Vampires are popular with chicks and goths and gay guys because they represent sexuality and repression and some kind of forbidden love and lifestyle choices. But only nerds love zombies. I speak not only as a nerd but as a zombie fanatic, and I'm finally going to reveal why such stories strike such a huge cord with my nerd community.
And that isn't to say that nerds are the only people who enjoy or even love zombies. Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later, etc, were all very popular, universally praised movies, but most of the movie-going public only saw one or maybe two of the countless zombie movies that get churned out year after year, month after month. Nerds see all of them. It doesn't matter that -- for all intents and purposes -- they are all the same movie with the same plots, set pieces, and story arcs. Zombie movies are a little like Dragnet in that only the names have been changed. Even vampires can be popular to more than just goths and girls because the concept of vampirism is one that has been open to many different interpretations and conceptual ideas. The biggest change that has hit zombie films over the past half century is that now sometimes they run fast.
So why do nerds like stories about zombies? Because the world presented in these stories is little more than an exaggerated version of the world nerds already live in. Consider: These stories are about scared, paranoid loners who are terrified to leave their homes, so they board up their windows and doors, only go out when they are sure they won't run into anybody, and run at the first sign of strangers who only want to tear them apart limb from limb. You know, just like how nerds live now.
In fact, if anything, nerds want to live in a world where everybody else is dead, because that means we'll be able to finally play videogames and read comics all day without having to go to work or be bothered by out nextdoor neighbors. Sure, we'll have to avoid zombies, but we can still break into Barnes and Noble and read as many books and Playboy issues as we want without fear of having some kind of awkward, forced social interaction. And in these movies there are always hot girls among the last survivors of humanity. And considering how most girls tell us nerds they wouldn't date us even if we were the last man on Earth, this would be a great way to finally call their bluffs.
Also -- and this is where it might get a little weird -- most nerds think that zombies are a threat we might actually be able to fight off. If I have to go toe to toe with a werewolf, I'm gonna get eaten. Frankenstein's Monster would rip my head off. Dracula wouldn't just kill me, but he'd fuck my girlfriend and then kill me. But a zombie? A zombie is a slow, shuffling corpse that just needs to get banged in the head real good. There's a chance I could take a zombie.
Of course, these are just my theories. I could be wrong.