Dead Sexy (Tokyo Milk) and Zombie for Him (Demeter)

With the season finale AMC's Walking Dead set to air tonight, it seems important to select a fragrance suitable for the occasion. The question is: should I aim to smell like a walker, or like a survivor?

This issue is (ahem) sticky even for those with brains enough to make a decision. Rick, Darryl, Maggie and Michonne are often seen smearing themselves with a walker-derived unguent that looks like blackstrap molasses and probably reeks like the world's end. They do so in order to "pass" among herds of roving zombies. Apparently, if you smell dead enough, the UNdead will mistake you for one of their own. Seconding this tactic is the American Chemical Society, whose proposed "corpse perfume" Eau de Death contains putrescine, cadaverine, methane, and other toxic compounds known to exude from rotting flesh. Yummy!

Me, I like my walkers still fairly fresh and ZomRomCom-ready... like R from Warm Bodies. As played by the adorkable Nicholas Hoult, R (real name Romeo, I presume?) has barely been deceased long enough to have reached rigor mortis. He's cloudy-eyed, cyanotic, and cold to the touch... but his heart is in the right place, and red-hot besides. I cannot imagine he smells like Eau de Death... not yet, anyway.

Instead, let's scent R with Demeter's Zombie for Him. Cold rain on river shale, fresh fungi sprouting from black loam, oak leaves decaying on ancient beds of moss-- Zombie for Him ties all of these scents together with a peculiar, chilly incense note that staves off putrefaction with a morgue-like drop in temperature. You might complain that there's nothing especially comforting or even human about this scent; it doesn't sit on warm skin with ease, and it might take a long time for it to grow on you. But Zombie for Him is surprisingly handsome-- an earthy, weird wunder-pong that proves bizarrely addictive once it's had a chance to win your heart.

As Warm Bodies demonstrates, every young zombie lad needs a warm-blooded love interest to keep him shambling toward salvation. R has Julie, a courageous, pragmatic, and battle-ready maiden who manages to overlook his non-living status on a number of levels-- emotional, intellectual, and olfactory. (I mean, he keeps smearing her with his own juices to camouflage her from roving zombies, and she lets him! If that ain't a metaphor for love!)

For Julie, I'm looking at Tokyo Milk's Dead Sexy. Perfumer Margot Elena has tackled the vanilla gourmand genre before in Tainted Love, but Dead Sexy's vanilla sheds all those old cozy-kitchen connotations and becomes something remote, quiet, elegaic. Could this be due to ebony wood, that spooky-dusty scent element which transforms Lubin Idole from heavy saffron pudding into weightless meringue?

The best news: Dead Sexy layered over Zombie for Him is fabulous. The former cheers up the latter, while the latter lends the former gravitas; together they make quite a couple, with admirable tenacity and sillage. Call it a marriage made to outlast the apocalypse!

There is, of course, a third option: Lancôme Magnifique. This is the perfume that Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) tentatively sprays on himself during a gift shop pit-stop in Zombieland. Thorny fellow traveler Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson) susses out both the fragrance and its intended target in seconds flat. "Oh my God. You're thinking about fucking Wichita," he drawls (referring, of course, to the lissome outlaw played by Emma Stone). "Good luck now, Petunia!"

Pre-apocalypse, perhaps Tallahassee had swotted up on Luca Turin, who gave Magnifique a dismal two stars. But who knows? If Luca Turin turns zombie one of these days, Lancôme Magnifique layered on living flesh might smell a great deal more appetizing.

Scent Elements: Vanilla, orchid, ebony woods (Dead Sexy); dried leaves, mushrooms, mildew, moss, and earth (Zombie for Him)