I realize that zombies and vampires have gotten a bit of a bad reputation of late due to the overwhelming amounts of products featuring them that is clearly not a horror product. They have become ridiculous through comedies and romanticized to where they lose their teeth (or fangs as the case may be). However I think our undead friends still have plenty of unlife in them and can definitely reclaim their place in horror. In fact I would love for them to do so and quit being the fodder of the lowest budget films and harlequin romance writers
Thanks to the Walking Dead (both the comic and the series) zombies have started their return to the horror they belong to. It has become the practice over the years to turn out zombie films in an incredible B-movie style (and despite my love of B-movies even I can’t really stand these). There are a few good examples of zombie horror in them but most of them just fade into white noise because they don’t bring anything new or original to the arena. Same with a lot of zombie fiction, they take zombies and write a fun little romp in the world gone mad where the undead have overtaken the living and those are fun but at the end of the day they are becoming almost commonplace, whereas Brian Keene’s The Rising and it’s sequel City of the Dead were both great examples of creating a good zombie horror story while keeping the action character driven and allowing the zombies to play their part as antagonists but the trick to realize is that zombies don’t drive the plot. One of the best examples of how zombies should be used was put forth by my wife, and she said that zombie films are more like disaster films. This is a great analogy if you really look at it; you have a group of people who are trapped in a situation they can’t control and have to adjust and try to survive. The story isn’t about the undead it’s about the manner in which people interact and deal with the phenomenon. I think Max Brooks in World War Z really captured the disaster nature of zombie fiction. I will say this; the exception to this would be if the story is from the point of view of the zombie as in Brains: a Zombie Memoir by Robin Becker.
Now let’s talk about another undead fiend who has been tamed by media: vampires. For years and years, vampires have been portrayed as having a bit of a sexual side to them from the wanton sexual temptresses who crawl through your window in the night to the charming man who invites you for a lovely moonlight stroll. We like vampires to be nice and charming, despite their soulless murdering ways. Friendly vampires have been with us for nearly 20 years. Buffy the Vampire Slayer with its portrayal of Angel and in later seasons Spike taught us that sometimes vampires might have souls, but that was not the norm by any means. However with the emergence of the new “Gothic Romance” stories i.e. Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries and other similar works the vampires of horror have slowly faded. I’m confident and hopeful that vampires will continue to emerge in works of horror because they along with the zombie are some of our oldest myths and fears. They are death returned giving us a disquiet fear that perhaps what waits after death is not what we’ve believed. I have found vampires in works such as Larry Correia’s Monster Hunters novels and they are real vampires. I realize when I say “real” vampire people want to scoff but here’s what I mean: ruthless blood drinking fiends who do not overly care for humanity outside of their usefulness to create other blood drinking horrors and the nourishment they offer. Jonathan Maberry in his Pine Deep Trilogy feature vampires that are just as ruthless and sadistic as you might expect a soulless creature to be.
So while there are still examples of good horror fiction and film with both vampires and zombies they are becoming harder to find because we no longer fear our myths. Zombies and vampires no longer represent our mortality and what awaits us they have become comedic characters and eternal lovers (more vampires than zombies). Which is fine but I’m getting tired of not being able to find good vampire horror fiction when the entire freaking section of books that feature vampires are Twilight and True Blood or some form of imitation. Am I alone out there in my thoughts? Anyone?