Jillian McDonald

Zombies attack


ZOMBIES IN CONDOLAND by Jillian McDonald, at College Park (444 Yonge, corner of College and Yonge), after dark until sunrise.


Jillian McDonald wants you to become a zombie. At College Park, in the shadow of the new condominium development, the Aura, she hosts an event, film shoot and all-night performance entitled Zombies In Condoland.

Stop by her tent to be transformed into a zombie by her team of makeup artists or come fully made-up if you’re already a diehard zombie walk participant or zombie fan. Zombified participants are invited to act in a scene on camera, after which they will be free to stagger off into the night to hunt the living.

Not a hardcore horror fan herself, McDonald happened upon zombies through her study of fan culture. (Her earlier work documented her imaginary crush on actor Billy Bob Thornton.) Interested in the obsessive dedication of horror fans and the specific mechanisms that would “turn terror into entertainment,” she began creating prints, animation and film that centred on zombies.

Why the undead? They’re not solitary and romantic like vampires or tormented like werewolves. McDonald finds zombies the most interesting and frankly horrifying film frightener.

“They have little or no character,” she says from her Brooklyn studio. “There is no mistaking a zombie for anything else, and it doesn’t try to hide. They can sneak up on you because for the most part they’re slow and silent, and they’re most terrifying because if they eat you, you will become one, with little exception.

“At the same time, there is something absurd and even campy about them, if we can extract ourselves from the horror to enjoy the humour.”

The high camp has always carried a political edge, especially in George A. Romero’s iconic shots of zombies shuffling through a mall in Dawn Of The Dead, which many critics rightly see as a poke at U.S. consumerism.

Zombies move together in mindless herds, eating and assimilating everything in their path with singular hunger. It’s not a great leap to see a parallel with Toronto’s relentless condo boom as it slowly devours our skyline.

Yet McDonald’s focus is more on the culture of horror fandom than it is on making bold statements about North American consumerism. Her Nuit Blanche set-up is a way of giving zombie fans and newcomers a freer, more democratic zombie film experience.

“My film set is friendly,” she explains. “We want to sweep you in and give you a role and lend you a costume if you need one, and you can be in as many scenes as you like on camera with other zombies. You can get your makeup done and have acting lessons and then, ‘Lights, camera, action,’ you’re on!

“No one is a star, no one is an extra. Some participants will be experienced with zombie walks and fan culture, some brand new to it but curious. Everyone is welcome to participate.”

Show up at College Park after dark and prepare to be infected.

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