Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the Twenty-First Century

By Bridgeman, Mary | The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies, Autumn 2017 | Go to article overview

Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the Twenty-First Century


Bridgeman, Mary, The Irish Journal of Gothic and Horror Studies


Stacey Abbott, Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the Twenty-First Century (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2016)

In Stephenie Meyer's popular teen vampire-romance series Twilight (2005-11), the protagonist, Bella Swan, 'unconditionally and irrevocably in love' with a vampire, opts to see a zombie movie when she wants to avoid all depictions of romance.1 This decision reveals an obvious difference between dominant images of the vampire and the zombie in the twentyfirst century: their relative sex appeal. Evolving from the sympathetic vampire on television (Dark Shadows (1966-71), Forever Knight (1989-96), Angel (1999-2004)) and heavily indebted to Anne Rice's popularisation of the eternally young and beautiful vampire (beginning with Interview with the Vampire (1976)), the contemporary boyfriend/girlfriend vampire (Twilight, Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire Mysteries (2001-13) and television adaptation True Blood (2008-14); The Vampire Diaries (2009-17) and spin-off The Originals (2013-present)) is presented as a sexually appealing romantic partner. By contrast, the zombie, as rotting corpse in the style of George A. Romero's Living Dead series (1968-2009) or infected body (28 Days Later (2002), Resident Evil (2002), Zombieland (2009)), displays visible signs of degeneration and disease. Bodily degradation, combined with a lack of individuation, renders the zombie an unlikely romantic prospect for the most part, as may be seen in many contemporary zombie narratives (television series The Walking Dead (2010present), and Max Brooks' World War Z (2006) and film adaptation (2013)). Comedy-horror films such as Burying the Ex (2014), Life After Beth (2014), and Nina Forever (2015) are based on the incongruity of even the individualised zombie and a viable romantic relationship.

This apparent difference between prevailing incarnations of the vampire and the zombie is unsettled in Stacey Abbott's Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the Twenty-First Century. A growing number of romance stories featuring zombies as the love interest, including the successful Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies (2010) and film adaptation (2013), demonstrate that the zombie is not entirely antithetical to romance. According to Abbott, however, to focus on romance in relation to these figures is to obscure many important similarities between the two kinds of monsters beyond the trend towards Dark Romance. Concentrating on dystopian texts, Abbott addresses the largely overlooked interconnections between vampires and zombies. Picking up where her work on vampires in film left off,2 Abbott focuses here on the twenty-first century, a period that has thus far offered a vast array of vampires and zombies in fiction, film, television, and other media including video games, comics, graphic novels, and theatre. Presenting the seemingly distinct and separate figures of vampire and zombie as 'two sides of an undead coin' (p. 4), Abbott examines their shared generic connections and impact on one another, demonstrating how they are 'increasingly integrated and intertwined, engaged in a dialogue in which film, television and literature implicitly acknowledge their relationship and increasing influence on each other' (p. 4). Providing acute analysis of an impressive number and range of popular texts across fiction, film, and television, Abbott focuses on genre, medium, and the changing language and iconography regarding the undead. Moreover, she sets this discussion within the context of various media accounts relating the many perceived threats of annihilation facing contemporary western society, from disease through immigration to terrorism. Tracking the dystopian vampire and zombie narrative across a range of media, Abbott draws attention to and accounts for an alternative strand in undead culture characterised by 'horror and the threat of near-annihilation' (p. 4), existing parallel to the much-analysed vampire-aslove-interest in the twenty-first century. …

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