Vampires Suck; or, Richard Corliss knows nothing about zombies

Posted by Cory Casciato On August - 10 - 2009

corlissSo, Time movie critic Richard Corliss, in a review of Park Chan-wook’s Thirst, decided to take the opportunity to expound on why vampires are better than zombies as a lead in to his review. Why he felt the need to defame the good zombie name, I am not sure, but what he ended up proving is a) he knows basically nothing about zombies, b) he has little idea what is actually scary in a movie and c) zombies are infinitely better than vampires, by the very criteria he has selected.

Corliss starts out with this tepid intro: “You’ve heard the propaganda: Zombies Are the New Vampires. Once relegated to back-list B movies like I Walked With a Zombie and Night of the Living Dead, those slow-moving, post-mortem drudges of West African mythic origin are now the hot horror creature.”

Okay, Corliss. I Walked with a Zombie may have been a B-picture, but it’s since been validated as something of a classic. And Night of the Living Dead? Not only was it not a B-movie (it was an early indie, to be accurate, created entirely outside of Hollywood) you’re also talking about what is almost universally recognized as the second most important and influential horror movie ever (second only to Psycho). Not an auspicious start to your argument.

From there, he offers what he seems to believe is an argument for the vampire’s primacy, but ends up being merely a list of reasons that vampires, well … suck. Here’s the relevant material:

Zombies are what we feel like at our worst: slogging through a winter workday, standing in a long line at airport security, waking up with a hangover. Vampires speak to the romantic in us, to our need for human contact, teeth to neck. They embody everything erotic about the predatory impulse. Vampires glide through the night and, instead of breaking down your door like an angry zombie mob, they glide into your bedroom for a late-night tryst. They don’t rip a victim’s limbs off; they leave two decorous little puncture marks on the neck or breast. But once they get into your system, you’re theirs forever — unlike a zombie, whom you can escape just by walking briskly in the opposite direction. Vampires have savoir-faire and star quality; a vampire is Johnny Depp, a zombie John C. Reilly. And they’re always impeccably dressed. What do zombies wear? Rags! Not to sound elitist, but zombies are just rabble. Vampires always have been, always will be, the aristocrats of monsters.

See, that’s exactly why vampires, as typically portrayed, aren’t fucking scary. That’s not a nightmare, that’s a thirteen-year-old girl’s wet dream. Sexuality as reduced to “decorous little puncture marks on the neck or breast.” That’s not horror. That’s the kind of sanitized bullshit that makes garbage like Twilight so popular. It’s that kind of “ooh, sexy” approach that has stripped the vampire of its power to scare and turned it into a BDSM-lite fetish symbol for the pubescent set.

His other points are equally ridiculous. If you think you can escape a zombie mob by “walking briskly in the opposite direction” you not only haven’t seen a zombie movie in about ten years, but you didn’t pay a lot of attention to the ones you did watch (p.s. hope you have a better plan than that for when the inevitable zombie apocalypse occurs, Corliss. Maybe your vampire buddies can help you out…). And what does he offer as an example of the embodiment of vampire? Johnny fucking Depp? So not scary, unless you suffer severe gay panic when you see an exceptionally pretty man. On the other hand, the image he chooses as a zombie representative, viewed in the proper context is actually pretty horrific. Picture a dead-eyed, hungry looking John C. Reilly, dressed in rags, missing a limb and dripping blood and viscera from his mouth — now that’s a fucking nightmare.

Read the whole article: Thirst: Why Vampires Beat Zombies”

4 Responses to “Vampires Suck; or, Richard Corliss knows nothing about zombies”

  1. Yerch says:

    Just to play demon’s advocate…

    While I think it is interesting to discuss zombies v. vampires, I think you need to settle on what exactly is being compared. Corliss seems to be saying that vampires are cooler than zombies, whereas you seem to be saying that zombies are scarier than vampires. I would suggest that you are both right.

    Vampires appeal in the same way that any serial killer would. Make Hannibal Lecter immortal and he’s a fucking vampire. They are everything we want to be, but being it means giving up your humanity. That’s the catch.

    Zombies are the antithesis of human desire. They are, literally, creeping death. We’re all on some level afraid to die. We are terrified of that time when our faculties begin to fail us, our bodies start to fall apart and the slow, shambling, inevitable march of decay and death finally catches up to us. Zombies embody that fear.

