Vampires bother me. And not just because some wackjob housewife decided to make it popular that they sparkle. They’ve always been so generic. While they are the quintessential things that go bump in the night, they also have no real flair. Even the most unique take on vampire lore can only go so far.
On the other hand, Zombies make me smile. Their lurching and moaning seems fun. No matter what mode creators use to approach zombies—comedy like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead, serious horror like George Romero, or social commentary like Max Brooks’ World War Z—I never think the action is redundant or overdone.
But why? What is it about vampires that makes me reluctant to pick up their fiction while zombies draw me to them like Mulder to aliens.
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are vampire stories I like. I enjoy 30 Days of Night. I like Jim Butcher’s take on the various vampire courts in The Dresden Files. I also fell fully in love with True Blood. But all of the vampire stories I like have one thing in common: vampires are not the primary draw for the narrative. They are only a device that moves the plot forward.
Even my favorite zombie stories, World War Z and 28 Weeks Later, allow the creatures themselves to be secondary to the narrative instead of the driving force behind it. The best monster stories, if you ask me, are those where the monstrous characteristics sharply contrast the human element that makes them relevant to us.
As far as the creatures’ utilization goes, though, I have a few ideas why I prefer zombie fiction to vampires:
- Vampires are overdone. Sure, Dracula is a fantastic book. It’s even a pretty decent movie. The first dozen times you read it. After that, it loses something. Unfortunately, vampire fiction has barely moved past the Stokerfied conventions, and stories like 30 Days of Night are the exception rather than the rule.
- Vampires are a metaphor for rape. Striking as a surprise from the darkness, penetrating their victims,and leaving them an empty husk? Not for me; no thanks. I don’t want to support even a metaphor for something so aberrant. It makes me honestly wonder about fangbangers and Twilight (among other recently and inexplicably popular series) fans who never look past the surface of stories they expose themselves to.
- Zombies are visceral. In most vampire lit, the monsters have to be dealt with one at a time. Very rarely are there more than a handful of vamps at any given time, and most of the time, the vampire hunters have to have a plan to take on their foes. This makes for a very sporadic story with many action highs and lows. Zombies, however, constantly bombard the protagonists. Sure, they are no match individually, but en masse, they can destroy a whole world, and when the main characters go on a killing spree, there is more than a single payoff—there are dozens, if not hundreds,of deaths. It appeals to the animal in me more than I would expect.
- Zombies are scarier. Vampires are less than frightening for me because they have no real basis in reality. (“And zombies do?” you ask. Hear me out.) In my mind, no mythos out there is a feasible way for vampires to actually exist, thereby making even the scariest vampire nothing but a fantasy that cannot have any power over me I don’t allow. Zombies, however, have many real life allegories. Not so much in the rotting and brain craving category, but in the mindless, unfeeling, animalistic killing of others. Be it through political, religious, or another kind of brainwashing, the idea of a throng of people willing to kill for no reason is not unprecedented in history, much less our society. And that scares the living hell out of me. More than any blood sucker who can turn into a bat ever could.
So what about y’all? Are there any creature features that you just cannot get into?