Zombie and a Half

Introduction: Zombie and a Half

About: A student of Biological and Chemical sciences in UCC, Ireland. I'm an obsessive geek with a lot of interest in prop making and indie film making, not that I'm experienced or good at it..... yet! :D

First thing's first, although there are original elements here, this instructable is inspired greatly by ModMischief's incredible 5 star instructable Kidnapped Mermaid Costume and if you like this instructable at all then you should love her one! In fact if you're thinking about doing this project my advise would be to read through ModMischief's instructions first as they'll likely improve the general concept for you.

The costume is centered around the incredible illusion from the kidnapped mermaid costume but with a few subtle differences..... LIKE THE ZOMBIES!!!

Given some effort and time, this can be a really rewarding project and a great look for Halloween.

I'd really appreciate if you could vote for me in the contests I'm entering this into. For now I plan on entering it into the epic halloween costume and mad science fair contests.

Step 1: Materials/Tools

In no particular order:

  • Duct tape, and lots of it!
  • old news paper, again, you'll need quite a bit!
  • long coat
  • old back pack
  • bamboo canes
  • an old shirt
  • 2 matching t-shirts
  • gloves, big thick rubber gloves work well
  • jeans
  • fabric
  • liquid latex
  • jello
  • tights
  • sewing material
  • paint
  • face paint
  • steel wire
  • fake blood
  • balaclava or trapper hat

Those are the main bits, you could probably add, replace or completely remove items from this list, experiment and find what's right for you!

Step 2: Duct Tape Torso Double!

Say that five times fast!
This step requires two people (I tried it on my own, trust me, it can't be done!). The largest and most muscular guy you can find would probably be best...... I settled for myself. The guy has to wear the shirt while the other person wraps duct tape over his entire torso. I found it easiest to start from the bottom and working your way up. You can use as many layers of duct tape as you want but it is fairly important to be consistant; don't do three layers on one section and only one on another. I used one layer.

Try not to miss a spot and although it's important to wrap up tightly, keep checking to make sure your model can still breathe and feel all of his extremeties! Circulation can potentially be cut off!

Once you're happy that the shirt is wrapped securely you'll need to carefully cut your friend out of the shirt. cut along the spine slowly and obviously don't nick your friend. Cut along the sleeves as well, take extra special care near the elbows where the skin is more delicate.

Pull the shirt off and duct tape along the cuts you just made, giving you a slightly deflated copy of your model.

Step 3: Stuffing the Double

Balled up newspapers work well for this but if you have old fabrics or pillows they could work too. when it comes to stuffing material just remember, lighter is better. Other than that, just experiment.

The duct tape should keep it in shape so you can put in as much stuffing as you want and it will only give it more shape. At the elbow area don't over stuff as you want a certain flexibility here.

For a more realistic shape in the arms I suggest cutting for sections of bamboo canes, two that are roughly the length of your forearm and two that are the length of your arm (by which I mean the distance between the shoulder and elbow). You can insert these into their respective positions while stuffing.

For stuffing the gloves you will need toilet paper as this can be torn up into small enough pieces. If you really want you can give the hand a wire skeleton by placing a section of wire in each finger of the glove while stuffing. This should allow for a more realistic shape and an actual gripping force in the hands but it is not necessary.

When ready, sew the gloves to the forearms to complete this step.

Step 4: Attaching the Backpack

This will take lots of testing before you commit to exactly where you sew the backpack. I found that the best way to go about this was to place the stuffed double into the bag and adding extra stuffing to the end of the bag and adjusting the straps untill it looks about right. Keep checking in a mirror and if in doubt then dress up the double to get a clearer idea.

When you're happy you'll need to get a strong needle and thread. It is difficult to sew through the duct tape AND IS POTENTIALLY DANGEROUSso a thimble is necessary. As with all tools/skills etc, if you're unsure about anything then ask someone more experienced to help you. For each stitch carefully feed the needle through the bag, then push it through the duct tape body. Once the needle is halfway through, very carefully reach in through the neck hole and very, VERY slowly locate the needle amongst all the stuffing inside the body. After this it's just a question of feeding it back through the body, then the bag and then tightening the thread.

You'll need to stitch a line at the top of the bag and I advise that you stitch along the bottom of the bag as well so that the double doesn't slip further into the bag than you want it to. It doesn't have to be neat, just relatively strong. If you feel the need then you can reinforce this by taping the bag to the duct tape double.

Step 5: The Head

There are options here, obviously you could by a manequin head...... or torso if you want! But in my humble opinion it would be a waste. A styrofoam head is cheaper, lighter and just plain better. You could also create your own one using this instructable which in retrospect I wish I had.

What I did was ball up sections of newspaper and duct tape them together. If you follow me with this then remember to go slowly and don't get carried away. Keep checking for reference for shape and size against either your own head or someone elses..... just tell them first.... otherwise they might get wierded out. Don't forget to add a little neck as well.

I also attached a plastic face mask from a craft store.

Either during the process of making the head or at the end you will need to attach two bamboo canes approximately three feet long.

Details go a long way, you could paint the mask, add a coat or two of liquid latex and fake blood to make it realistic and if you want, a little gory. Something along the lines of a balaclava or a trapper hat is necessary to cover the duct tape skull. If you can get to an army surplus store then why not see if you can get an old gas mask! I got a small one for €5!

