips here, this one may prove to be most difficult to see through. When people – including loved ones – are dying around you and the world has descended into apocalyptic chaos, it can be hard to even think of enjoying oneself. If you don’t find a way to center yourself though, you risk going stir crazy or losing the will to go on. So go ahead and find a mansion to take a hot bath in or make yourself a romantic meal for two in an abandoned restaurant. It could help you survive just as much as a gun can.
7. Have Basic Weapons As Back Up In a zombie apocalypse, guns are incredibly useful for dispatching zombies quickly and from a distance. The longer you live in a walking dead infested world though, the more your bullets are going to run out (especially if you’re not following rule #5) and the harder they’ll be to find. It’s always good to scrutinize and pick what situation requires a bullet and what doesn’t. For the latter, make you sure you always have a hammer, knife, or scythe on hand.
8. Remember That Zombies Can Be Useful It seems counter-intuitive to think those shambling corpses trying to kill you can be taught to behave otherwise. When no immediate solutions to the apocalypse are available though, it’s important to keep an open mind. Zombies aren’t dumb. Teaching them to eat animal meat or domesticating them may be a long-term process, but it can help ensure a gradually better future. Best case scenario: you can have a whole classical music loving army of the living dead who think of you as their parent and will use guns to defend you.
9. Fortify Yourself in An Enclosed But Open Space You might think a small, quaint little country home is the place to board up and hide yourself away in. The problem is that a home is easily and quickly surrounded. A shopping mall or airport isn’t. They provide lots of exits, and if zombies are inside, there are big enough hallways and paths to maneuver around them.
10. Never Underestimate a Hare Krishna Zombie They look harmless with their tambourines and their monk like appearance, but don’t trust them for a second. They’ll figure out where you’re hiding and hunt you down. If you see one your best move is to just shoot them in the head right away.