Halloween is right around the corner (Monday but if you doing anything about it, it's Saturday) and that means lots of monster movies on AMC, centered around new episodes of The Walking Dead. It's as good as season one and considering the shape of our economy, just as well timed.
Zombie movies always do well in terrible economies. The backdrop of the collapse of society resonates with people at their core. The modern zombie era began with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead in 1968, a year of complete unrest. Even the Beatles didn't get along. But in 1978 was his sequel, Dawn of the Dead. That film, still considered the high watermark of the genre came out amongst gas lines, inflation and a weakening Jimmy Carter.
Conversely, vampire movies do well in good economies. When people don't have to worry about the world turning against them, they worry about the outcast; a sinister creature who will lure you alone to your death. Despite Bela Lugosi's turn during the Depression, Christopher Lee enjoyed a run as Dracula in the post war bliss of the 1950's, Fright Night and the Lost Boys found success in the Reagan era, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer ran under Clinton.
What's happening right now is we're seeing a resurgence of both at once. Yes, things are that fucked up. The zombies are easy to explain; this country has been in a sorry state since the tech bubble burst in 2000 and has been slowly sinking ever since. Everyone I know has at least a plan in their head of what to do when they'll lose their jobs, an inevitability these days. The end of their world is only a "come into my office" away.
Yet vampires have survived thanks solely to demographics; they're all aimed at teenagers. The Lost Boys pioneered the idea of sexy teenage vampires. Buffy carried it over into a post 911 world and Twilight since has owned the entire genre, getting skinnier and more topless with each installment. Teenagers don't care about the economy; they care only about themselves as turbulent hormones and emotional states cloud everything else (which also explains my terrible high school grades).
People have said zombies are about gore, vampires are about sex. But I believe it goes deeper than that. Zombies are about the world, vampires are about the self. Which are you afraid of?
Cracked.com of all places corroborates with most of these theories, albeit for different reasons. So I can still be original.