Zombies or Vampires? The differences in lit and film

So today is going to be kind of a weird post. I recently started reading I Am Legend and watched a couple “zombie” movies that had me questioning the way we view these monsters. What makes them different? Are they similar in a lot of ways? How come some people use them almost interchangeably?

Let’s start with I Am Legend. You’ve probably seen the movie if you haven’t read the book. Here’s a description of the book,

Robert Neville may well be the last living man on Earth . . . but he is not alone.

An incurable plague has mutated every other man, woman, and child into bloodthirsty, nocturnal creatures who are determined to destroy him.

By day, he is a hunter, stalking the infected monstrosities through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for dawn….

Description from Amazon

And here is a description of the movie,

Will Smith stars in a sci-fi thriller from the director of Constantine – I Am Legend. After a biological war, Robert Neville is the last healthy human living on Earth, but he is not alone. The other humans have become vampire-like mutants, and all are hungry for Neville’s blood. By day, he is the hunter, stalking the sleeping undead through the abandoned ruins of civilization. By night, he barricades himself in his home and prays for the dawn…

Description from Amazon

So first of all, when the I Am Legend movie came out, just about everyone thought the monsters were zombies. I haven’t seen the movie in years because it makes me cry, but I distinctly remember thinking they were super strong zombies as well.

They aren’t.

And I find it hilarious that the Amazon description specifically mentions vampires, because it was not advertised like that, and has become kind of a topic of debate.

But, if you read the book there is no questioning it. The monsters are 100% vampires. I guess I bring this whole topic up because it would’ve been so simple to make the distinction in the movie. Give Neville a garlic greenhouse like the book, or put a mirror on the front door like the book. I don’t know why they went for a subtle route in the movie, but here’s my theory.

At this point in history and the past 10-15 years we have been arguably more interested in zombies than vampires. Why? I don’t know, maybe it’s the primal nature of the monsters, or maybe it’s because they’re so much like us. Regardless, I think they left it relatively vague on purpose. Zombies pull in a crowd, and typically vampires do not.

This leads me into my next question, how interchangeable are they? This is when I bring in the two movies. Patient Zero staring Matt Smith, Natalie Dormer, and Stanley Tucci.

A supervirus has turned humankind into highly intelligent, streamlined killers, and an asymptomatic victim (Matt Smith) who can communicate with the infected must lead the last survivors on a hunt for Patient Zero and a cure.

Description from Wikipedia

The cast is why I watched it, it looked terrible 😂. The second movie is called Feral.

A wild animal attacks six grad students on a weekend hike in the woods. One by one, they become infected with an unknown virus that turns them into bloodthirsty creatures.

Description from Wikipedia

First off, both movies are awful, but they made me ask questions. In Patient Zero Matt Smith can communicate with the zombies, much like Neville can in I Am Legend (Book), and they show varied levels of intelligence. Some of them riding the edge of genius level zombies. This is fundamentally not what a zombie is portrayed as, but definitely fits into the vampire description. Even the way these zombies moved reminded me of vampires. This movie rode the line of zombie vs vampires hard, and while they consider them zombies, I’d beg to differ.

The movie Feral was a bit different. The zombies only reanimated during the night time, which can be considered an older zombie trope, but is more in line with vampires. The one thing that really bothered me though was the appearance shift from human to “zombie” in this movie. Because over night their appearance would change. The skin would grey, the hair would fall out, they’d have new teeth, and they’d have different eyes. They honestly looked like a nastier version of the zombies in the I Am Legend movie. It didn’t feel like a zombie transformations, but a vampiric one. On top of that they moved more vampire-like than zombie-like. No shambling, or moaning, or brain eating. They just gave me vampire vibes.

So do we consider these to still be zombies? Even though they don’t look like or behave like zombies? Can you vary that far from the source material and still be shrouded in the zombie genre? Let me know what you think in the comments!

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Savannah Worman

My name is Savannah, you can call me Sav. I am a recent Oregon State graduate, Siletz tribal member, and aspiring book critic. Join me on this exploration of the literary world around us. You’re sure to find something you like. If you have any questions, concerns, or comments feel free to hit me up on the contact page! I live in the Pacific Northwest with my boyfriend, my Havanese/Aussie Shepard Stark, my Jack Russell/Shih Tzu Daenerys, and my son Finn.

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