Dawn Pennell’s love for horror goes back many years and might just start with horror movie legend and actor Robert Englund — but not for his iconic Freddy Krueger character
Pennell, coordinator of the upcoming London Zombie Walk, recalls meeting Englund at a fan expo in Toronto where she told him he was responsible for getting her into the horror genre. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the Nightmare on Elm Street films that drew Pennell in, but rather Englund’s time of the mid-80s cult TV show V that struck a cord for her.
From then on, the horror genre became her passion with a collection of more horror-related movies, books, T-shirts, and just general memorabilia then she ever would have imagined.
“Being scared can be fun. It is that feeling in the back of your head that you will be fine, it’s just a movie, but you still get caught up,” Pennell said. “I am one of those people saying don’t be the idiot and run back into the house. But on the other hand, I am thinking run back into the house because you know something is going to jump out at some point.”
People can watch romantic comedies, but in the back of their mind, Pennell said, they are fixating on why their relationship doesn’t look like the one up on the screen— or even why they don’t have one at all.
They don’t offer Pennell that escape from the everyday.
“Whereas you know, at least you think you know, that zombies aren’t real, vampires aren’t real, and what goes through your mind is how you might dispatch a zombie if you really found one,” Pennell said. “There are so many ways of doing so that it becomes fun; the scary becomes fun, and you love it. You get that little rush and then the movie is over.”
Several years ago, Pennell was looking to grow her horror-related passions, which brought her to a Facebook posting about volunteers being needed for the London Zombie Walk. She instantly signed up.
Slowly, people began dropping out of organizing the walk. In fact, it reached the point where Pennell organized the last couple of walks essentially by herself.
With organizing becoming more of chore than something to enjoy, she posted this year’s walk wouldn’t be happening.
It didn’t take long for the zombie horde to turn out to support her.
“Suddenly I had a bunch of people messaging me to help out. We have people getting involved, taking on different jobs; it is amazing how many people came out of the woodwork wanting to help,” Pennell said. “People just want to go out, have fun. They don’t want to be faced with having to support a charity or something. It is just a focus on the undead, having a walk, and having a good time.”
This year’s London Zombie Walk is set for downtown London on Saturday, Nov. 1, beginning at 5 p.m. An actual starting point and walk route is still being finalized.
The rules of the walk are simple, dress up in your favourite zombie attire (although you don’t have to be in costume to take part). Then, as Pennell puts it, “Have fun, be safe, no weapons, no drugs or alcohol, don’t interfere with traffic or the general public and if the police ask us to disperse, do so calmly.”
Pennell recommends people come out early if they are looking to check out the various costumes or if they want to be near the front of the “advancing zombie horde.”
As to why people have enjoyed taking part in the walk over years (and over 1,000 are currently invited through the London Zombie Walk Facebook page), Pennell speculates that zombies offer people “a lack of moral ambiguity.”
After all, everyone is being asked to be empathetic towards their neighbour these days, put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
When it comes to zombies, empathy doesn’t quite come into play.
“There are so many gruesome and fun ways to kill a zombie, and it isn’t a bad thing. It is something of a morale release valve,” Pennell said. “Morally, you can’t just say someone is wrong and go out and kill them. But in a zombie apocalypse, you are free to deal with the zombie however you can. I kind of like that.”
Taking part in the zombie walk also offers adults the opportunity to dress up and wander around for a day in anonymity. They can do their makeup, get together a costume, “grown and grunt,” completely get into character, and not worry about anything but enjoying themselves.
“The walks are a great way to forget about everything for an hour, hour-and-a-half, and just have some fun,” Pennell said. “It is fun for the whole family, kids, seniors, pets; we have had zombie dogs, but I don’t think any zombie cats yet. But you never know.”