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The Geek's Rules for Surviving a Zombie Apocalypse

During our four episode Zombie-Palooza! podcast series, the Geeks established some rules for surviving a zombie apocalypse. It wasn't meant to be a comprehensive survival guide, but rather a list of rules to avoid being mauled, bitten, eaten or turned.


While we established in the podcast episode that Zombieland is our most favored zomcom, 32+ rules is far too many to remember at the cusp of an undead pandemic. We thought everyone might benefit from something a little easier to commit to memory. Our 12 simple rules are based primarily on the way people die in the myriad Zombie films the Geeks have watched over the years. So if the zombie apocalypse does come, keep these rules in mind as you wander the post-apocalyptic landscape attempting to evade the hordes of undead.

1. Stay Fit.


Why is this #1 on our list? Because it's one of the items you can start on right now - hopefully, long before the pandemic arrives.

Running from the Infected | 28 Weeks Later | 20th Century Fox

Cardio is key to survival, especially in the early stages of the outbreak when you're still trying to bolster your supplies and find a safe place to hunker down. There will likely come a time when running for your life is the best option - perhaps the only option. Maybe your poorly chosen temporary shelter is being destroyed by a roving horde (see rule #3); maybe you're plum out of ammo (see rule #6); or maybe the zombies have found you rummaging around your local grocer and you need to evacuate with a quickness (see rule #8). Whatever the case may be, your chances of survival are significantly greater if you can run; and your odds are even better if you can keep up the pace for several miles.


But cardio alone isn't enough. Maintaining flexibility is also extremely important. While we can't personally attest to the torment of having your intestines torn out by a mob of lame brains, we've seen it happen to enough people on screen to be certain that it isn't any fun. And narrowly making your escape, only to be disemboweled five minutes later because you've pulled a hamstring, seems decidedly worse. So try to stay limber, folks.

"Hold the Door" | Game of Thrones | Home Box Office

Finally, we can't ignore the importance of strength. We couldn't possibly count the number of times that having the strength to hold a door closed would have saved someone's life - or several people's lives. In a similar vein, you want to be damn sure you can remove that machete from a walker's skull with relative ease. Playing "sword in the stone" is the last thing you want to be doing after a well aimed chop to a walker's dome. Besides, how many buffed up zombies have you seen? There might be something to that old adage that "only the strong survive."


2. Shut the Fuck Up Already!


Pardon our rudeness on this one but we feel it's warranted to give the proper emphasis. The biters seem particularly excitable by sounds. And the number of human-to-rotter converts by way of making too much noise has reached epic proportions in zombie films. It seems there's always that one guy in the group that accidentally knocks a metal try onto the floor or topples a tower of precariously stacked glass bottles, which immediately attracts a horde of stiffs into the room. Don't be that guy. Don't hang with that guy. Or you and your friends will be a band of ankle biters in no time flat.

"Silence" | The Walking Dead | AMC Networks

This rule is especially critical when you're meandering about the countryside hunting for your next meal, looking for supplies, or seeking out that perfect shelter (see rule #3). Not only is your giggling banter with your travel mates likely to make you the target of a wandering meat bag, but it might also distract you from hearing the rustling in those bushes up ahead (see rule #4). If you're not in a known safe space, try to pretend like you're in A Quiet Place. While there probably aren't any fast-moving extraterrestrials running around Zombieland, the consequences for making a bunch of racket are roughly the same. To drive the point home, we're going to say it one more time: Shut the Fuck Up already!


3. Find the Right Shelter.


Clearly, you're going to need a place to hunker down and take a rest. Who knows how long this pandemic will last - it could be the rest of your natural life. Besides, a good night's sleep keeps the mind sharp, improves your response time and reduces the risk of making an irreversible mistake that lands you among the bands of The Walking Dead. While a temporary shelter may be a necessity at first, don't become complacent because you were lucky enough to make it through one night. You need a proper shelter.


Location is a key consideration. If you're in a big city, it's best to work your way out first. A population of millions means millions of potential undead lurkers. And it also means you could have considerable competition for shelter and supplies from other survivors. The odds are against you. It's better to make your way out, safely and quietly, before deciding to settle down.


