Have you heard? Zombies are the new vampires. First it was the hit literary mash-up, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Last month it was Jennifer's Body, the Diablo Cody-written zombie movie starring Megan Fox. This weekend, movie-goers flocked to Zombieland, which became the first surprise hit of the fall season (it opened at No. 1 with $25 million, according to studio estimates). Starz premieres Zombiemania later in the month, reviving all the old zombie classics (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead and more). Apparently there's even a self-help book for zombies on the way, dispensing "advice and etiquette for the living dead." Zombies zombies zombies.
As annoying and ceaseless as is the vampire bonanza, zombies will never supplant it. The vampire obsession is rooted in sexual attraction. Robert Pattinson and Stephen Moyer turn people on. Something about the powdery pallor, the intelligent brow, the drowsing accent. A vampire is threatening enough to make a tryst forbidden, but human enough to engender loin-lust. His weapon is essentially a rough kiss. People are so pressed over vampires that they're actually buying drinkable blood.
No one's gonna buy bottled black-licorice barf because it oozes out of every zombie's mouth. Zombies aren't cute. They're not landed aristocrats, gently loosening your corset stays while unbuttoning their Dracula pantaloons. They don't speak in the high-flown meter of the Romantic poets. They don't speak at all. They're nasty-ass monsters, tasked with removing your appendages and eating your intestinal tract amid the roiling chaos of the post-apocalypse.
And that's the beauty of them. The whole point of zombie movies is to celebrate counterculture in an openly hamhanded way. Take the geek-speak-y Zombieland. The entire middle section of the movie is a gloriously attenuated homage to Ghostbusters, complete with a cameo from Bill Murray (who admits, in a total non sequitur, that his life's chief regret is his voicework in Garfield). Russell Crowe gets hit with fat jokes. Babe is referenced. And because battling aggressive, black-gunk-oozing zombie gangs can be messy, Jesse Eisenberg turns to his three costars and asks, "You guys want some Purell?"
Not everybody likes this kind of thing. Zombieland reminds The New York Times' Manohla Dargis of the Holocaust, and therefore, to her, it's not funny. Its biggest fans will be demented former Blockbuster employees—the kind of unabashed nerds who welcome conjoined absurdism and gore. Zombies are the Goth theater kids; vampires are the hot popular crowd. Even the crap-purveyors at Oriental Trading Company agree with us. Twenty-one vampire items can be yours, including a 144-piece set of neon-colored fangs for $7.99. Zombie swag amounts to eight measly items, such as wound tattoos. Tellingly, they're under the clearance banner.
And thank God for that. Because as much as we love 'em, we'd rather die a intestine-gobbling death than guzzle bottled zombie juice.