The Undead Camps (Part 2)

I had long since forgotten about the afore mentioned war of attrition between impassioned Zombie Fans and Vampire Fans – and then read Richard Corliss of TIME MAGAZINE’s great review of “ZOMBIELAND.”

An excerpt:

“This whole vampires-vs.-zombies debate — about which monster is more vital to the pop-culture zeitgeist — has lately escalated to nuclear proportions. Both sides have gotten shriller and more dogmatic, as if they were wrangling over a public option in health-care reform or whether it’s O.K. to tweet during sex. As someone who’s amped up the decibel level on the creature-features subject (see my review of Thirst), I now believe the warring parties need to find some small patch of common ground. So can we agree on just one thing? A vampire movie (or novel, or TV show) is mainly about vampires; a zombie movie is not about zombies but about the people being chased by them. The undead may have no personality, but their intended victims do. They’re the ones who matter. That makes any zombie film, at heart, a relationship picture.”

(Full review.)

It’s a great insight!

Although I believe that vampire films are relationship pictures too. The hunter and the hunted can more easily fall into an emotional entanglement in a vampire flick than they can in a zombie flick. So many vampire stories deal with just this struggle. The beauty and the beast. The damsel falls for the tortured soul (who – as these stories often go – had his soul nicked away some time ago) and wants to redeem the irredeemable.

As to which genre is more vital to the zeitgeist?

I still can’t come down on just one side. They both have their merits and they both speak to something frightfully real within us. If we are speaking of how they resonate with the American zeitgeist – vampires are fear of the other -and zombies are fear what might take us over from within.

Stephen King’s “SALEM’S LOT” is a wonderful example. This simple, colorful, idyllic little town is invaded by a ferocious creature that came in from SOMEWHERE ELSE. Small town Americana is perverted by some foreign ghoul shipped in by foreigners.

In Romero’s zombie films – the zombie infection’s origins is never explained and just seems to erupt from within individuals. Yes – one surefire way to become a zombie is to get bitten by another zombie. But – where did the first zombies come from? Who was the first zombie? How did they get infected? Where did this all start?

The vampire mythology has always seemed threaded with religious undertones. There always seems to be demons cast from heaven present in many of the older vampire legends. The mythology of these seductive undead could easily be traced back to the first seduction – Eve and the Serpent.

Zombie mythology is much more blurred. No one is sure where this zombie infection came from or where it’s going.

Sometimes I wonder – what’s more American than that?

Such a young country who has devised so much of its identity from other cultures. Its inception may be well documented – but its cultural identity is still emerging.

Where did this come from and where is it going?

Does that make the zombie flick more vital to the American mindset?

The zombie flick does seem to have more in common with so many of your classic, American films. The anti-hero. The grit. The violence. The heroism. The anti-hero heroism.

I could so imagine Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle from “THE FRENCH CONNECTION” going one-on-one with a zombie. Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains fighting off these gruesome creatures as Ingrid Bergman’s plane left the airport of “CASABLANCA.”

There does seem to be something in the tone of zombie movies that speaks to a more American sensibility.

Zombie flicks deal with the fear of what we might become.

Vampire flicks can’t deal with this fear in the same way because – well – vampires are just too damn sexy (I’ve spoken to a couple of women who have claimed they even found the ghoulish Nosferatu from Murnau’s classic silent film strangely attractive. I fear for their dating prospects).

At first blush – there is something incredibly attractive about becoming a vampire. Eternal life. Strange but eerily appetizing sexual fetishes. Women in corsets.

Perhaps – vampire flicks deal with the fear of what we might lose.

Becoming a vampire means losing your soul, losing your ability to walk through the daylight, losing your ability to feast on anything but blood.

Becoming a vampire means losing so many aspects of your humanity – and – unlike zombies – being completely aware of what you’ve lost.

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~ by saturdaysinthedark on November 11, 2009.

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