The structure of your shelter is another important consideration. We've yet to see a mob of walkers take down a concrete building. So that's probably ideal, unless you can get underground. Metal beam structures seem relatively safe as well, as long as it's not a shed or warehouse with thin, corrugated metal walls. But wood buildings, like a typical frame house, should only be considered only as a short-term solution, as they can rarely hold up to a band of raging brain-eaters.

Look at all that Glass | Dawn of the Dead (2004) | Universal Pictures

Mind the doors and windows, as well. Less is better, as long as you have a few routes of escape in an emergency (see rule #8). A long stretch of doors or floor-to-ceiling windows, like you might find in a shopping mall or office building, should definitely be avoided. They are almost certainly going to fail when a massive group of flesh-hungry deadheads starts piling up against them. If your chosen shelter has windows at ground level, it's probably best to board them up or barricade them heavily - again, making sure you still have a few avenues of escape when and if you need them.


4. Be Aware of Your Surroundings.


Smartphones are likely to be fully out of commission by the time you need to reference these rules. Nonetheless, you shouldn't wander about the world with your face stuck in one. It's a sure way to die. Any sort of distraction, from the tunes on your stylish cassette player, to that pristine edition of The Boys anthology you found, should be saved for the safety of your shelter.

Bub | Day of the Dead | United Film

Keep your eyes and ears fixed on your surroundings. Take note of what's in front of you, as much as what's behind you. Retreat might be necessary at any moment and backtracking is not always the best option (see rule #8). And while this probably goes without saying, you should always avoid potentially infested areas. There are very few reasons to take on that kind of risk. After all, you don't get any do-overs during the impending plague. Unless, of course, you want to do it over again as a rotting shambler.


5. Keep Your Distance!


This rule has several useful applications. If it wasn't obvious already, you should keep far away from the masses of slackjaws. Don't willfully explore any area they frequent; don't set up base camp near their roaming grounds; and if you happen to see a group of shufflers off in the distance, you should strongly consider heading in the opposite direction immediately.


If you do manage to survive the undead plague for long enough, you will inevitably find yourself at an uncomfortable distance from one of these roamers at some point. And this is the moment where this rule should be followed most stringently. A single scratch or bite may have you aimlessly meandering the wasteland in search of human organs, while your face slowly rots away from your skull. It's certainly not an exciting prospect for most of us. So try to keep at arms length, at a minimum. Your choice of weapon can play a very important role in achieving that goal (see rule #6).

"Choke on 'em!" | Day of the Dead | United Film

Finally, if you're travelling in groups, as we recommend (see rule #10), there may come a time when one of your travel mates is gouged or gnashed by a cannibal corpse. You are strongly advised to keep your distance from them afterwards. You never know when they might turn on you (see rule #11). If zombie cinema is any indication, it's going to happen when you're least prepared for it. Keeping them in the room next door while they profusely sweat, moan and anguish their way into necrosis is an EXTREMELY bad idea.


6. Kill with Efficiency.


Weapon choice is paramount to your survival. The use of knives, hatchets and short blunt instruments should be a last resort. You need a tool that yields maximum carnage while allowing you to maintain at least an arms length distance from your foes (see rule #5). Something that can crush, pierce, obliterate or entirely remove the head of any unfortunate grabber that invades your personal bubble would be best. Perhaps, consider a Japanese katana or tachi - perfect for slicing through rotter flesh and bone like butter, while still maintaining a necessary safe distance.


Michonne | The Walking Dead | AMC Networks

What about guns, you say? Certainly, these fit the recommendations provided above. Firearms can yield some pretty devastating damage to an animated corpse - especially the large caliber and automatic varieties. But they all have a serious downside: you need ammo. Even if you have a stockpile that would make the guards at Fort Knox jealous, you can't tote that hefty load with you everywhere you go.


Guns have one other major drawback that should make you take pause: they're incredibly loud. As we already established, the dead ones are attracted to sound (see rule #2). Shooting one zack in the head is quick and easy, but it may lead a dozen more to your position. A silencer could help with this issue, as could a reusable projectile weapon like a crossbow. But neither of these alternatives neatly solves the inevitable out-of-ammo issue.

Where's Your Ammo? | Black Summer | Netflix

Bottom line: keep a melee weapon on your person wherever you go. And favor it over your projectile weapons unless you REALLY, REALLY need to shoot something. Hopefully, that something is your next meal rather than a gut gobbler intent on making you into a meal.


