One of the most chilling moments in “Walking Dead” history was the first time we got a glimpse of the Governor’s zombie head aquarium, which he sat down and watched as if it were an episode of his favorite reality TV show. This scene also took place in the fifth episode of Season 3, and Nicotero cleverly inserted an exact replica of Ben Gardner’s severed head from Jaws into one of the tanks. The reveal of Gardner’s head coming out of the hull of a sunken boat is one of the best horror movie jump scare moments of all time, and it clearly had a real impact on Nicotero!
Nicotero again sat in the director’s chair on the 15th episode of Season 3, titled ‘This Sorrowful Life.’ The episode was indeed a sorrowful one, as it ended with Daryl being forced to kill his zombified brother Merle. Shortly prior, Merle finds himself a car and blasts music inside of it, purposefully attracting a horde of walkers around the vehicle, which he uses to ambush the Governor and his men. One of the zombies that the music attracts is instantly recognizable to Dawn of the Dead fans as being that film’s aptly named ‘Plaid Shirt Zombie,’ who is seen at the deserted airport hangar. Not surprisingly, Nicotero cites both Jaws and Dawn of the Dead as being two horror films that were a huge inspiration on him.
The mid-season finale of “The Walking Dead’s” fourth season was absolutely jam-packed with carnage, including a fatal zombie bite to the neck of young Meghan, whom the Governor had come to love as a surrogate daughter of sorts. Though the zombie that delivers the bite in the shocking scene looks a bit like Return of the Living Dead’s Tarman, the scene was no doubt an homage to Lucio Fulci’s Zombie, which saw a dirty, maggot-eyed zombie rising up from the ground in much the same fashion, also to feast on a juicy neck. A moment that made me smile, as a fan of Fulci’s movies, and then of course quickly turned that smile into a horrified expression!