The vampire-zombies of I Am Legend mark the beginning of the apocalyptic urban zombie theme, in which an intrepid individual or small group of individuals are paired against a seemingly endless population of antagonistic human undead. The undead of Legend exhibit qualities of both the traditional vampire and that of the modern zombie: They have fangs, possess some level of awareness and social capability and are averse to sunlight, yet they also appear in groups, have a diminished mental capacity, and look similar. The ambiguity of these beings is very important in connection to Kristeva’s theory of the abject, as well as Cohen’s thesis of category crisis. Robert Neville suffers hugely in his solitude, while seemingly human beings roam around outside, calling his name and taunting him. He’s also tormented by his uncontrollable attraction to the female vampires, further blurring the lines used to categorize the monsters. Assigning the vampires as either human or monster is impossible, just as is assigning them as either living or dead.
The homogeneity of these monsters is also notable, making individual characteristics of the central hero especially significant. This is clearly seen in the film version, in which the hyper-whiteness of the vampires contrast with Will Smith’s character Robert Neville. This is also paralleled by the zombie/black hero dynamic in Night of the Living Dead, for which Legend was the main inspiration. The comparison between the distinguished black protagonists of these respective works and the indistinguishable and homogenous white zombies allows for ample commentary on the fear of same-ness that zombies evoke, especially in the 1950s/60s context of these works.
CLASEN, MATHIAS. “Vampire Apocalypse: A Biocultural Critique of Richard Matheson’s i Am Legend.” Philosophy & Literature 34.2 (2010): 313-28. Print.
Khader, Jamil. “Will the Real Robert Neville Please, Come Out? Vampirism, the Ethics of Queer Monstrosity, and Capitalism in Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend ?” Journal of homosexuality 60.4 (2013): 532-57. Print.
Lauro, Sarah Juliet, and Karen Embry. “A Zombie Manifesto: The Nonhuman Condition in the Era of Advanced Capitalism.” Boundary 2 35.1 (2008): 85-108. Print.
McAlister, Elizabeth. “Slaves, Cannibals, and Infected Hyper-Whites: The Race and Religion of Zombies.” Anthropological Quarterly 85.2 (2012): 457-86. Print.
Weinstock, Jeffrey Andrew. “Vampires, Vampires, Everywhere!” Phi Kappa Phi Forum 90.3 (2010): 4-5. Print.