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Scary Science

Scary Science” is a new segment here at Zombie Guide Magazine where we will explore the scientific accuracy of various zombie films and shows. We will rank the movies on a scale called the “Truthfulness”, where 1 means highly impossible to 8, which is extremely likely.

Truthfulness: 3

For our first segment, I chose my favorite zombie movie which is the Dawn of the Dead remake that came out in 2004. I like this movie because it has a nice balance of calmness and action, but it is also very inaccurate.

The movie starts with our main character named Anna. She is an ER nurse at the beginning of the movie discussing a patient who came in at 6 AM with a bite on his hand. She says the cops told her he was in a bar fight since we are looking at the patient’s CAT scan. When asked where the patient was she says she doesn’t know, and to ask a night nurse. The doctor shrugs her off and says page me when you find him. She asks a night nurse where her patient is. After some filler conversation, Anna learns he was moved to the ICU. Despite being confused as to why he is there, Anna passes the file to her and heads home. When she returns home, after a conversation with the neighbor’s daughter, she begins to unwind for the day. The next morning she is woken up by the neighbor’s daughter standing of her with a huge gash on her face. Anna’s significant other reaches the girl, only to get a huge bite in the neck. Anna throws the girl from the room. She struggles to get the bleeding to stop while calling 9-1-1. He dies in the process. This is the first inaccurate part of the movie. The incubation period for all diseases is often three days-to a few weeks. This why viruses spread so quickly. During the incubation period you are systemic, but not showing symptoms. No virus is history takes a few minutes, to up to five hours, according to the movie.

After her significant other has turned he charges at her at full speed, causing her to rush into the bathroom falling into the tub. It was a pretty nasty fall, and I don’t believe she could walk away without some form of injuries. She clearly would have broken either her leg, ankle or arm. Not to mention a concussion from hitting her head on the back of the tub or even when the shower rod fell on her, but yet somehow she got away without any major or minor injuries. Fast forward through all the unrealistic chaos and anarchy at 6:45 am. Seriously, it’s a Saturday there wouldn’t be all that chaos. Even in a crisis civil unrest would take at least 48 hours to go in full effect in an average-sized suburb. This takes place in a suburb of Wisconsin and they are showing city level rioting, this wouldn’t happen. Now the credits begin with CDC holding a press conference with the speaker go “I don’t know” after every question. The CDC wouldn’t hold a press conference until they knew what was going, and how to contain it.

We return to the movie to find Anna once again got into a horrific accident and walked away without any major or minor injuries to speak of. She is found by Kenneth, a law enforcement cop trying to get to Fort Pastor. They two form a partnership and along the way they run into Andre, Micheal, and Luda. They tell them the road ahead is filled with monsters and they were heading to the mall. All the doors are locked so the group has to shoot there way in blasting off the main lock. There is a latch-bolt lock they use to secure the door. Unfortunately in the real world that wouldn’t have held very well. It takes 1,700 pounds of pressure to break through that lock. The average person’s punch causes 412 pounds of pressure. It would have taken five zombies to break that lock off.

Now that we’re finally in the mall they team splits up to check the doors to make sure they are all locked along the way Micheal comes across the only open store in the entire mall. Such a convenient plot hole. I found the mall in which they shot the movie and learned they close up at 8 pm, so the stores will most likely be vacant by 10 pm. So, technically the mall would belong empty before any zombie could even get inside the place using the timeline set by the movie. But, we have to set the plot up to force our heroes to use the elevators. Otherwise, how would we know there were guards hiding on the second floor. This is where another inaccurate event occurs. I’m not talking about the armed guards, because most malls at this time did have armed guards, as long as they had a valid CCW permit, I’m talking about the very convenient suture supplies in the first aid kit. This place would most likely have a basic OSHA first aid kit that would only contain the essential medical supplies for day to day operations. Suture supplies would only be found in a surgical first aid kit, which would be a way to advance for a mall in Wisconsin. At 12:41 pm we learn on the news report that society is in full collapse. It ends with the media saying they are going off the air. By now in the real world when the media goes dark, so does the power and water supplies. So, I will just assume the emergency generators have kicked on at this time. Electricity will also be the first to go in any disaster for safety reasons, cars crashing in poles, and companies just burning out because they don’t have a staff to run their delicate needs. They are telling people what is going on and how to dispose of the dead. After this, the head security guard, CJ, tells them they are going to clean downstairs. When finish they head to the roof using the supplies from the very random hardware store that just so happens to be in the mall. While hanging up SOS signs to let the helicopters know they are alive inside we see the zombie herds are in the thousands at various doors. Time to do some math again, because the best-tempered glass only needs 24,000 pounds of pressure to shatter. Remember the average person’s punch causes 412 pounds of pressure, so we would only need 58 zombies pounding on them for each one to shatter. Also going by the time frame set by the movie we would be a little over six hours into the apocalypse. The corpses would be well into rigor mortis at this point in time, so they would become slower and stiffer. So, the scene ends with our heroes sleeping on the bottom floor in a store called Metropolis and the guards upstairs.

