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Pretend We're Dead

When characters are facing the Zombie Apocalypse and need to get from point A to point B and the only way is through a mob of hungry undead, what is the proper thing to do? Act like a zombie! Shuffle and moan with your arms outstretched, and if you've got access to some cosmetics, give yourself a pasty makeover. After all, there are No Zombie Cannibals so you'll be safe, right? Just hope that the zombies don't see through your disguise by being able to detect your delicious living flesh in other ways!

Typically, this is a sign that a work is closer to the "comedy" end of the Sliding Scale of Comedy and Horror, since most "serious" horror realizes this ploy is about as effective as putting a mustache on a hamburger. It may also be used in non-zombie-related contexts, such as situations where they are surrounded by people who have been brainwashed, body snatched or assimilated into a Hive Mind.

The Trope Namer is the song by L7, which was used in the trailer for Shaun of the Dead, despite the song having nothing to do with zombies. note  Not to be confused with Faking the Dead. A Sub-Trope of Dressing as the Enemy.

Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • The Walking Dead is a rare example of this trope being used seriously. Rick and Glenn cover themselves in zombie muck to smell like zombies, effectively becoming invisible to them. They manage to clear out a gun store in the middle of a horde using the tactic. But then it starts raining and washing the scent off.
    • It is also possible Michonne used this tactic by wandering around the Dead States of America with her zombified boyfriend and friend roped to her. In the comic it is unclear if the two zombified sidekicks were able to retain a memory of Michonne so they would not attack her since their jaws were removed to prevent them from feeding.
      • When asked about it, Michonne claimed that she chopped their arms and jaws off as a precautionary measure and that due to their inability to attack her, they eventually gave up on trying.
  • One of a series of short zombie stories had a survivor act like a zombie to prevent himself from being eaten, including limping gait and dirty appearance. However, it is implied to have taken a serious toll on his sanity as he is not even allowed to engage in the most basic grooming and is forced to kill other survivors with the zombies to protect his cover.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic comic book, when Ponyville is taken over by changelings, Pinkie Pie encourages the rest of the main characters to "clear their minds" and "act like zombies" in order to blend in among these monsters. They manage to sneak by succesfully.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Shaun of the Dead has the heroes pretending to be zombies in order to get to the pub. Their cover is blown when Ed gets a phone call. And answers it.
  • In the low-budget movie The Dead Hate the Living, two characters even make themselves up with stage makeup to try to pass off as the undead.
  • In Zombieland, Bill Murray pretends to be a zombie (complete with professional makeup) so that he can play golf, and he uses his disguise to scare and play around with the main characters. His disguise ultimately works a little too well, as Columbus mistakes him for a zombie and shoots him. It's a little strange that the ploy works given the nature of the zombies involved...
  • Happens twice in Dance of the Dead... with poor results.
  • In Serenity, the ship gets a Reaver makeover so it can pass through Reaver-infested space. In this case it works, until they deliberately blow their cover to draw the Reavers after them.
  • In The Mummy, Jonathan tries to blend in with the crowd of mind-controlled minions by walking in lockstep with them and chanting "Imhotep! Imhotep!" unconvincingly. It not only works, but even calms down their possessed rage somewhat.
  • The '78, '93 and '07 versions of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The alien pod people (who have killed and replaced many humans) never show any emotions. When the protagonists need to mingle with them, they act emotionless as well in order to blend in.
  • In House of the Dead II: Dead Aim (which was made for TV, and Uwe Boll wasn't involved), zombies are revealed to hunt by scent. One of the main characters soaks his clothes in zombie blood to get rid of his scent, and then proceeds to walk slowly through a zombie filled room, trying not to do anything distinctly un-zombie.
  • In the first Scooby-Doo movie, Shaggy and Scooby do this to blend in with the possessed tourists during a ritual.
  • In Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D., Tom the constable does a laughably-bad demonstration of this trope, trying to blend in with a group of Robomen who act in unison and constantly falling out of step. Luckily, the Robomen are so severely brainwashed by the Daleks that they don't notice.
  • In the film adaptation of Warm Bodies, lead character R, a zombie, tells his love interest Julie to do this while escaping their hideout. Later on, it's inverted when R has to go through the humans' camp to reach the leader, Julie's dad, without cluing people in on the fact that he's a zombie. Julie and Nora have to put heavy makeup on him in order to cover up his decay.

    Gamebooks 
  • Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? has a group of Zombie Walk participants disguise their smells and attempt to escape the city this way. It seems to be working... at least until one person panics, runs, and gives them all away.

