They say that you can be sure of two things in life: death and taxes. It might also be appropriate to say vampires and zombies. Whether sparkly romance is the latest craze or not, the bloodsuckers are always around in some capacity or another, and flesh-eating zombies are the subversive, never-ending scourge who seem to pop up over and over and over again.
But in a new feature over at The Hollywood Reporter, they wonder if zombies could potentially overtake the sharp-toothed ones as the big box office menace, inspired by zombie-loving statements like Zombieland's Rhett Reese saying: "Zombie movies, much like zombies, could become this horde that just marches across the world."
But even with a stylish update and some convention breaking, is it even possible?
The idea is that after years on the sidelines, flicks like Dawn of the Dead, Resident Evil, and Zombieland have come, earning big bucks and thrusting the ghoulish undead into the spotlight. And now that Twilight is winding down and new projects like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies are on the way, there's the idea that one undead menace can replace another.
But how much can a zombie change and still be a zombie? Both the walking dead and the vampires are undead species, and once you take away the rotting, flesh-eating grossness, are they really still zombies? And could anything make them palatable in the way that vampires are? Woke Up Dead tried, but Jon Heder and Krysten Ritter weren't enough to make it a big phenomenon. Fido kept the gross factor, but threw zombies into a pristine, Donna Reed suburbia -- that didn't stretch beyond indie walls.The zombie playbook needs a rewrite, something that pushes zombie evolution forward to open up new possibilities. The obvious target is their intelligence. Aside from their typically lethargic pace, zombies have traditionally been mindless killing machines that could fairly easily be dispatched. ... What zombies most often offer in a universal sense taps into humans' baser desires: to rule the world and to kill without remorse or repercussion.
The menace has always thrived best in pulp and comedic fare, from Grindhouse's Planet Terror to Shaun of the Dead. Vampires, meanwhile, have always been presented as a species that can intermingle with the humans. Maybe they can't go out in sunlight. Maybe they sleep in dirt-filled coffins or drink blood with wrinkly faces, but they also have a solid mixture of sexiness and real life potential.
THR points out two disadvantages: the lack of sex appeal and the lack of female appeal. Necrophilia is not yet a turn-on unless you're Molly Parker in Kissed. And Reese says women don't want zombies because of the "gross-out factor... We used comedy and romance as our hook to get women into theaters." But it's not really a gender divide. It's a genre divide.
There's often a lot of sex in vampiric lore, whether we're talking simply about Bella lusting for Edward, or Buffy's sex with Angel ripping out his soul. Dracula's vampire life was even steeped in seduction. But there's also a myriad of other themes that can and do come into play. Buffy excelled at using vampires and demons to explore the figurative dangers in human life. Daybreakers used horror to explore class dynamics. Blood suckers can play out romantic storylines, but they can also offer a slice of reality that appeals beyond genre fans. Often, the fangs become secondary to the story.
Some zombie flicks like Fido get into the game, but it's not the same. Unless you remove all the pieces about zombies that make them zombies, there is little chance that they can offer the same widely engaging themes.
It'd have to be one hell of a special project to make zombies the go-to fantasy figure, and even then, I imagine the feature would be more of a stand-alone hit than a hot-as-hell new trend.
What do you think? Can zombies steal away the vampire's popularity crown?