    Vampires and zombies are just flip sides of the same coin. Vampires are what we want and can never have (and even if we could the price would be too high – or in taking it we would lose the very reason for having it… it’s complex). Zombies are what we do not want but cannot avoid. Vampires are cooler because they have personalities. Zombies are scarier because they don’t. But we can love them both equally.

    I guess what I’m saying is that just as fish and people can peacefully coexist (thanks G.W.!) so too can vampires and zombies.

  2. Scott Roeben says:

    Awesome insights! I’m not sure there’s even a vampire/zombie debate worth having. Vampires aren’t fun. Vampires are boring and done to, well, death. “Blade” was the last fun vampire flick, but the zombie realm is only beginning to come into its own, with more munching ahead. Whee and gurgle.

  3. Sid Pink says:

    Zombies… Vampires… Why don’t MUMMIES get their due?!?
    Just teasing, friends.
    I think the overarching thing here is a question about what kind of movie are we trying to make [or see]?
    Vampires are totally played out; wearing thinner with each passing fancy, remake, de-make, and ad-crap-tation of vampire lore and fiction; from the grand to the bland. Why? Largely because, as pointed out in the article, in this blog, and even in the responses; vampires are no longer portrayed as anything too frightening so much as powerful or alluring. Which *can* be scary, it just isn’t usually manifest. Entertainment culture is much more fixated on the troubled inner suffering of the fated ‘monster’ – fair game and can be interesting material [though it's difficult to find a new take on it].
    But if we’re out to make a horror movie, a scary movie, a ‘holy shit, we’re all gonna die in some gruesome and/or shocking way’ then, like the inevitable zombie apocalypse itself; zombies are winning.
    While I am intrigued by Yerch’s point [above] – and he is also a far better thinker and writer than I am – I wonder if it’s not all that simple. Vampires may be *cooler*, but have we robbed them of the horror from which they sprung? Ask a Hungarian gypsy woman living in 1888 if she thinks vampires are cool. Or intriguing, suave, alluring or sexy. Methinks the original take on vampires was SO close, in most ways, to zombies, that it would destroy the [already inexplicable] worship of ‘Twilight’. We started, in a cultural/folkloric manner – with vampires as creatures that can only come out at night, and they require blood of living humans to survive. They break into your house, slash your kids’ throats, drink the juice, and run back into the night. Starting with Dracula; the notion that being immortal/undead would somehow lead to wealth, power, charm, etc was slowly attached until it overshadowed the original and justifiable horror of what a vampire really is. So we romanticized that; made it about vampires who fall in love then have to watch their wives die many times over the centuries, or the internal horror of being ‘turned’ and then fighting against the Need to Feed… but we *wanted* all those things because ultimately, we want to humanize our monsters. Why? I’m not necessarily against it and it adds some layers, some undiscovered country, and some creativity to what is already [hopefully!] fully make-believe. But who’s to say a vampire isn’t just as ‘mindless’ and destructive as a zombie, anyway?
    You get bit by zombie, you turn, you go nuts and eat people. Also, barring decapitation or such, you also “live forever” – just like vampires! Why can’t being bitten by a vampire turn you into a creature that must kill and eat humans (blood) with ravenous, maniacal purpose and not really ever become ‘cool’? Why do they have to amass wealth and charisma and super-human strength while dressing well? Maybe that happens. But if you think of human blood as a drug that vampires are addicted to; and beyond – they need it [for real] to live – – then overlay addict behavior onto ‘immortality'; I think you get a crackhead who can’t be killed; the most desperate, crazed, dangerous, mindless thing out there. You usually don’t have to kill someone to get crack. You *do* to feast on their blood. That *should* be scary and – like any ER nurse or pawnbroker or prison warder- familiarity with trauma and suffering breeds disconnectivity. Vampires – unless it’s their first month into it – aren’t going to be long-suffering, romanticized souls who can’t stand the pain of being alone through time. They should have unimaginable detachment from humanity, without and within.
    Just like a zombie!
    Zombies are the new vampires because we need them to be! Even with self-aware, romanticized zombie flicks starting to pop up, we’ve been well-served (kinda) by cultural representations of zombies to invoke terror; like any ‘monster’ ought!

  4. Cory Casciato says:

    Damn. All of your comments are great and I hate you all for making better points than I did.

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