i had no idea Willam Dafoe was in a Vampire movie!?!?!! and only 2 yrs ago no less. now i must see it!!!
Just a couple of quick notes:
30 Days of Night
The reason I didn't call out 30 Days Of Night, after much deliberation, is that the cultural tide seemed very much to be flowing against it. It felt like much more of an outlier on the pop-cultural map in the days of Twilight, True Blood, and innumerable sexytime vampires in the paranormal romance section, and unfortunately the box office returns seemed to verify that.
The World of Darkness
I only worked on the original WoD, but I can say there were definitely times when we tried to amp up the horror as high as it would go. There's some fairly nasty stuff lurking in the Guide to the Camarilla, for example, or the original Clanbook: Lasombra, if you look for it.
And thanks to everyone for taking the time to read and comment on the article.
I'd say the only scary thing about zombies is the thought of becoming one, other than that they're just disgusting, smelly, and have horrid table manners. Vampires at least have some class (or pretend to), like Dracula living in a castle and socializing with the upper class.
And pity is anathema to fear. The notion of getting killed by one of the beasts on the pages of The Passage may be scary, but there's nothing about them in and of themselves that leaps off the page and frightens the reader.
I disagree with this. I think you missed the point of how the vampires worked in that book. Whilst the majority of the jumpers/smokes/dracs were essentially superfast mindless plague zombies, they were connected to whichever of the Twelve sired them originally. These Twelve were classic vampire archetypes of the truly scary variety; not only did they control whole armies of the undead, they were able to mess with your mind at the most basic level and make you doubt who or what you are. The Twelve absolutely had agency, albiet of a particularly demented and inhuman kind.
And having a psychopathic serial killer be able to control your very perception of who you are, mould you into their image, is a pretty scary thought. It's certainly deeper than the threat of zombies, who simply represent blander themes such as social alienation and the slow inevitability of decay and death. (Okay, those are pretty important too, I guess.)
I don't like the place vampire have taken in modern times. It's really depressing that such a powerful mythological creature has been defanged and castrated to a point of lame.
I guess if you take the religion out of the vampire you're left with nothing more than a really weird hemophiliac....
Intriguing article :)
If I had any nitpicking rants to add, they would be these:
I feel the conclusion that Vampires actually are more dangerous than Zombies, and that Zombie stories thus are just about patting the survivor's (as which we imagine ourselves) backs, is a bit short-fetched. The patting-the-back thing surely is part of it, but claiming Zombies are less of a threat ignores some factors. For instance, the threat they pose results from their sheer numbers; so whatever you do, in the end you'll run out of ammunition, or they will overrun your barricades, etc. The question of how many rounds one has left thus may prove to be a much more threatening one than any problem Vampires could pose. If not anything else, survivors will have to rest eventually; Vampires need to rest, too, usually, while Zombies don't. Up aganist Zombies, you'll screw up sooner or later just because of mental or physical exhaustion (unless you find a global cure, which usually fails); opposite to Vampires, you're under attack almost permanently. So I feel it's not true that because Zombies are less dangerous, stories involving them are rather patting-back stories about the living than stories dealing with the monsters.
It is true, however, that Zombie flicks deal with the survivors (their colflicts among each other, for instance) much more than Vampire stories nowadays deal with the humans; I guess this goes to show that in the end, one of the horrifying aspects of the Zombie is that he is a (although distorted) mirror image of ourselves, which I feel is a subtext of most Zombie flicks (something to which Freud, whose article about "The taboo of the dead" I only can recommend, would agree). This at least is true for anything which is not just a cheap attempt to exploit the genre. Zombie stories are about the living all right, but not just in a patting-their-backs way.