The next day a guard named Terry heads downstairs to turn off the timers. Anna is up complaining there is no bathroom in there and she has to go. But, if you remember yesterday they threw a toilet through the window, so why didn’t she just climb out the open window like she did yesterday? Also, Luda was bitten yesterday and she hasn’t changed yet. How is that possible, since we are about to learn that it takes a maximum of five hours to change. Shouldn’t she be a zombie by now according to the film? A little after being let out of the store Terry arrives at the controls and starts turning off things when he sees a big rig plow through the still fast and agile zombies Somehow they are immune to rigor, must be those steel bones that only show up to move the plot along. The heroes help guide the truck to safety and we see that despite the science the latch lock is still in place. When the new group arrives we learn that Fort Pastor has fallen which I find extremely hard to believe. Our Government has thousands of plans and the smartest scientists, I doubt they would have fallen so quickly. They would have been much more organized, secured, and trained to handle such a catastrophe. At this point, we begin a montage of random scenes, so I had to use Andy’s lost tapes to help keep me in sync with the timeline.

According to his tapes, seven days passed when the generator officially died. This causes many inaccuracies. Let’s start at the beginning as water facilities would have crashed the same day as the power plants, so there would be no running water by noon on the second day. The average person produces 4.4 lb of bodily waste every day, and 5.9 lbs of trash. That means our 14 survivors produce 61.6 lbs of bodily waste and 82.60 lbs of trash each day. We know that seven days have passed with no running water or trash pick up, so what happened to the 431.2 lbs of bodily waste, and the 578.2 lbs of trash go?

The food and drinks supply would still be good though. You figured store carrying food supplies would only have two days worth of goods, assuming we caught them when the shelves were full. Looking at the mall’s statistics we know there are 39 stores and four restaurants overall. We will assume that 13 stores (1/3 of total stores) are carrying food and drinks. Using FDA statistics we will say that there are 500 lbs of food in just those stores alone. Restaurants, on the other hand, would give them three days worth of food and drink, which totals 625 lbs of food per day. After doing the math that gives them a total of 1,875 pounds of food from the restaurants. Overall that 2,375 pounds of food. Let’s assume for the sake of conversation that the drinks are at 2,375 lbs as well, which means we are looking at 285 gallons worth of drinks. The average person drinks one gallon of beverages and consumes five pounds worth of food. Assuming they rationed it properly, every day they would consume 70 lbs of food and 14 gallons of drinks as a group. That would mean 490 lbs of food and 98 gallons of drinks in the week. By the end of the week, they would have left 1,885 lbs of food and 187 gallons of drinks.

