29

Are the creatures in I Am Legend zombies, vampires, zompyres, or something else?

10 Answers 10

42

In the book, they are much more explicitly vampires. Even in the Will Smith movie, the creatures are vampiric (and referred to as such, I think) - they hide from the sun, which burns them, they drink blood, and they are transformed from normal humans.

In the book, there's a difference between vampires - some are dead vampires and some are living. The dead are mindless monsters, the living can be civil and have their own society. This is not reflected in the Will Smith movie.

They are NOT traditional vampires, if that term really means anything anymore (I'm looking at you, Buffy, Twilight, and Harry Dresden), but they absolutely are NOT zombies.

Zombies are not intelligent, do not have any form of social interaction, do not fear the sun, and can't become human again. All of this runs counter to the movie.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    In the movie, there's no evidence there ARE dead vampires...and in the classical mythology, ALL vampires are dead. So, @HNL, I think your comment is incorrect. – Jeff Dec 24 '11 at 14:39
  • 4
    Note that it's probably not accurate to call the living infected from the novel "vampires", as even in the worst shiny-chested butcherings of the term, that word still means a type of undead. They merely "have a disease which resembles vampirism." – KutuluMike Jul 5 '12 at 17:37
  • 4
    It's not "the Will Smith movie". It's a Francis Lawrence movie. Will Smith is merely the lead actor. – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 3 '13 at 6:50
  • 9
    @LightnessRacesinOrbit: True indeed. That said, the general reaction of many if you say, "The Francis Lawrence movie" will look at you like you have two heads and secretly wonder if it's in color. – Jeff Sep 3 '13 at 13:07
  • 1
    The end in the book also happens to properly explain and make justice to the excellent title closing the story in a sublime way, with the ending explaining the title, that is also lost on the movie. – Jorge Córdoba Sep 4 '15 at 16:46
3

In the earliest stories of the undead, they were purely creatures of magic. There aren't many variants either, almost all of them are what you and I would recognize as vampires. These are creatures that drink blood, kill and convert the living to what they are, can't abide the light of day, and can't easily be destroyed. None of their traits or abilities need to be explained by physics.

In the modern movie, they are some sort of mutant or persons afflicted with a chronic condition. Though they do not have any obvious magical powers, they seem to have much more energy than can be accounted for... what are they feeding on? Stronger and faster than the best athletes... but they aren't eating Michael Phelps' 10,000 calorie diets (that we can see). If they really do eat people... why haven't they all starved? If they are just feeding off what food is left in grocery stores and the like, why aren't they fighting each other over it (or if peaceful, cooperating with Will Smith)?

Other movies make vampires/zombies more clearly magical (remake of Dawn of the Dead). Yet others don't care, they exist solely as a vehicle for horror and gore.

Everything considered, I Am Legend creates its own new creature that merely borrow from vampires.

| improve this answer | |
2

In no way are they zombies mostly because zombies are not intelligent nor do they fear light. We see intelligence when they stalk towards nevilles house and attack him there. Even he said that they could follow him. Also they are bright enough to know how to hunt and know how to defend themselves. They are not quite vampires either. For one they do not drink blood, going back to the deer they had caught only its head was remaining and all the meat was gone. They also have the possibility of turning back into humans which is idiotic to even believe unless you are watching twilight. They are simply infected. The virus caught on because they believed they had a cure for cancer. Which these mutated viruses became airborne. It was a mix of different types of terrible diseases. They are a new creature all in their own.

| improve this answer | |
1

I use closed captions while watching movies, and the captions actually referred to the creatures as "hermaphrodites"...in my mind that is just politically incorrect, and it always had me wondering as to why the captioning company would refer to them as something like that unless they got that term from the moviemakers themselves. Turn on your captioning and the part where the deer runs into the dark building, you will see in parenthesis (hermaphrodites panting) or something to that effect.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    That's a hilarious misreading! What you actually read was "hemophage" (a creature that eats blood -- you know, like mosquitos!), not "hermaphrodite" :P – Andres F. Nov 15 '13 at 0:57
1

In the movie, they are classed as darkseekers. Their own breed of monster. In the book, they are classed as vampire-like creatures as they are based off of vampires, but they don't follow the classic scheme. Also they can't be zombies as the book I Am Legend gave rise to the zombie anyways.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    They ARE vampires in the book, it's only that the author explains "classic" vampires only behave the way they think they're supposed to behave. E.g. formerly Christian vampires fear the cross because they think they are supposed to. – Andres F. Nov 15 '13 at 0:52
  • 2
    @AndresF. - best part of the book: when Neville realizes his cross doesn't work on his vampirized neighbor, because the neighbor was Jewish. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Apr 23 '15 at 20:26
1

