From Vampires to Zombies: Evolution of Movie Monsters in Pop Culture

Why Zombies are the Sriracha of Entertainment

While the golden age of vampire films has long faded into memory, leaving a bitter aftertaste of toxic relationships in the wake of the Twilight saga, zombies continue to defy extinction. Unlike other movie monsters, zombies do not serve as the heart or essence of a story; they merely provide the backdrop.

In vampire movies, these creatures often take on the role of the villains or even the main characters, frequently appearing in tales that also involve werewolves, ghosts, and various other monstrous beings found within the horror genre. However, zombies consistently exist as an anonymous mass, occasionally revealing a flicker of individuality when desperate survivors must confront and kill one of their own who has been bitten and now shares a grotesque craving for human brains. Even in the rare films that dare to grant zombies a central character role, such as “Life after Beth” or “Warm Bodies,” they remain a special ingredient within the plot rather than fully fleshed-out personalities.

Crafting a truly convincing and captivating story replete with believable conflicts and compelling characters is the supreme challenge—one that even the most creative minds struggle with on a disappointingly regular basis. These minds often attempt to mask their cinematic transgressions against the unsuspecting audience through the use of flashy special effects and high-profile stars, hoping to divert attention from the fundamental flaws in their narratives.

Zombies serve as the narrative equivalent of Sriracha in the culinary world, adding a spicy kick that complements any genre. Upon closer inspection, the vast majority of zombie movies are, in fact, conventional stories sprinkled with a dash of zombies. Horror is often deemed the safest bet for filmmakers seeking to recoup their investments, and by incorporating zombies, they gain the freedom to explore virtually any story they desire. Want to create a road trip movie? Just toss in some zombies, and boom, you’ve got yourself “Zombieland”! Looking to infuse a historical drama from Korea with a twist? Introduce a zombie element, and suddenly the Netflix series “Kingdom” becomes a worldwide sensation. Pack a train full of zombies, and you have the ingredients for a heart-wrenching and tear-jerking drama like “Train to Busan.”

Beyond their insatiable hunger for human flesh and brains, zombies lack any other motivation, which often renders them underwhelming as antagonists. Nevertheless, their sheer numbers and lack of intelligence make them a formidable obstacle, capable of injecting excitement into nearly any genre.

This insatiable appetite for zombies, or zombie-like creatures, guarantees an endless supply of shows that incorporate them, ensuring our collective fascination with high-quality dramas infused with horror elements remains unabated. It appears this trend will persist for the foreseeable future, captivating audiences for many seasons to come.