With the generator officially running out of the fuel we will spot another set of inaccuracies. Top of the line high-end generators produces only 24 hours worth of power when filled to the brim. Figuring it’s a big mall they would most likely have three of these industrial-grade generators the power should have gone out a long time ago. A group of our heroes heads into the parking garage to refill the generators to get the power back up and running. While on this mission they are jumped by the still fast and agile zombies. At this point, this is slightly believable as rigor moris would have dissipated within 48 hours, but they still wouldn’t be climbing the rafter like Spider-Man. The group runs into a convenient caged in area where the generators, random shuttle buses, and two gas pumps seem to be. First off generators would not be so close to the pumps. It’s regulated that pumps should be fifteen feet away from a dwelling in an open area so fumes can’t build up. They would never inside an enclosed concrete structure within a building. Second, why parking shuttles? The parking lot isn’t that big according to the movie, so there would be no real need for them in the first place. Third, most common industrial generators and shuttle buses would take diesel, so there would be no reason to have a pump with regular gas. They likely did this for dramatic effect, as gasoline ignites much faster and easier than diesel fuel.

 After this scene, the group decides to convert the parking shuttles to travel to the marina on the other side of town. We learned according to Andy’s tapes that thirteen days have passed during the construction montage. I would like to point out they are making a lot of noise in a parking garage that nobody closed of yet. So, what is keeping the zombies away? With three people dead at this point, our survivor total drops to eleven. That would put our food stores at a healthy total of 1,170 lbs. Unfortunately, the drinks wouldn’t be as great. At this time the drinks would be at 44 gallons. The zombie apocalypse at this point in the movie would have been going on for 22 days. I am certain at this point Andy would have died of dehydration. You figured he owns a gun and ammo store, so he doesn’t have much food and drinks to live off of for very long. He says in the tapes he filled as many containers as he could, which wouldn’t have been many. I also find it hard to believe that nobody at the mall warned him about the danger of bites.

Next, shuttle buses would not be a practical way to escape the mall. First, the average bus can travel 150 miles before needing refueling. According to Google Maps, the marina would be 261 miles away. So, they would never reach the marina without stopping to refuel at least once. Second, why did they waste so much time retrofitting two shuttle escape buses? There’s only 12 of them (11 survivors and Andy), and you can fit at the minimum 22 people comfortably in one. Doing a second one just seems like a waste. Now, let’s skip ahead to the zombies finally getting into the mall. Before you bring it up, yes it’s possible the dog could be immune from the zombie virus. Humans and dogs have two different body structures so it’s highly likely for the dog to be immune. Our survivors, now at eight people and one dog flee the mall as the zombies take over. As they drive through the herds of zombies rocking the buses, making passage difficult. This is another inaccuracy as it would take 20 people to successfully tip the bus over. But, somehow they don’t and CJ wipes out the whole herd with a propane tank explosion. This is another thing that is highly possible given how volatile propane fumes are. Once we get through all this we enter the fallen Wisconsin town and to our surprise, the roads are amazingly clear as they leave town. You think with hundreds of people fleeing there would be more gridlocked roads and hundreds of barriers to maneuver around.

Finally, our remaining survivors, which are four, get on the boat and sail away for a distant island but not quite before opening the door to more inaccuracies. Being in the water, they would confront dangerous storms and unpredictable weather patterns. Since none of them are experienced seamen chances are nobody would know how to use the equipment on board, and more than likely they would end up shipwrecked. There are 942 shipwrecks every year. Not to mention the body of water they are on is Lake Michigan. According to government officials, the water is safe to drink, but not for a sustainable water source. Though not a body of salt water it is still rather close to saltwater levels and in some places you can see high salt deposits. It is also polluted with cow poop runoff and the overall pollution level is high. If you do drink it, make sure you treat it first. The Great Lakes are also known to have rather violent and unpredictable weather patterns making it difficult to safely navigate. It’s likely extremely unlikely they would be able to safely navigate the great lakes having no knowlage of how to use their craft…

M.L. Lewis

Written by M.L. Lewis

M.L. Lewis is not new to the world of writing. She has written various short stories and poems throughout the years and has won multiple awards in art and literature. The highest honor she received was Poet of the Year in 2000, and again in 2005. A poem she wrote in honor of law enforcement can be seen in the book, Everything You Wanted to Know about the Heroes in Blue. She was also featured in Encounter magazine for the volunteer work she did for the United States troops. In 2010 she won Resident of the Year in a local newspaper titled The South Hills Messanger. Today, she spends her time increasing her knowledge on disaster preparedness while working on her Ph. D. in Paranormal Studies.