Posted: 4 October 2016
Dr Abbott, who is a Reader in Film and Television Studies at the University of Roehampton, has published her fourth book on the horror genre. In many ways a follow up to her first book Celluloid Vampires (2007), her new publication focuses on two kinds of the undead: zombies and vampires.
Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st Century (Edinburgh University Press) traces the changes in how television and film have depicted the two kinds of monsters. Dr Abbott notes that vampires and zombies have often been seen as oppositional. The vampire is usually portrayed as alluring, seductive and strong. They are often shown as solitary characters and in many cases, such as in television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Being Human, the vampire is sympathetic and reluctant, resisting the need to kill in order to feed. Zombies on the other hand, are seen as repellent, clumsy, violent monsters that don’t speak and lack identity. Instead they are infectious, associated with pandemics, and move in hordes.
Using case studies from popular film and television series such as I am Legend, 28 Days Later, and In the Flesh, Dr Abbott argues that over the last 16 years the two monsters have become more alike.
Dr Abbott said: “What we now see in film and television is an increased connection between the two. In the film Warm Bodies we see a softer side to a zombie, one who rescues the lead female character from being attacked by a group of fellow zombies and displays more human-like behaviours such as falling in love.
“On the other hand we are seeing a revolt against the ‘good’ or ‘reluctant’ vampire, such as those in the horror drama television series, The Strain, where we see them as horrendous and associated with disease. The Strain is an important television series as its storyline is based on a mysterious viral outbreak of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism that has the potential to end humanity as we know it – something that we associate with zombies. In my new book I look at some of the potential reasons for the shift in how these two monsters are being portrayed in the 21st century and how they evoke a growing preoccupation with apocalypse.”
Undergraduate Film students have the opportunity to study the undead on Dr Abbott’s popular module, The Modern Vampire, which she has been teaching at Roehampton since 2004. One of the first degrees to offer a module on the vampire in film and television, students examine in detail the evolution of vampire mythology in 19th century folklore, literature and painting to 21st century film and television. In addition to seminars and lectures, students attend screenings of cult classics such as Dracula, Night of the Living Dead, From Dusk till Dawn and Let the Right One In.
Dr Abbott is a leading expert on vampires and zombies and has given public lectures on the subject at BFI Southbank, St. Bart's Pathology Museum and the British Library. Roehampton is consistently ranked the top London University for Film production and photography (The Guardian University Guide 2016 and 2017).
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