‘The Walking Dead’: Executive Producer Greg Nicotero’s ‘Alien’ Homage in Episode 5

The Walking Dead Sewer Zombies
Gene Page/AMC

Over the past six seasons, AMC’s post-apocalyptic drama The Walking Dead has showcased a number of memorable zombies, from the pilot’s “bicycle girl” to Season 2’s bloated “well walker” and Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) armless and jawless “pets.” These undead creations come to life thanks to executive producer and special effects supervisor Greg Nicotero, who started his career in makeup effects working alongside legendary horror director George A. Romero.

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So when survivors Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) ventured into Alexandria’s subterranean sewer system on this week’s episode, Nicotero crafted yet another fresh zombie look: rotten corpses emerging from underneath layers of mud and sewage inspired by Return of the Living Dead‘s Tarman. In order to maximize the scares with the introduction of these new flesh-eaters, Nicotero reveals he borrowed an iconic moment from a classic 1979 science fiction film.

“I stole a shot out of Alien,” Nicotero tells TV Insider. “When that walker lifts its head up, I wanted it to be like the first time the alien lifts its head and you see the tongue come out. You’re mesmerized by it, so while you’re staring at it, all of a sudden the second walker bolts out of the pile. The way we shot that was definitely a [director] Ridley Scott homage.”

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.