Another thing (which rather goes for some comments than the article) is that I guess it's idle to discuss whether Zombies sometimes are rather like Ghouls, or Vampires in the olden days were more like Zombies, or Zombies with ties are like Victorian Vampires etc. Literature and movies have moved the undead of any kind so far away from the original myths (I could go into a long rant about how the original meaning of the staking, or how and why it works, was lost, forcing contemporary authors to either awkwardly explain or ignore it, but I'll spare you this ;) - and of course we all know that the "Zombies" in the movies aren't Zombies in the Voodoo sense of the word, and rather resemble the Undead in the Gilgamesh Epos or the scandinavian Draugr), and created so many different versions of them, that the distinctions seem useless. There aren't "the" Zombies or Vampires anymore, just Joss Whedon's (nice pun btw. ;), Bram Stoker's, George Romero's etc.
(Notice btw. how the skeleton-like Terminator robots actually are just technically advanced undead in a way? ;)
One last thing - I'd really like to see a nice Ghoul movie one day (btw. here we go again - the Arabian ghul have nothing in common with the corpse-eating creatures to which Lovecraft slapped that label). It's a hard topic, though, I guess. One trouble with Ghouls may be that eating corpses (and darker stuff the idea suggests) still seems a bigger taboo than sexuality or gore (the contemporary Vampires have lost all signs of being "dead", which takes any hint at necrophilia out of vampirism); another is that the classic "Lovecraftian" ghoul, since eating corpses only, hardly makes a good monster. He poses no threat to the living - he's just a bit "eee-yuck". You'd have to change him, thus, and would just end up with the same discussion - is it still a Ghoul, or rather a Zombie?
Well my thought on the subject is that Vampires have been the victim of too many popular tropes. In a lot of cases the issue is simply that people are looking at it for the sex/power fantasy, or simple and straightforward action. This leads to the superhuman, misunderstood romantic vampires, or the bestial ones that are over the top ugly monsters.
Making Vampires scary really isn't that difficult, but it winds up going into territory a lot of people won't like, and aren't comfortable with. True horror isn't well travelled much anymore because only a few people really enjoy the negative emotions it brings.
Simply put, the best way to restore the fear to Vampires is simply to focus on the elitism. Your typical paranormal romance stuff tends to work the way it does because the protaganist is in some way special, or dreadfully attractive and picked out by these super beings to be one of them (or with them). This leads to a perspective from which the Vampire hunters and such (when they show up) are a bunch of bigots. This works because the reader is lead to associate themselves with the protaganists who is more or less an "insider" (or on the fringes in a way that they are respected and brought into things), and it plays to the power fantasy of being both powerful and loved.
On the other hand take most of those scenarios, make the protaganist a fat lardball, or skinny reject, like the reader probably is, and he situation changes. You've basically got this group of super-powerful elitists who hand pick the best people they can find to lord over you. They wind up controlling massive money and resources due to immortality, and more or less make you inferior and remove the control of your own destiny simply by existing. Even if they don't need to kill anyone, we're basically dealing with something akin to Hitler's whole "Aryan Master Race" thing, except with superpowered undead.
Beyond jealousy, your looking at a very clear system of inherant superiority and rulership, along with a group of beings that aren't shy about exploiting it. What's more even the "nice" vampires in novels step over the lines quite frequently to show their superiority by engaging in things like mind alteration, recreational torture, and similar things. In "True Blood" you'll notice the Vampires maintain their own system of justice and don't follow the same rules everyone else does, looking down on the mortals to a massive degree.
To put it bluntly, as a regular "Joe Slob" I'm liable to have a problem with a lot of this, and it isn't going to be a matter of projected bigotry. Get into some of the scenes where they say have some loser strapped to a table with a spigot stuck into his veins or whatever as a piece of backround material, and yeah I might have an issue, and that Anita Blake/Sookie Stackhouse/whomever character is actually part of the problem.
The issue of course is a matter of adjusting the perspective, of course the people who enjoy reading about these power fantasies, don't want to hear abount how it's wrong, or about how this "aristocricy of the night" winds up getting dragged down for simple elitism.
The "monster mash" approach of having supernatural creatures fight each other, comes down to the "insider perspective". If they are attentionally sidestepping the issue of how humanity views this kind of thing, or wants to dismiss it as "bigotry" as opposed to standing against bigotry, then you need something for dramatic tension and that either comes down to the vampires fighting each other, or facing some other kind of force that can present a threat.
