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


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.

  • But most forms of animated, intellectually deficient dead are defined as zombies. So shouldn't the dead vampires be vampire zombies? Zompires, anyone? – HNL Dec 24 '11 at 8:27
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    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
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    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
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    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
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    @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

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.


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.

  • Hmmm... I have a feeling I have seen you before. Do you play BBH? – Mateen Ulhaq Jan 1 '13 at 22:10

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.

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    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

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.

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    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
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    @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 Apr 23 '15 at 20:26

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.

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    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

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.

  • 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

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.

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    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
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    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

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.

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    In which blurb? – Andres F. Jul 5 '12 at 17:05

protected by Valorum Apr 23 '15 at 20:26

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