The undead is the characteristic of a deceased behaving like the living (Waller 7). This behavior may manifest itself without the physical body in the form of ghosts or physically in the form of zombies or vampires. Undead is “that class of beings who at some point were living creatures, having died and come back, such that they are not presently at rest” (Greene and Mohammad 22). However, there is significant difference between zombies and vampires, both in their characteristics and use in literature context.
Over the past few years, film and television platforms have been dominated by popular culture of horror and thrilling plots. Films and television programs have become common platforms where armies of the undead including vampires and zombies are fighting for the top spot in the modern literature (O’Callaghan 13). There is continual evolution of zombies and vampires in the modern day literature. There are many popular vampire themed stories and films that showcase their eerie destructive nature. These include Let the Right One In, Thirty Days of Night, HBO’s True Blood, and Interview with a Vampire among others. Similarly, the use of zombies as characters narratives is common especially in traditional horror literature. These works include Return of the Living Dead, Dracula, White Zombie and Nosferatu among others. This paper will reveal the divergent and common characteristics in zombie and vampire genres. It will demonstrate the existence of hidden messages using different research studies, with examples of pieces of literature, programs, and videos in order to demonstrate the hidden meaning within these horrific creations.
Existence of undead
Manifestation of undead has a long history that goes beyond the era of Socrates, who engaged the minds of people in a more complex revelation about the undead. These early engagements by Socrates led to a change in people’s perception of the dead in ancient Greece. Incidences of human interaction with the undead increased significantly causing a great sensation among the living. There were incidences of undead wandering about the burial grounds, making their presence know especially at night (Melton 23). They tormented and terrorized passersby, shouting abuse, and sometimes they could attack and kill people. They could threaten the relatives and neighbours of the deceased, to an extent of causing their evacuation in fear for their lives.
These returning creatures were not the shadows of the dead, however, they were corporeals, substancial creatures that had existed before (Melton 27). They crossed the world between the dead and the living for various reasons. Some, it was believed, came to claim conjugal rights, others came to offer unwanted advice while a great many came to take revenge on those they disliked or had wronged them while they were alive. Others were outright mischievous whose sole intention was to cause trouble among the living. There are several examples of undead in the ancient Greek mythology including Hecate, the goddess of darkness; Mormo,the creature used by Greek mothers to frighten unruly children; Lamia, who killed small children and attacked sleeping men at night and Succubi, the night demon that terrified people at night.
Zombies versus Vampires
Vampires are mythological creatures that rely on human blood to survive, while zombies are dead decaying corpses that are brought to life by either virus or magic (Zeldere 5). These are corpses with lifeless brain who normally consume human brain and flesh. In the modern film industries, vampires are featured as charismatic, handsome, and more humanized creatures, with super intelligence and ability to trick their victims to willingly provide blood (Greene and Mohammad 18). On the other hand, zombies do not have admirable figure as they have decaying skin and lack thoughtful mind that can reason.
Hidden Meanings and Metaphors among the Undead
In the modern era, stories and movies have been created based on the action of the undead. Horror movies have found their way in the movie industry and caused significant development in the industry. Majority of the moviemakers have chosen vampires and zombies to pass vital massage to the audiences. In order to understand why zombies and vampires are so common in the movies industry today, it is important to ask what significance they have in real life. Normally, movie and book writers considers their significance in creating entertaining plots, that capture the minds of the viewer and eliciting genuine emotions by the audience.
Zombies and vampires are more like people, but act quite differently in a manner that signifies inhumanity (Waller 12). They kill and plunder without mercy, reasoning or evaluation. These creatures lack any sense of consideration nor do they care whether it is a baby or the mother that they devour. They do not value human dignity or ethics and simply act on their own twisted and eerie will. Therefore considering these strange behaviors, it is important to draw parallels in between their behaviors and those of are real things, creatures or issues in the current world. Zombie and vampires may not appear in physical world beyond the movies. However, there are things, situations and real people or creatures who may act in the same manner as they do.