The problem isn't the vampires, it's the writers, and how you see pretty much the entirety of vampire fiction focused on retreading what sells.
I'll also say Zombies are in the same vote because as time goes on people seem to be playing increasing numbers of games with that genere as well, there are plenty of movies using Zombies as increasingly obtuse metaphors, or focusing on the rights of the infected or whatever. When you don't see that, your pretty much looking the other seven or eight tropes being constantly recycled. The genere becoming so formulaistic, that even the exceptions to the general foruma are becoming a painful stereotype. It's falling into exactly the same pit as Vampire fiction just from another direction.
Seeing that Vampires were originally used as a metaphor for sexual openness, amongst other things, it makes a fair bit of sense to me that this has happened. Although some Vamps are still fucking badass.
Fair enough, honestly, the words "vampire apocalypse" have never sounded right to me to begin with.
Vampires have had an "evolution" similar to Native Americans in Western movies, and it's due to social change. Back when Nosferatu was released, there wasn't this pressure of equality, and the church had far more control. Therefore an unholy outcast was far scarier than today.
Zombies lack that kind of development. They aren't characters, they are props, and so they are always spoken about in "apocalypse" situations, as there is no way you'd have any guilt about killing them. If Dead Rising had any form of sentient life, it wouldn't have been as much stupid fun.
Well said, and you are entirely right about them being props. Props can be used well or used poorly but ultimately they can't really go anywhere - although they certain can be overexposed.
When it comes to vampires I like monsters, not pretty people, but if all vampires were ripping off Count Orlock that would be just as uninteresting. Funny enough the exception here would no doubt be the Twilight series with its sparkly half-chiropteran monstrosities.
Vampires and zombies are both disastrously over-exposed. Vampires have for the most part deteriorated into the mainstays of glorified soaps (and dragged the long-suffering werewolf with them). The last zombie movies of any note, meanwhile, were all comedies, which is a pretty good gauge of how completely they've jumped the shark as any kind of horror monster. If pop culture history is any guide, they'll all soon be starring in sitcoms and making "funny" Halloween albums. The future belongs to none of them.
Wasen't Daybreak a vampire apocalypse?
Very interesting article!
more zombies please.
And for that matter Zombies too have had their fair of intellectualizing. Through the night of and return of series we've seen zombies that talk, rationalize and even attempt to find some measure of tolerance for those still living. So now the big deal with zombies apart form the mindless gamer analogues we mostly know, is to discuss them in light of social ills like the treatment of minorities. We aren't at the point where anyone is writing zombie romance books yet but give it 100 years. The ladies will be pining for "Team GWUAHaaaAHAHHHHAW" by then, I assure you.
Wannabe goth Dramas like Twilight etc have ruined vampires for me, I even thought the first few Anne Rice books were good, but in the end I think it's all her fault when she started just to take it too far. It was the history that made her books I think.
Now we have sparkly stalker vampires that go to high school or brutal vampires that have relationship problems, Buffy kind of made vampires totally wimpy with that Angel character.
TBH I've never seen true blood and people tell me it's good but I don't want to see it now because I just hate all the vampire drama there is now.
People say stop putting zombies in everything but zombies are a tool. Name a really bad zombie game. They are merely a back drop or a mechanic for a story, never a character.
Even a drama about a zombie apocalypse isn't about zombies it's about survivors and zombies are the setting. They are set on ruining that for me too with all this "OMG ZOMBIES, OMG RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS TOO" drama they are kicking out with walking dead, the first series was cool now it's all about "LOL MARRIAGE"
I don't understand writers incessant need to inject romance stories into everything. The only thing it really worked in was House because it was kinda realistic.
Basically I'm sick of all the mushyness being injected into everything, mainly vampires. VAMPIRES ARE NOT SUPPOSED TO BE MUSHY.