Which are scarier—zombies or vampires?
It used to be that vampires were scarier than zombies—back when Dracula and Nosferatu ruled the roost of vampires. But vampires have become so romanticized what with such movies as Interview with the Vampire and Twilight that the creatures have been leeched of their fiendishness and nowadays are avatars of eroticism rather than of evil.
Gone are the days of Nosferatu, the ugliest and creepiest vampire of them all as Max Schreck portrayed him in F. W. Murnau’s eponymous 1922 German film, and of Dracula, the vampire with the evil eye as Bela Lugosi realized him in Hollywood.
Whereas Hollywood once envisioned the vampire as the maleficent, bug-eyed Bela Lugosi (in Dracula) with an eldritch Balkan accent, it kept reinventing the creature of the night. Along came Tom Cruise as the ashen-faced romantic fop of a vampire in Interview with a Vampire and then Robert Pattinson as the frail, anemic vampire in the Twilight series. These modern vampires aren’t scary by half. In fact, their victims actually lust for these creatures to bite them!
Justin Cronin tried to juice up the vampire’s fear factor when he penned his horror novel The Passage. Eschewing the term vampire because of its modern evocation of the words erotic and romantic, he called his vampires virals and made them hideous to behold and bloodcurdling in their assaults on humanity.
The fact is, though, that Cronin’s creatures aren’t really vampires. Cronin himself cringes when the term vampire is used to describe his evil man-made creatures. These days, no horror writer worth his salt wants to write about vampires if his goal is to stoke fear in his readers. On the other hand, it is romance writers who employ vampires, and it is not to generate fear but to generate eros.
Enter the zombie.
The zombie is the walking dead. It is an ugly, reeking, decomposing slab of dead flesh that walks the land day and night feeding on living human beings. There is nothing romantic about this ghoul. It is a filthy, disease-riddled creature that fills people with equal parts fear and disgust. These creatures resemble the original film image of the vampire as Nosferatu more than they do Ann Rice’s Lestat.
Could anyone actually be turned on by the flesh-eating, lurching walking corpses in George Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead? Unlike modern vampires, zombies instill only one feeling in people—that of horror. Young women may lust to have their throats bitten by vampires in the guise of Robert Pattinson, but no young women alive (unless she’s suicidal) is dying to get bitten by zombies played by unrecognizable Hollywood extras with putrescent faces and ragged clothes and bites that will rip their bodies to shreds.
Who’s scarier in this day and age? It’s not even close. Hands down, it’s zombies over vampires.
A short excerpt from the first chapter of Bryan Cassiday’s Sanctuary in Steel is now available for reading at Amazon. The cover image of Sanctuary in Steel should be available soon.
September 9, 2012
The term noir used to refer to crime fiction and movies with cynical characters, bleak settings, and a pervading atmosphere of gloom and entrapment.
There aren’t any crime thrillers these days that convey such desolation and hopelessness. Instead it is the zombie apocalypse genre of books and film that can best be described by the term noir.
In the zombie apocalypse genre, society has collapsed or is in the midst of collapsing. Characters are so cynical that they turn against each other at the drop of a hat in order to survive. And the outlook of society is an oppressive hopelessness.
George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is a textbook example of zombie noir. Zombies are overruning the world and devouring humans. A band of surviving humans make their last stand against the zombies in a deserted house.
While battling the zombies, the characters fight against themselves as well, and, in the end, the characters are all wiped out. Ironically, the last survivor in the house is shot and killed by vigilante humans who blow him away thinking him a zombie.
Night of the Living Dead is classic film noir, and it’s not even a crime thriller. Contemporary films like 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later continue the tradition of zombie noir in the movies.
When it comes to hopelessness, a bleak desolate environment, and cynical desperate characters, nothing can compare to the zombie apocalypse genre. Hence the popularity and rise of zombie noir during these days of a sluggish economy.