There are numerous examples of thing and occurrences of such in the world today. There are diseases such as HIV/AIDs and cancer that have plundered and devoured human race without mercy. Even though there are great innovations and discoveries owing to human development in the modern era, not one among the millions of studies and research has managed to find a solution that can tame these “zombies” or “vampires” (HIV/AIDs and cancer). These diseases are zombies and vampires because they resulted from human action, just as the undead comes back to the living world driven by human action and their presence. They are responsible for death of people on daily basis all over the world. Like vampires and zombies, the two diseases have killed great people, men of great influence and valor, leaders and civilians, the young and the old. Like vampires and zombies in the movies and ancient Greek mythology, the diseases are destroying families and increasing the number of orphans and vulnerable children in the society. Movies such as the 1986 remake of The Fly reveal the untamable nature of HIV/AIDs; an attribute that vampires and zombies are known for.
Cancer or HIV/AIDs are “zombies” that terrifies human beings. These diseases are considered as some of the leading causes of death worldwide with more than 8 million deaths yearly because of cancer (Stewart 14). The disease is known for its tendency to attack particularly body organs. These organs include lungs, breasts, stomach, eye, liver, and colorectal; considered delicacies among the vampires and zombies. Zombies have a great appetite for human flesh while the vampires have an insatiable avarice for human blood. Cancer also attacks various body organs and tissues including blood. An encounter with cancer or HIV/AIDs, a zombie or a vampire most cases end in death.
Therefore, in the modern set up, zombie and vampire movies play a great role in expressing the message of current challenges. They trigger human response to escape from the undead. The undead inspire creativity and innovation by their human victims in a similar manner that HIV/AIDs or cancer spurs creativity and innovation in development of treatment and management of the disease. In most movies, the vampires and zombies end up losing the battle to more intelligent human being, who normally understands how they function. This message of hope and triumphant of human creativity and resilience and the success thereof are commonplace in the fight against these diseases. These can have been achieved through research supported by the current technology just human victims in the movies have used their creativity and intelligence to study and finally outwit these undead characters that torment them.
Vampires and zombies symbolize a lack of good faith and morality, a situation that has engulfed many societies, institutions and individuals causing great trouble to humanity in the real world. The undead creatures reflect soullessness, and rise of decayed moral culture that is out to destroy social foundations of humanity. There are actual people, real human beings who have also turned into real zombies and vampires. The modern world has been destabilized by excessive acts of terrorism. Terrorism is a global issue that has created unrest in all corners of the world (Malisow 4). Extremist groups have been formed with wrong motives and theme, to kill people for no reason. They cause pain to people, rape women, kill children, and cause all manner of violence among people. These occurrences relate to what horror and thriller movies express in the modern age. Terrorists are senseless, insensitive and inhuman; characteristics exhibited by zombies and vampires (Malisow 24).
However, despite the rich genre themes that is carried by the undead, fears has been expressed by educationist and theologians on the impact of great proliferation of zombies and vampires in television series. Some are worried that the fictions in the thriller and horrific movies is imposing fear and horrific nature among the youthful generation (Clark 143). Some scholars have connected these with the rampant increase in criminal and inhuman behavior among the youthful generation (O’Callaghan 107). Therefore, it seems that the intended meaning for using undead creatures in drama and fiction movies is causing more harm than good.
Even though zombies and vampires are common in genre of horror stories, they convey hidden and important message. They trigger deep emotions and have scenes that attract people. Basically, vampire episodes tend to portray vampires as vicious cruel beings that lack humanness. They are a expression of society`s main fears of disease and abnormal deeds just like zombies symbolize social anxieties and worries that reflect the ills in the society at large. The humans’ fear of being engulfed by greed, lust, or fall prey to treacherous virus or epidemic are reflected in zombie actions even as the themes of social disparity and supremacy of a “healthier” type of human are articulated by vampire movies. Movies and show of this kind are ideal for hidden covered meanings because not all of the audiences or readers take hold of the concepts of allegory and metaphor. Only a keen viewer will recognize what the actual meaning is. Secondly, zombie or vampire horror narratives are not bound by relatively few regulations compared to conventional movies. Therefore, they provide a more suitable outlet for conveying an important message to the audience.