The Walking Dead might be good at a lot of things, but chief among them are the awesome walker kills. People watch the show for many reasons, but let’s be honest, we all like a good old-fashioned zombie kill. Most of the time the show has great writing and even better direction. But when these aspects of The Walking Dead occasionally fall short, the zombie effects remain consistently brilliant. People may complain about certain aspects of the show but the zombie stuff is always praised for being creative, diverse and, most importantly, gruesome. Zombies get curb stomped, faces get smashed in, skin falls off bones, eyes pop out, brains fly everywhere; it’s awesome.
Most of these effects are down to special effects and make-up supervisor Greg Nicotero who, along with co-producing and occasionally directing episodes of the show, is a certified horror film veteran. He’s worked on numerous George A Romero films such as Day of the Dead and Monkey Shines as well as the Sam Raimi classics Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. He is the man responsible for the brilliant – and frequent – walker kills, and is the main reason The Walking Dead is as fun as it is. Read on and prepare for gore.
10. Glenn’s Curb Stomp (Season 3, Episode 9 – The Suicide King)
After his and Maggie’s ordeal at the hands of The Governor in the previous episode and after the group’s decision to let The Governor’s accomplice Merle into the gang, Glenn understandably has some pent up anger and frustration. After he is rescued by Rick and the gang he vents all this on one of the first walkers he sees. But Glenn doesn’t take the walker out with a traditional stab to the head – that’d be boring – he instead throws it on to the floor and curb stomps its face in to nothingness.
This whole sequence was practically created with fake heads and fake blood. Harking back to the horror films of old before the days of computer generated effects the whole scene is reminiscent of Nicotero’s previous work on films such as Day of the Dead. As well as looking cooler because of the practical effects the scene also feels much more real. This increases the audience’s reaction to it and heightens the sense of disgust. And it is disgusting – blood flies everywhere and chunks of head shoot out towards the camera. If the audience didn’t already know how Glenn felt then this head stomp shows his mood pretty clearly. Even seasoned zombie killers Rick and Maggie look a little shocked.
9. The Well Walker Bursts (Season 2, Episode 4 – Cherokee Rose)
This gross masterpiece featured in episode 4 of the second season and is already pretty well known for how horrid it is (you can even buy a figure of this guy). This walker is dwelling at the bottom of one of Hershel’s wells and needs to be removed because he’s contaminating the water supply. So Glenn, being the smallest and the unluckiest, goes down there to tie a rope around the big man. With much difficulty, Glenn manages to get the rope around the fat walker and the others start pulling it up. And then he bursts. Like a balloon, the well walker just pops and all his insides come flowing out. It’s revolting stuff and even those with the strongest stomachs might find themselves gagging at the sight of his entrails wriggling about on the ground.
By this point in the show shooting and stabbing walkers in the head was getting a bit stale. So the introduction of a massive bloated walker changed things up a bit and showed that killing zombies can be done creatively. Also, make-up specialist Brian Hillard portrayed this particular walker. It looks like he may have drawn the short straw when it comes to crew members portraying walkers.
8. The First (Season 1, Episode 1, ‘Days Gone Bye’)
This grisly kill was the first experience many people had of The Walking Dead. It’s a scene perhaps taking it’s cues from a similarly gruesome scene in the Dawn of The Dead remake. As he’s looking for gas, Rick comes across a perfectly innocent looking little girl. From a distance at least. As soon as we get close we see the cold dead eyes and the rotting pale skin that will come to typify the walkers on the show. Rick raises his gun and shoots the girl right in the head painting the floor with her brains.
OK, so now we’re in season 5 of The Walking Dead and this scene doesn’t seem too bad. This isn’t even the only time a kid has been killed. But back when this was the first few minutes of the show this scene was a shock to the viewers. This opening was completely unique, it wasn’t from comic book the show is based on. Audiences were really thrown into the deep end with the first episode of The Walking Dead and weren’t eased into this frightful world gently. But the situations for the characters only got worse and the gore just kept on coming…
7. The Walker Pits (Season 3, Episode 14, ‘Prey’)
These crispy walkers featured in season 3. Originally they were normal zombies who were kept in a pit outside of Woodbury ready to be used within the town’s sadistic zombie-fighting ring. That is until The Governor’s lackey Milton burnt them all, leaving them in the freaky well-done state seen in the picture. The creepiest part about the whole thing isn’t just that these walkers had been burnt alive but the fact that the walkers weren’t dead. It showed just what horrors the walkers could take and made them a little scarier for the viewers as the show continued.
Like the well walker in season 2 this sequence showed us all the unsettling possibilities that could be done with the undead. But unlike the well walker, which was a mix of practical effects and CGI, it was shown behind the scenes that these burnt zombies were all practical effects and are just unfortunate stunt people in make-up and prosthetics.
6. Gun In The Mouth Kill (Season 2, Episode 10, ’18 Miles Out’)
After the slightly slow pace in the previous few episodes of the season ’18 Miles Out’ was a breath of fresh air. It was the first major confrontation between Rick and Shane (R.I.P) and was also an excuse to have some glorious zombie moments. The highlight of the episode comes when Shane releases a load of trapped walkers during his fight with Rick. A couple of them come at Rick and, of course, he kills them. But in the process they trap him on the floor. A third one falls on top of the zombie pile and knocks Ricks gun to the side. He can’t shoot it and it’s getting closer. The only thing to do is for Rick to put his gun in the first zombie’s mouth and pull the trigger until it goes click, killing the zombie on top.