I think they are zombies because in I am Legend they die because of the disease contract, but then they come back to life right afterwards.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    They don't actually die from the disease, they die from the attempts to cure the disease, the virus is what brings them back. – Monty129 Sep 11 '14 at 18:51
0

The movie I Am Legend does talk about these strange creatures. But, they die easily when shot by a gun, so that provides with another question to answer: "Vampires don't die easily, right?". Zombies, however, die easily. So, are they zombies or vampires? I believe they are zombies. Because in the movie Will Smith and his family were driving to safety and one of the creatures went through the window and bit the wife. Normally, if it was a vampire the blood would have been gone immediately, but it took some time for her to die.

| improve this answer | |
  • I'm not convinced. Vampires aren't intelligent enough to set traps, don't form packs, don't drink blood, and don't burn when exposed to the sun. (Also, in the novel they are vampires. And they speak, something unusual for zombies). – Andres F. Nov 15 '13 at 0:54
0

I Am Legend is based on the book I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. It's a 1950s era book when the zombies as we know them today didn't even exist. In the book they are basically vampires, he uses mirrors, crosses, garlic, stakes and the like to ward them off. He researches their symptoms as if they are vampires.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    The novel is titled I Am Legend; the first film based on it is titled The Last Man on Earth. – user1030 Jul 10 '12 at 13:11
  • 1
    Trey got the title wrong, but the rest of his answer is pretty accurate. In the novel, they are vampires, and Neville does use crosses, garlic and stakes against them. This is a pretty solid answer to the OP, assuming he was asking about the novel and not the movie. – Andres F. Nov 15 '13 at 0:59
0

In the movie, the creatures are somewhat like vampires but we see no direct evidence that they drink blood although they seem to be attracted to blood (which is used as a lure) and perhaps they do explicitly drink blood since instead of "dark seeker" in the original script a term is used for them that involves the root "hemo." (Hemocyte is the term that does not mean much afaik besides the root.)

Importantly, in the original book by Matheson, they are exactly "vampires" -- that is the central idea of the story, that what we used to call vampires were in fact victims of a bacteria that caused them to behave just like legendary vampires, minus the supernatural aspects, like they could not transform into bats, etc. The closest thing to a supernatural characteristic is that people who die from the plague reanimate, driven by the bacteria and such reanimates behave differently than people who do not dies from the illness.

| improve this answer | |
  • In the book, they are not vampires. They have a disease whose effects somewhat resembles vampires in that it can animate those who die of it (undead,) and those who have it cannot stand sunlight and have pale skin. Those who die and are reanimated by the disease are mindless things that need blood to survive. Those who have the disease (but haven't died from it) often believe themselves to be vampires, but follow their own understanding of how vampires should behave. Hence the cross doesn't bother the infected jewish neighbor. – JRE May 7 at 10:20
  • The majority of the characters in the story are infected but not reanimated dead. Neville realizes at the end that he's been killing people who were only infected, but not reanimated dead as he thought they were. – JRE May 7 at 10:22
  • In the book they are what people in benighted times called vampires. But technically, they are not the vampires of legend since they do not share all the characteristics. The dead are not completely mindless -- isn't Cortman dead? And yet speaks to Neville? – releseabe May 7 at 10:36
  • Cortmann isn't dead (until the end when the other infected folks kill him.) Cortmann is infected and believes himself to be a vampire. The folks at the end who sent Ruth to Neville are also infected, but they know they aren't vampires. They act like (fairly) rational people trying to rebuild a society after the collapse. Neville has been killing them because they sleep during the day like the animated dead do. – JRE May 7 at 11:35
  • That people believe they are vampires is the reason some "vampire defenses" work against some of them but not all of them. They react to what they believe to be effective defenses against vampires. People have read or heard different stories about vampires, so they believe different things should affect them. – JRE May 7 at 11:38
-3

They are zombies - the teeth are too inaccurate for a vampire, and they do not drink blood - they infect the victim with the bite, like they did with Sam. Plus on the blurb it classes them as undead zombies - just sickened humans.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    In which blurb? – Andres F. Jul 5 '12 at 17:05

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.