The zombie as it has appeared in popular culture–the abject, shambling, carnivorous undead rather than the animated slaves of Caribbean folklore–was practically invented by the director George Romero, who has sadly died. Romero’s pioneering film Night of the Living Dead (1968) and subsequent films inaugurated a whole new subgenre of horror, one that enabled the undead monster to stand in for and explore many aspects of modern society. In some of these films he even anticipates the sympathetic monster of paranormal romance by suggesting the return of autonomy to the creatures and by focusing on the plight of their dehumanisation. Below are links to three articles on Romero that also give a critical account of his genius. All are excellent starting points for research on the Romero zombie.
First, Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes of Manchester Metropolitan University draws attention to that human aspect in ‘How George A. Romero made humans of violent brain-devouring zombies‘.
John DeFore gives a more general account of Romero’s work in ‘Critic’s Notebook: In George Romero’s Zombie Films, a Cathartic Form of Escapism‘.
The last article is from the LRB (it’s incomplete unless you subscribe, unfortunately); Thomas Jones, in ‘Les zombies, c’est vous‘ (a review of Colson Whitehead’s Zone One), places the Romero zombie in a contemporary context, revealing its enormous influence.