Interestingly this zombie was played by key make up artist Jake Garber, continuing The Walking Dead tradition of putting crew members in horrible make up for the sake of a neat little cameo. As well as being the type of awesome Rick moment the audience had been waiting for, something that was perhaps lacking in the first half of season 2, the scene is also brilliantly gory. As he empties his gun into the third zombies face the insides of the zombie’s head spill out over Rick. It’s pretty clear nobody is questioning the Ricktatorship anymore.
5. Sophia (Season 2, Episode 7, ‘Pretty Much Dead Already’)
Only in a list about The Walking Dead would you find two entries about killing children. It’s especially revolting as just before Sophia walks out you think that episode’s quota of walker kills has been reached. The other zombies in the barn have been violently put down and the good guys have won. Until you hear a noise and see a familiar blue t-shirt. Us viewers have a sickening realisation and out steps undead Sophia. Rick draws the short straw and is forced to shoot the little girl in the face. Combine this with Carol crying, and even the toughest group members like Shane and Daryl standing around in complete shock, and you get a very grim scene indeed.
This kill was especially important as it was one of the first indications that the group in its current state wouldn’t work. It proved Rick would have to do something about the increasingly unstable Shane. And talking of characters who are becoming increasingly unstable…
4. Rick’s Rampage (Season 3, Episode 5, ‘Say The Word’)
Of all the walker kills in the show this moment in the season 3 episode ‘Say The Word’ is especially justified. This is the moment Rick lost it. Executive producer David Alpert said the aim of this scene was to show Rick’s way of reacting to the events of the previous episode. After losing his wife during the birth of his daughter minutes earlier Rick is not a happy man. Nor a completely sane one. After hearing the news of his late spouse Rick picks up an axe and goes to get some revenge on the zombie hordes. The best part of the sequence is the long take which features Rick on his prison rampage as he splits open skulls and slices open faces, all achieved through a cleverly edited mix of practical and computer generated effects. The scene is extremely satisfying to the audience, and we’re sympathising with Rick all the way.
It’s a great scene and it really drives home the fact that Rick’s mind has taken a walk off the map. While Rick in season 5 is a little more sane, the effects of this sequence are still being felt now with Rick only recently coming to terms with what needs to be done in this world to survive.
3. The Governor In The Pit (Season 4, Episode 6, ‘Live Bait’)
By this point in the show The Governor wasn’t winning any fans. He’d already slaughtered nearly all his people from Woodbury and then was abandoned by the couple of people who he hadn’t killed. After wandering around for a few weeks he came across a family surviving in an apartment. Giving him a new lease of life they set off together across Georgia. After getting stranded they set off on foot being chased by walkers. Carrying the young girl, Meghan, from the apartment he slips and falls into a pit full of walkers. (Little bit of trivia, the pit was actually built completely in a sound stage. Clever editing between scenes in the pit and scenes out of the pit disguise this).
The fact that he’s got no weapons won’t stop the ever resourceful Governor. He rips the throat out of one of the walkers which, behind the scenes, Greg Nicotero and his effects team achieved this through a combination of fake blood and raw bacon. The governor then punches another one to death and using a bone from another walker, rips the top of the head off of the final one. It’s a gruesome effect and will have most audience members cowering behind their fingers.
It also proves The Governor is a foe not to be messed with. This means that when Rick and The Governor finally meet again face to face we really worry about what’s about to go down between them. But mostly, we just worry about Rick fighting a man who took out 3 walkers single handedly and without any weapons.
2. Walker Head Smash (Season 3, Episode 10 ‘Home’)
Fan favourite character Daryl has a lot of cool and gross walker killing moments throughout the show. His coolest kill though, comes during this scene in the season 3 episode ‘Home’. After he and his big brother Merle split from the group they come across a stranded family on a bridge surrounded by walkers. Merle is reluctant to help but Daryl runs in and starts taking down walkers. The best kill of the scene, and the second most gruesome kill in the show’s history, is when Daryl slams a car boot shut on a walker’s head. The head explodes in a flurry of bloody brain chunks with the camera lingering on the mess just long enough for the audience to be suitably disgusted.
This is a great example of how The Walking Dead does practical zombie effects really well. This grisly kill is reminiscent of classic, blood-soaked horror films such as Braindead, and prove that these over the top effects never really go out of style.
1. Fire Truck Kill (Season 5, Episode 5, ‘Self-Help)
This scene is the most recent on this list but it also happens to be the most revolting of the entire series. After their truck is sabotaged on the way to Washington, Glenn, Maggie, Abraham, Eugene and Rosita are forced to look for alternate travel. They come across a fire truck that looks to be in acceptable condition and try to get it started. Unfortunately, as these things tend to go on The Walking Dead, they alert a horde of walkers hiding in the fire station. They make a good go of taken them out but are soon overwhelmed and the end is looking nigh. But out of nowhere comes Eugene and his famous mullet firing a high powered stream of water at the zombies from on top of the fire truck, saving the day.
This scene is especially great as it’s never been seen before. By this point in season 5 people may have been thinking that the show has exhausted all the zombie killing options available but upon seeing this they will be quickly silenced. The scene is also the most repulsive way of killing walkers seen on the show. Skin and flesh is blasted off of bone and the shuffling corpses of the dead are practically liquidated into puddles of gloop on the floor. The effect was achieved by equipping the stunt people with fake limbs that would be blasted off when the water hit them. The stunt actors were also given fake latex faces to allow them to take a direct hit of water to the face. And the water was as powerful as it looked, with make up artist Jake Garber saying getting hit with the water was like getting hit with a football. If the next half of season 5 can be as gruesome and grisly as this when it returns this week then it should be very good indeed. Do you agree with these picks? What are your favourite walker kills on The Walking Dead?