Trick or Treat? Movie cameos are largely hit or miss. Richard Branson in Casino Royale, David Bowie in Zoolander, and the entire newsroom battle scene from Anchorman, for example, are great cameo moments that live on in movie history. There’s a subtle self-awareness to the art of the cameo that goes way back, beyond even Alfred Hitchcock and in more recent times Quentin Tarantino. In no other genre than horror is that art celebrated with pure prosthetic, flamboyant and community passion and the zombie sub-genre is a chief champion of that culture.
Billy Zane’s latest cameo appearance since Zoolander and Zoolander 2 comes in Dead Rising: Endgame and to mark the Halloween release we’ve pulled together some of the best zombie movie cameos of recent time from Shaun of the Dead right through Bill Murray in Zombieland.
The newscasts and reality TV shows dotted throughout Shaun of the Dead all feature recognisable TV personalities including Vernon Kay, Trisha Goddard and even Krishnan Guru-Murthy. About halfway through the film Martin Freeman and Matt Lucas make brief appearances but the greatest, most surprising, subtle ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ cameo comes from Coldplay frontman, Chris Martin hiding in plain sight amongst the zombie horde.
Chris Martin isn’t the only musician to venture into the zombie horde though. No, Scott Ian, founding member of metal band Anthrax tried his hand (quite literally) as a zombie back in 2015 as a walker in the fifth season of The Walking Dead. But Scott Ian isn’t the only cameo to feature in the hit series. In a recent episode Johnny Depp found his way onto the show somewhat by accident, as a severed head. The Walking Dead has attracted a number of celebrity fans who are unnervingly keen to find themselves on the end of a pointy stick for an extra moment in the spotlight.
George R. R. Martin: acclaimed novelist, screenwriter, founder of Game of Thrones mega series and since his appearance in Z Nation, can now add zombie to his CV. In his brief performance as a famous zombie celebrity being held in captivity this cameo is much more light-hearted than perhaps he’s given credit for. Playing himself, just in zombie form, the incredibly self-aware joke revolves around book signing muscle memory.
Renowned cult horror director George A. Romero made his mark in 1968 with Night of the Living Dead which has since seen six additions to the series including Land of the Dead which features our next zombie cameo. Shaun of the Dead co-writers Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg were rewarded by Romero for their parody on the zombie sub-genre with a minor, yet suitably parody-esque role as a live zombie photo opportunity giving them the chance to experience life on the other side of the zombie apocalypse lens.
Similar to Shaun of the Dead in its parody tone and playfulness with established Z movie tropes, Zombieland has become a modern cult movie of similar standing and for one reason in particular: Bill Murray. Playing himself playing a zombie, Murray’s short lived role and ironic demise is one of comedic genius that elevates his cameo to a whole new level that very few cameos come close to touching. He joins the likes of David Bowie, Mike Myers and Huey Lewis in a very select club.
As a bonus cameo this one is a little dubious but the tie-in is too good to pass up. Adrienne Barbeau, cult movie actress, TV actress and horror scream queen has worked with Romero, Wes Craven and John Carpenter in the past but it’s her role (albeit a deleted scene) in Rob Zombie’s 2007 reimagining of Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic, Halloween. Tenuous, we know, but technically it is still a cameo in a zombie movie.
It’s only a matter of time until we see Donald Trump’s cameo in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York exploited for all its viral video potential. But until then, settle in this Halloween with Dead Rising: Endgame, out on DVD and Blu-ray from 31 October.