Friday, October 16, 2009

Vampires or Zombies: Which Takes over First?

Yes, it's a question as old as mankind: zombies or vampires - which one poses a greater threat to civilisation?

Fortunately, the folk at Geek Blips have compiled a pool of experts (read: bloggers) to discuss this contentious issue.

To be honest, the issue seems somewhat redundant, as the vampires and zombies mentioned are primarily of the cinematic variety. I mean, the vampire of, say, the Twilight (ugh) universe has little in common with the meandering, bloodthirsty Slavic corpses of days gone by. Or, as Paul Barber puts it in Vampires, Burial, and Death: Folklore and Reality (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988):
If a typical vampire of folklore, not fiction, were to come to your house this Halloween, you might open the door to encounter a plump Slavic fellow with long fingernails and a stubbly beard, his mouth and left eye open, his face ruddy and swollen. He wears informal attire - in fact, a linen shroud - and he looks for all the world like a disheveled peasant (2).
Not quite Edward Cullen, there.

That's not to say that the modern-day movie zombies fares much better.

Contrast the vicious, flesh-hungry, mindless drones that infect their prey with a single bite, to this:
A zombie is a creature that appears in folklore and popular culture typically as a reanimated corpse or a mindless human being. Stories of zombies originated in the Afro-Caribbean spiritual belief system of Vodou, which told of the people being controlled as laborers by a powerful sorcerer.
That's right. Cheap labour for witchdoctors.

In fact, fictional representations of vampires are largely responsible for the modern conception of zombies on the screen.

George Romero's Night of the Living Dead (1968) was the prototype of the modern zombie move. Yet, strangely, the "z" word is not even mentioned in the entire movie.

So, what inspired him?

Here's a snippet from an interview with Fears Magazine, in which he discusses its genus:
GEORGE ROMERO: Well, I ripped off the first idea of dead coming back to life from "I Am Legend" when I did "Night Of The Living Dead."

FEARS: We'll call Richard Matheson up and tell him [laughs].

GEORGE ROMERO: Oh, I've told him. He knows! [laughs] He also knows that I never made any money from it—otherwise, he said "I'd be after your ass!" [laughing]
For those not-in-the-know, Richard Matheson was the author of I Am Legend (1954); a sci-fi/horror novel that sees its protagonist, Robert Neville, as the only known human not to have succumbed to a bacteria that has decimated mankind.

The infected come out at night, react to garlic and are killed with stakes to the heart...I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this.

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