So, 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 â€” 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.