Most zombie encounters in fiction get their shock value from gore, ambush, or the pathos of seeing a named character arise from death to attack the surviving cast. But not every horror scene takes itself that seriously; sometimes, when pacing or tone demands a tension-breaker, filmmakers will toss in the visual gag of a zombie that's dressed in an ironic or amusing outfit: a Halloween costume, an unusual profession, nothing at all
While undead in goofy outfits seldom stay on screen for long, they provide a bit of a breather for the audience, while giving the production's costumers and make-up crew a chance to exercise some creativity. Their presence can also remind viewers that zombies, however mindless or indistinguishable in undeath, used
to be unique, living individuals: that they're creatures to be pitied as well as dreaded.
Not necessarily exclusive to zombies: vampires, ghosts, biped werewolves, and other human-derived monsters may also be examples of this trope, provided their outfit is unexpected and/or goofy enough to surprise and amuse the audience.
Anime & Manga
- In High School Of The Dead, a sniper looks at a zombie that she's about to shoot to clear an airport runway. The zombie is dressed in a nice swanky white suit. Her sniping spotter points out that he used to be an actor, and still maintains his egotistical mannerisms even in undeath. Then she blows his head off.
- The Ur Example is the nude female model, adorned only with a morgue ID tag, who was included in Night of the Living Dead.
- In the 1990 remake, Ben and Barbra acquire a handgun from a zombie cop. Barbra later uses it to shoot a female zombie that clutches a baby doll under one arm.
- In Dawn of the Dead, the Hare Krishna Monk zombie in his bright orange robes.
- In Waxwork II Lost In Time, the alternate-reality that featured zombies had several dressed in over-the-top disco outfits.
- A zombie clown attacks a children's birthday party in a video clip from Diary of the Dead.
- In Return of the Living Dead, a zombie priest is seen gnawing on a dead paramedic, then calling Dispatch to ask that more be sent. Trash becomes an example when she re-animates in the nude, having been killed after stripping in the cemetery.
- Several examples (a stripper, a bunch of little girls in ballerina outfits, one that's on fire) chase people around in the opening credits of Zombieland.
- The first zombie seen up close in Dead Heat is dressed as a biker.
- There is a zombified topless stripper very briefly seen in Resident Evil: Apocalypse.
- The short film Zombie in a Penguin Suit puts this in the forefront.
- The only-technically-not-zombies from Legion had a few funnily dressed "zombies", such as an ice-cream truck driver.
- The series The Walking Dead had one "walker" dressed in a Santa Claus suit.
- Odd clothing on zombies actually has plot implications when the survivors take over the prison, as some of the walkers there are wearing prison riot-gear and therefore have helmets to protect their brains.
- Vampire: The Requiem has Larvae: a transitional stage between human and vampire that are functionally zombie-vampires, usually still dressed in the rags of whatever they were wearing when abducted and turned. Their sourcebook suggests that Game Masters employ this trope as a way to ramp up the creepiness. (Yes, that guy in a mailman uniform or the woman in the torn, fuzzy pink bathrobe is about to eat you!)
- In Armor Games' Web Game The Last Stand, a few of the zombies attacking your character wear clown costumes.
- In the video game Darksiders, you have the very smartly dressed Wicked K, a zombie with a British dialect in a tuxedo.
- One of the zombies in Dead Rising 2 wears a wedding dress, as a result of being almost forced into marriage before being turned.
- One of the zombies in Medievil 2 sports a beard and wears a suit, which Dan must steal from it to use as a disguise.
- Left 4 Dead 2: Uncommon commons.
- Riot gear
- Plants vs. Zombies has several examples, including the Disco Zombie.
- In webisode clips spun off The Walking Dead, two child zombies wear paper birthday-party hats. Another (adult) zombie wore the day-glow yellow vest of a parking-meter reader.