It was not exactly Dawn Of The Dead, but half past eight on the Bank Holiday morning of 27th August 2007 is close enough.
Then, pallid blood-stained creatures began to trickle into Leicester Square - first in tiny clutches, then in larger crowds, and soon in a groaning, shuffling mass. What was drawing these hideous undead to their former haunts? Was it a primal impulse, a residual memory, the desire for fresh blood (and takeaway coffee) - or was it Film4 FrightFest 2007, well known for catering to the bloody tastes of the wide-eyed, the sleepless, and the living dead?
In fact it was an attempt to break the World Record for the most zombies assembled in a single place. The number to beat was 894, set last year in Pittsburgh's Monroeville Mall (famed for being the location where George A. Romero's original [film id=23027]Dawn Of The Dead[/film] was shot) - and the event was organised to tie in with a 10.45am screening at FrightFest of Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett's low-budget triptych The Zombie Diaries - due for release on DVD the same day.
The zombie walk provided a wealth of observational detail for sociologists of the braindead. Mindless mobility, poor communication skills, inattention to skincare and personal hygiene, an insatiable hunger for living flesh - these are all zombie behaviours established in countless horror films, beginning with Romero's groundbreaking Night Of The Living Dead (1968) - but until Monday's Zombie Walk, the creatures' abiding love of beer and cigarettes, and their near-obsessive habit of photographing one another, had remained altogether undocumented.
All of humanity was reflected in the gathered hordes. Some bore only light blood stains as evidence of their undead status, while others displayed elaborate wounds, and ashen or even green skin.
There were workmen, tennis players, soldiers, goths, a nun, Spiderman, even a family (complete with bloody baby in pram) - but all had a common desire to devour brains and freak out the odd tourist.After the photo shoot (with only an iron fence separating the press from the gory legions), there was a range of improvised zombie activities: a conga, a game of catch-the-guts, a massed raid on an ice-cream shop, and even an attempt to cram as many undead as possible into a red phone booth (in a re-enactment of the iconic poster for Shaun Of The Dead).
In the end, only 689 zombies were counted, falling short of the Pittsburgh record by some 200. Still, friends were made, phone numbers (not to mention oozing bodily fluids) were exchanged, and a surreal spectacle was offered to anyone mad enough to be awake so early on a public holiday.
It was great fun, and already another, similar event is being organised for Saturday September 22, starting at 1pm from St Paul's Cathedral, and ending up at the Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen. For more details, see www.myspace.com/yourlifeisafilm.