Step 6: "And a Half"

To start the half corpse you'll need to begin with the semi-visible skeleton. This consists of some ribs and part of a sternum. For the ribs you'll need to get some sections of steel wire. the length of each piece should be slightly different and should correspond roughly with the size of your chest (wrap the wire around your chest for a good idea). I used two pieces to create four ribs (two pairs) one was a full circle with a rough sternum shape made from wire and the other was a C-shape to form the bottom two ribs. Make sure to leave an extra few inches so that you can bend the ends back and wrap them in tape for safety.

at this stage you could paper machè the wire to form the bones but what I did was wrap a sheet of newspaper about the wire and duct taped over it. In order to paint duct tape you have to cover it in masking tape. Two layers of white paint should do and I think dry brushing on an extra coat of light yellow will give the bones an "aged" or rotten look. When completely dry you can add copious amounts of gel blood!

There will be a section of the torso hidden beneath the white shirt, this will be mostly cardboard and stuffing. Get a section of strong and relatively flexible cardboard and cut a section that is long enough to wrap about your own chest. Duct tape the ends together to create a cylinder. Bend the cardboard into shape, if necessary you can duct tape some wire to the inside of your cardboard cylinder to create a frame that will help keep the shape better.

Cut out a section of the cardboard where the guts and visible bones will be and another section where the wearer will be leaning in to (see pictures). Secure the bones in place with more wire and duct tape and if necessary give these a coat of paint.

Get an old piece of fabric and cut or tear a segment that will cover the opening to the guts. This will form the torn flesh and colour is important (NOTE: I did not take into account the importance of colour so my photos won't look great, try to get a flesh colour to improve on what I did). Coat this fabric in liquid latex as many times as necessary to produce a realistic effect, giving enough time to completely dry between coats. Staple or sew this fabric to the cardboard frame such that torn "flesh" hangs around the exposed opening.

Step 7: Goey Guts

There are instructables on guts which suggest using expanding foam to create realistic looking intestines, feel free to experiment (in fact I really encourage it!!!) but what I did was filled some tights with kitchen paper and poured generous amounts of red jelly (with some extra red food colouring) over and through the paper filled tights. When completely saturated I advise you dab on an extra drop or two of food dye to give an uneven, bloody look.

After this you should place the fake guts on a tray and refrigerate over night. If you use this method take into account that the guts will need replacing if you plan on wearing this costume over several days or in following years.

Drape the guts around the fake ribs inside the cardboard frame from the previous step. Use fishing line to hold up the guts unless you want to be holding them in yourself. behind the bloody guts place a sheet of red fabric in the cavity so and gaps in the guts won't be noticed.

At this stage feel free to bo nuts on the fake blood :D

Step 8: Clothes

At this point you should dress up the duct tape double in an old shirt or t-shirt and a long coat. Check charity shops for a suitable coat, remember, lighter is better. The shirt the double wears needs two holes for the shoulder straps of the bag to fit through.

The shirt the "half zombie" will wear needs to be modified slightly. Go to the back of the shirt and find roughly the area between the shoulder-blades. You'll need to cut an opening here but be conservative, you can always cut more later, but if you cut too much then it'll be a great pain having to sew it together again!

Try to cut it so that there are flaps as shown in the pictures above. These will help hide the trick of the illusion. Try on the shirt every now and then by puttting your arms and head through the hole that you've just made, make sure it sits right before moving on.

Step 9: Sewing It Together

You should do one last quick test with each part to make sure it all fits and make some final adjustments. First thing to do is to sew the torso into the torn shirt. be sure to use a thimble and a strong needle as you will be sewing through cardboard. I advise you sew at several points (five or six) and make these strong points as opposed to sewing all the way around as this would be far too visible. Use thread that matches the colour of the shirt and remove loose threads at the end.

Next sew the arms, hand and fingers to the shirt and, if you want, to the fake torso. The exact position of the arms and hands are completely up to your own preference but take into account both realism (of how someone might carry a heavy half corpse!) and how you will be standing (to make it look real you have to lean forward, how far forward depends on how the arms seem to be lifting you). don't forget to sew the fingers on so that they look to be gripping the torso. It is essential that you use plenty of strong thread in this step as if it breaks while you wear the costume then the arms will hang limp at your sides. You can also secure them with some safety pins.

When sewing the armsDON'T FORGET to leave enough room between the guts torso and the duct tape double for yourself to slip through, otherwise you won't be able to wear the costume D:

Step 10: Final Touches

To put on the head you can either cut the bamboo supports on the head down to size such that you can just slip on the head, or you can make a small hole in the bottom of the bag and duct tape double and guide the bamboo supports through the stuffing and through the hole, this would mean that you could wear an old jeans with a strong back pocket and fit the ends of the bamboo canes into the pocket to keep it upright.

Douse the entire thing in blood (fake blood that is) and it's ready for it's maiden voyage/ test flight / beta testing etc.

To actually wear the costume, lay it flat on it's back, lift the guts slightly and wriggle in between the guts and the duct tape doubleso that the fake arms ar at your sides, put on the shoulder straps (thighten if necessary) and put on the shirt by reaching through the hole in the back. Get a friend to pull out the flaps at the back of the shirt and to help you stand up.

be sure to wear an old shirt that matches the one the duct tape torso wears. I won't go into detail about the zombie make-up that goes on your face as there are numerous very good instructables that go into great techniques and skills to do this.

try out the walk in front of a mirror and marvel at the illusion!

One last note, this costume is relatively heavy and requires you to stand in an odd position for quite some time. Take this into account and be VERY CAREFUL ABOUT HOW MUCH STRAIN YOU PUT ON YOUR BACK. Do not risk your health, if you're unsure then don't wear it. If you feel pain then take it off. try strengthening your back before you finish the project by doing the right exercises.

Hope you have fun and thanks a lot for reading! If you have any questions then I'd be happy to answer them! just leave a comment below!

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    John Induna AD
    John Induna AD

    9 years ago on Step 10

    Good work, and nice instructable.
    I'm glad to see you made folks aware of the safety issues.
    I did stuff like this for fun and turned into my job.
    Keep it up and make sure it stays fun.