7. Avoid Rooms with One Exit


Yes, even that closet potentially filled with much needed supplies should be approached with extreme caution. If there's one sure way to find yourself as the latest member of the plague-ridden, it's going into a room with only one exit. And because almost no one followed this rule when the plague first arrived, there's probably a rotter in there already. You've been warned!

What's Behind That Door? | Zombieland | Sony Pictures

8. Know Your Way Out.


Haphazardly bounding into a building is another surefire way to meet your end at the hands (and teeth) of an entrails enthusiast. Pre-planning is best, of course - working out multiple paths of escape ahead of time. But that isn't always practical. So if you absolutely must enter into unfamiliar territory, take your time and mark potential exits as you go. Take a cue from Hansel and Gretel, but don't waste your bread - it might help you stave off starvation later.


9. If All Else Fails, Take the High Ground!


Of course, the Geeks couldn't have a guide to Zombie survival without a Star Wars reference sneaking into the mix somewhere. But Master Obi-Wan's sentiment seems like sound advice for the zombie apocalypse. There's something we've noticed watching dozens of zombie flicks over the years - zoms are absolutely shit at climbing. Maybe that's why they're called walkers, lurkers, creepers and crawlers, but never climbers. Whatever the case, the deadheads often struggle to get their claws on someone standing on top of an SUV, let alone something higher up.

We Have the High Ground | Dawn of the Dead (2004) | Universal Pictures

So you've done your very best to avoid being trapped, but the hordes have dashed your best laid plans for escape. What to do? Take the high ground! Climb a ladder, get onto a roof, scale a building like Spidey, if you must. This act isn't going to ensure your long term safety, but it might give you the extra time you need to come up with a new plan of action; or at least, hold out until your buddies arrive to save you (see rule #10).

10. Travel In Groups.


As the old adage goes, there's strength in numbers. The flesh philanderers clearly take advantage of this rule and so should you. Find a buddy to watch your back. Hell, find a few if you can. There are both tactical and practical advantages to operating as a team.

Safety in Numbers? | Shaun of the Dead | Universal Pictures

For starters, more eyes and ears means less likelihood of being caught off guard by a roving pack of zeds. Someone can always stand watch for approaching threats while the rest of the team handles its business. But having buddies at your side means there's always someone nearby to attempt a rescue when you get hemmed up by a herd of cold bodies. And in the unlikely event you all get trapped somewhere together (were you following our rules?), at least you'll have the extra weight to hold that proverbial door closed while the lurkers gradually tear it from its hinges. A comforting thought, isn't it?


On a related note, we know what some of you are thinking right now, so let us be clear on this point: other people are not fit for consumption. It's a general truth that's particularly pertinent during the spread of the zombie plague. Leave those bodies for the biters. If you find yourself considering how tasty your travel mates look, you might as well embrace your ghoulish tendencies and join the menacing masses.


11. Beware of Attachments.


Yes, we encourage you to travel in groups. But this is the zombie apocalypse we're talking about. People in your inner circle are eventually going to get bitten, mauled, gashed or gored. You can't save them. They're going to turn. And there is most likely no cure on the horizon. As hard as it might be, you need to cut your losses and move on.

Roger Turns | Dawn of the Dead (1978) | United Film

It might seem like we're taking a cue from Zombieland but that's honestly not what spurred this rule. This notion probably seems obvious to most, yet the same trope rears its ugly head in a slew of zombie story arcs. So we feel like this point should be stressed: DO NOT keep your dying, dead or already turned friends and family locked in a closet, room, basement or barn that's a stone's throw away from your habitation. Just don't do it. Properly dispose of their bodies or take them far, far away. And if they happen to find their way back to you, don't hesitate to kill them. Because we are 100% certain that they will kill you.


12. Don’t be a Damned Hero!


It's a nice thought. Who doesn't want to go out a hero? But you know what? It's futile. More often than not, that person you sacrificed yourself to save is going to die anyway - maybe not in that very moment, but sometime soon. If they needed you to protect them, they're probably not going to make it without you. We know it's crass but well-intending heroes almost always become food for the fleshies. And unfortunately, no one will ever read about your noble sacrifice in the history books. Even if someone scribes your heroic tale for posterity, the book is going to be burned for fuel by the time anyone would care to read it.

Karma | House of the Dead | Artisan Entertainment

Did we miss something important? Want to throw in your two cents? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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