Getting ready for The Walking Dead

The third season of The Walking Dead, which is set to launch on October 14, has to be one of the most anticipated series returns of the Fall season.

Amazingly, the popularity of zombies still hasn’t slowed down, and the season debut of Walking Dead should bring even more life to the undead.

The Huffington Post recently weighed in with the first major review of the third season, and as Maureen Ryan notes, “The very first episode of The Walking Dead was simple without being simplistic.”

While Ryan felt the show “had ground to a halt a third of the way into the show’s second season,” she’s now glad “the good version of The Walking Dead is back.” Ryan also feels season three “could be the best yet.”

This is definitely good news considering many feel the whole zombie thing would have flamed out by now. When George Romero reinvented the zombie with Night of the Living Dead, he proved they were more than just rotting sleepwalkers. As Greg Nicotero, Walking Dead’s make-up master once told me, The Walking Dead has also done wonders for them as well.

“I think The Walking Dead has done a tremendous amount for elevating the genre because you have three distinct ingredients: Great story, great actors, and a great monster. Because of the pedigree with which it was created, with Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd, their respect for the material really had a lot of people turning their heads and saying, ‘Hey, look at that. It’s not just a zombie show.’ It respects the convictions of the horror genre, but it’s also more of a social commentary.”

As Nicotero recently told the L.A. Times, he holds an impromptu “zombie school” on the show, to make sure the extras move and behave like the undead should. Unlike Romero’s zombies, who were in costume so you could tell what they were when they were living (the nun zombie, the Hare Krishna zombie, etc.), on Walking Dead it’s a lot harder to discern who these people were before they died.

“When an audience stats identifying them as caricatures they become less threatening,” the make-up master continued. “What we have successfully been able to do is take these characters and make them simultaneously scary, creepy, sympathetic, threatening so that you get a sense that these people were actual people.”

Right on time with the third season debut, there’s also going to be Walking Dead attraction for Universal Studio’s Halloween Horror Nights. Like any zombie film, there’s a group of make-up artists who’ll be working on the attraction, creating monsters on what creative director John Murdy calls “an assembly line of gore.” And indeed, there will be 125 actors playing zombies for Horror Nights, who will be prepared by 25 make-up artists. There will also be an attraction at Halloween Horror Nights based on the game Silent Hill.