A reader recently asked, “What is the difference between a zombie and a vampire?” The short answer is that zombies are real, and vampires a fake. Put another way, vampires are based in superstition and myth, while the modern zombie is biologically based.
Interestingly, the original modern zombies seen in George Romero’s 1968 classic, Night of the Living Dead, were inspired by Richard Matheson’s 1954 novel about vampires, I Am Legend. Romero wanted to make a film adaptation of the book, but as a young aspiring filmmaker he would never have been able to get the film rights. So he created what he called Flesh Eaters, grounding them in modern science.
It was only later that others applied the label of “zombie” to these new creatures, but in fact they have almost nothing in common with the voodoo zombies on Afro-Haitian tradition.
Taking a closer look at zombies and vampires:
ZOMBIES have a finite lifespan and limited physical abilities that fall within the limits of biological logic and reason. Because a zombie is driven by its brain, destroying the brain is the best way to kill it. Zombies are modern and explainable.
VAMPIRES somehow live forever and never age. They have super strength and speed, and can shape shift. To kill a vampire you must use a wooden stake through the heart, even though its heart isn’t beating. They hate garlic, crosses, holy water, and sunlight. Vampires are legends from the old world.
Though zombies and vampires are often lumped together in the same “undead” category, vampires have more in common with Santa Claus than with any actual undead horde. Santa Claus flies through the night at inhuman speeds. He never ages, never dies, and has mysterious telepathic abilities. Creepy.