    Literature 
  • In Cell, a one-scene character tells the protagonists about witnessing an attempt by a "normal" to evade a group of "phoners" by trying to imitate their body language. Sadly for her, it doesn't work because the phoners are a telepathic Hive Mind and apparently realized this individual wasn't part of the flock.
  • In The Little Vampire, Anton frequently disguises himself as a vampire to be able to attend the festivities of his vampire friends.
  • Played straight and inverted in Warm Bodies where Julie pretends being a zombie while covered by zombie blood that covers her smell and when R the zombie has to pretend being alive inside a human settlement.
  • Subverted in World War Z, where the Quislings (people driven insane by the Zombie Apocalypse who have come to believe that they are zombies, and moan and shamble accordingly) are attacked by the zombies along with everyone else.
  • In Galaxy of Fear a Pseudo Crisis is formed when people dressed as and pretending to be zombies come at our protagonists, freaking some out.
  • In Doom series:
    • In Knee-Deep in the Dead, Fly is caught in the wall to wall Room Full of Zombies and he slowly shambles his way through them unnoticed.
    • In Hell on Earth, the gang establishes that the dumb zombies distinguish living people mostly by smell. They then smear a ton of rotten lemons over themselves, because zombies smell like sour lemon, and safely take a ride on a train choke full of zombies. Well, safely, until one stupid zombie shoots another one, starting grand monster infighting and forcing heroes to escape by roof. Later, Jill the teenager, risks breaking cover with her exaggerated Zombie Gait because she stretches her arms stiff in front of her.
  • During his escape, the protagonist of ''The Shadow Over Innsmouth breifly immitates the shambling gait of one of the tainted Innsmouth residents while crossing a portion of town that was too well lit to provide any hiding places. Justified in that the area was mostly vacant and the act was only intended to fool someone who might see him from a distance.

    Live Action TV 
  • The Degrassi The Next Generation Halloween special Degrassi of the Dead has Peter and Manny doing this to get to a school bus.
  • In one episode of So Weird, the characters need to do this to keep their bodies from being claimed by the inhabitants of the town.
  • Not actually zombies, but an episode of Doctor Who had the Doctor and his companions pretending to be mind-controlled civilians to fool the Cybermen.
  • The Walking Dead TV show plays out the scene from the comic mentioned above, including the inevitable rainstorm.
  • Mythbusters: in their recent zombie special episode, Tori tries this. It works for a little while, then one of the volunteer zombies spots him trying to shuffle away.

    Music Videos 
  • In the video version of LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" Redfoo & SkyBlu have to pretend to be party rock zombies in order to not become party rock zombies. It doesn't work.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Played with in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin the Zombie is one of his many alter egos, this one created for the purpose that the undead don't need to do homework. Eventually, Hobbes decides to join in, saying "When in Rome..."

    Tabletop Games 
  • One Planescape module included in the Planes of Chaos boxed set states that if the Player Characters attempt to fool Cerberus this way to sneak past him into the Underworld, it's guaranteed to fail, saying he can smell the living. (Getting past him in order to get in requires a great deal of bargaining, and getting out past him is impossible - he tells them if they manage it that he will not let them - but if they complete their mission, there are other options.)

    Video Games 
  • In Dead Rising, you get an ability to "zombie walk", which allows you to move through the crowds of zombies ignored and unhindered. Later in the final sections of the game, a pheromone is developed that effectively masks Frank and Isabella's scent and from the zombies and repels them. They manage to wade through an entire tunnel filled with them before the stuff runs out.
  • Ghouls in Fallout 3 are actually pretty spry, and some are just as lucid as normal humans, so the Lone Wander doesn't even have to act any differently than usual when wearing the Ghoul Mask to fool feral ghouls.
  • You do this at the start of the mall level in Monster Madness, where you have to lead certain zombies back to a leprechaun in order to get the key to the maintenance room. Afterwards, you can do this at will to slip past zombies (although other monsters still attack you).
  • Completing the trifecta, you end up doing this in the video game version of The Walking Dead as well.

    Webcomics 
  • In The Order of the Stick, Celia has to pose as a Necromancer, which involves Belkar switching from posing as a corpse to posing as a zombie.
  • In the webcomic Unlife Is Unfair, a character caught by a zombie pretends to be a zombie herself and overdoes the charm a bit, ending up being stalked by the zombie for different reasons now.

    Western Animation 
  • In The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror III sketch "Dial Z for Zombie", Homer spots Barney eating an arm and exclaims "Barney, you're a zombie too!" to which Barney replies "Naah, but when in Rome..."
  • A variant in Static Shock: A Control Freak with Mind Control powers calls everyone out of their bed at midnight. Virgil, who wasn't affected due to his powers, follows them by acting like them.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "A Canterlot Wedding Part 2", Fluttershy is approached by a gang of evil duplicates of herself (actually a group of changelings) and blends in by mimicking their aggressive behavior.
  • In Futurama, Leela infiltrates the church where the tentacle monster is going to address shkler disciples by taping a garden hose to her neck and pretending it's a tentacle.
  • Tuff Puppy: In a Halloween Episode, Dudley pretended to be a zombie to follow real ones towards the place where Snaptrap, Birdbrain and Chameleon were hiding all candy and all the toilet paper. He befriended two zombies who told him where the bad guys were hidden.

    Real Life 
  • Many cities stage annual "Zombie Walks" where people walk like zombies across town.

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alternative title(s): Pretend That Were Dead
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