They walk at night, dead-eyed and bent on biting the flesh of livelier Sacramentans.
This year, they will do so with official city permits.
"We have gotten so big that it's no longer underground," organizer Christy Savage said of the annual Zombie Walk that marks the start of Sacramento's Trash Film Orgy midnight-movie series.
The undead will begin gathering at 9 p.m. Saturday at Cheap Thrills costume shop on L Street and get moving at 10 p.m. The zombies will walk brainlessly but with purpose to the Crest Theatre on 10th and K streets. There they will watch the 1982 film "Army of Darkness," part of director Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" series.
Trash Film Orgy's zombie walks were spotty and sometimes sparsely attended during the festival's first years. But hundreds of flesh shredders showed up in 2010, when TFO organizers revived the walk to mark the festival's 10th year.
Rarely as charismatic or handsome as vampires or werewolves, zombies sometimes fall out of favor as film and TV monsters. But they are in the midst of a renaissance, thanks to entertainment like the TV show "The Walking Dead."
Last year's Sacramento Zombie Walk brought out 1,000 people.
The walks are now so popular that "even if we didn't want to do one, we would have to," Savage said with a laugh.
TFO organizers hope to keep Saturday's event manageable by starting later and strongly encouraging participants to show up already looking undead.
Zombie Walk's on-site makeup artists love doing effects, Savage said, but demand was overwhelming last year.
This year's makeup services are streamlined. Makeup artists will be at Cheap Thrills from 9 to 10 p.m. only, applying makeup in five- or 10-minute sessions.
Five-minute sessions cost $5 and involve a white, blue or sickly green base, darker shading for that highly desired hollow-cheek look, and bits of blood. Ten-minute sessions cost $10 and cover hands and arms as well.
"We have it down to a science," TFO organizer and makeup artist Amy Slockbower said.
David Ainsworth, owner of the special effects company Alchemy FX, will offer ready-made, pre-painted prosthetics indicating bites and claw marks.
"It's a lick-and-stick kind of thing," Ainsworth said of the quickly applied prosthetics.
The on-site makeup is for "people who can't figure out how to do it" on their own, Slockbower said.
There's a whole other class of highly premeditated zombies who plan for weeks and collaborate with other zombies. Savage recalled that a few years ago, the walk drew a "whole 'Wizard of Oz' group" of brain-, heart- and epidermis-challenged marchers.
The Zombie Walk helped attract bigger crowds to Trash Film Orgy's opening-night movies in 2010 and 2011, though the uptick did not translate to the series' other films. But TFO, which includes a filmmaking arm that produces schlock delights such as 2011's "Planet of the Vampire Women," long has maintained a core audience for its cult and exploitation movies.
This year's series includes the Aug. 4 screening of "Flesh Gordon," a 1974 sci-fi romp that was rated X when it was released.
"But it's a 1970s X, not a XXX," Savage said. "It's as close to porn as we get."
"The Terminator," showing July 28, is as close to mainstream as TFO gets. The slick, studio-made 1984 Arnold Schwarzenegger film is not trash per se, Savage said. But its exploitation roots show in its sci-fi themes and mercenary-machine title character.
"If it were made in the 1960s or '70s, it would have been trashy and low-budget," Savage said.
ZOMBIE WALK AND TRASH FILM ORGY
When: The Zombie Walk starts at 10 p.m. Saturday at Cheap Thrills. Participants should gather between 9 and 10 p.m. for the walk to the Crest Theatre. "Army of Darkness" screens at midnight. Movies are for ages 18 and older.
Where: The Zombie Walk starts at Cheap Thrills, 1721 L St. Trash Film Orgy continues Saturdays through Aug. 18 at the Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento.
Cost: The Zombie Walk is free. TFO films are $10, or $9 for moviegoers in costume.
TRASH FILM ORGY SCHEDULE
Saturday: "Army of Darkness" (1982) Bruce Campbell stars in the third film in director Sam Raimi's "Evil Dead" series.
July 21: "Battle Royale" (2000) In this Japanese film, the government forces a group of ninth-graders to kill each other. Shades of "The Hunger Games."
July 28: "The Terminator" (1984) The movie that inspired all those "I'll be back!" puns when Schwarzenegger was governor.
Aug. 4: "Flesh Gordon" (1974) The debauched-in-space takeoff on "Flash Gordon."
Aug. 11: "Five Deadly Venoms" (1978) Five kung-fu practitioners show special skills: the centipede, the snake, the lizard, the scorpion and the toad.
Aug. 18: "Rock 'n' Roll High School" (1979) Featuring the Ramones and two blond, late-1970s movie fixtures whose heydays were too short: Vincent Van Patten and P.J. Soles.