ZOMBIES VS. VAMPIRES:
Expressions of Socio-Political Fears in Horror Film
Trends in fiction and cinema reveal more than just our deepest wishes and aspirations – they also reveal our fears, not only individually, but also for the collective consciousness of generations as a whole. The horror genre is especially useful for examining mass psychology because it reveals our fears, and over decades of film, how these fears evolve and change. When one particular type of motif in horror film becomes predominant in popularity, it defines the mindset (and consequently the fear) of an entire generation. Oddly, the defining point of the modern generation in cinema is an unexpected one: like a risen corpse, the zombie has stirred to amble across our screens, spewing decay and dropping body parts at random. The zombie appears to be our new fear, but other trends have also taken place: ‘sexy’ vampires that are for all intensive purposes, just humans with an odd taste for sanguine fluids. So what does this mean, and how does it reflect the psychology of the masses in the wider socio-political perspective? To answer this, we need to look at two critical factors – why are zombies becoming more frightening whilst vampires are becoming less so? My answer is going to evoke something even more frightening than both these types of undead: politics.
Zombies – The Ultimate Consumer
The zombie is a creature of mythology and magic – a corpse raised from the dead by either Vodouists or by black magic in another occult tradition. Even today, some parts of the world still fear traditional zombies, such as Tibet, parts of South East Asia and rural Haiti. There, many people will attest that zombies do indeed exist. But their zombie, the creature of myth which is controlled by the will of magicians, is very different to the cinematic zombie of today. The modern zombie, for the most part, is almost exclusively created by science. The theme of the zombie being created by a disease or an experiment which has gotten out of control is featured in a number of films, with perhaps the best known example being the plague of zombies caused by the ‘rage virus’ in both 28 Days Later and the sequel 28 Weeks Later. In the sequel, reinfection occurs and the US military, in an effort to contain the virus, in typical American fashion, manage to destroy everything and end up killing more people than the zombies. Another popular zombie epic, World War Z, features exactly the same theme – the rapid onset of a plethora of zombies in a bustling city results in the imminent collapse of America, and later, most of the world. Israel manages to survive the zombie plague for a while by sealing it walls and allowing no one to enter – unfortunately however, the zombies manage to penetrate their defenses (agitated by loud prayer apparently) and Israel, being walled in, is now subject to a mass invasion of zombies of legendary numbers. Even trying to exclude these new monstrous products of science doesn’t keep them out. Unwanted zombies just have a way of getting in everywhere.
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