Michael Atkinson on George Romero's zombies, in In These Times:
In the pop sphere, zombie may be the new vampire, but with the release of George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead, you have to truly wonder what in the gamey name of Lazarus is going on. This is, after all, the sixth zombie film from one filmmaker, amid a recent cataract that has included big-budget remakes of Romero’s older films (Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead), loads of zombie indies (with titles like Dead and Breakfast), an upcoming TV series (Frank Darabont’s The Walking Dead), and of course zombie farces (Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland), the spry likes of which should’ve signaled the end of the genre’s new heyday.
Unfortunately, it shows no sign of waning, and it’s Romero’s doing. With 1968’s Night of the Living Dead—still a roughshod masterpiece of anxiety that may inadvertently be the best film “about” Vietnam made during the war—Romero introduced the flesh-eating, white-pupiled grave-stumbler, and the rather trite rules that apply to them. (Why only head shots? Why not?) Despite the success of his first sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978), Romero and his living-dead paradigm spent more than 20 years in neutral, and then suddenly zombies became fashionable again, reemerging after 9/11. Coincidence or social unease? Are zombies—gross, easily killed people who aren’t really people anymore—our way of neutralizing the haunted experience of mass death on American soil?