On the side bar on page 52 of the January 26 edition of Entertainment Weekly is a "Ask The Critic" section answered by Owen Gleiberman.
Q - What do you think has driven the recent on-slaught of zombie films? Do they tap a current fear or is the genre just a cyclical thing? - Vincent
A - When George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead came out in 1968, it didn't just give birth to all those relentless flesh-eating gouls; it gave rise to a hundred metaphors. The image of clawing, lumbering corpses chomping on the innards of the living was said to express the madness of Vietnam, and then - 11 years later, in Dawn of the Dead - it became a blood-red satire of consumerism. (Where would college pop culture departments be without George A. Romero?) The revival of zombie films certainly reveals that the genre is cyclical, yet its meaning, I'd argue, has slowly leaked away. Yes, 28 Days Later tweaked our fear of disease, and the inspired Shaun of the Dead lampooned Britain as a nation of zombified couch potatoes, but in Romero's Land of the Dead (2005) and 2004's Dawn of the Dead remake, the living dead expired as vital symbols. They were just monsters.
Interesting, but I think Gleiberman is selling Land of the Dead short. Sure, it was shoddy as far as zombie movies go, but I'm not so sure it didn't have a "metaphor" to it. In the movie, the rich business man of the city (played by, bless his heart, Dennis Hopper) ruled the city with his money and turned the city pretty evil. The zombies lived in the outskirts of town, and some lower-class people were given the job to go kill them and get supplies. Anyway, the zombies end up making their way to the city. The people of the city were ready, surrounding the city with a wide man-made body of water. But, the zombies broke one of the chief rules of zombie movies and walked in water that was over their head to the city. This could show that things in the world have gotten to the point where rules don't stop anyone from doing what they truly want to do. Then, at the end of the movie, those who survived the attack had to leave the city to the rule of the zombies and find another place to live. This might signify the lack of control the good guys have.
Or, maybe Gleiberman is right. I've never been great at discerning movie metaphors.
I know. I've missed posting about zombies as much as you have missed reading my posts about zombies.