I always try and think of popular culture on a larger scale as being "stories we make and tell to one another" and then ask questions based on that vantage point. For instance, I think it's much more interesting to think about "why do we tell each other so many stories about killing each other?" than to argue about the effects of violent films on society.
One of the questions that has been one my mind and I hadn't been able to form sufficient answers for is "why all the stories about infection and zombies?"
The horror movie genre has a long history of creating films that are subtle, masked metaphors for societal issues. For instance, Godzilla is a metaphor for nuclear annihilation (and the United States). Slasher films of the Texas Chainsaw era were about the horrors of the Vietnam War (children going off and being slaughtered).
It would be over simplistic to think that the spate of zombie films in recent years, "28 Days Later", "28 Weeks later", "Legend" are simply metaphors for Aids. That feels like if falls way short of fully explaining the trend.
The presence of "rage" is interesting in recent zombie films. Zombies in the past stumbled around, they shuffled, they were slow. Contemporary zombies are fast, strong and really, really, pissed off. They're not laying around waiting to die. They WANT something and they think you (the protagonist) have it.
One of the growing crises "eating away" America over the past 2 decades has been the dysfunction in the health care industry. On a societal level, our collective systems for maintaining the heath of each other and human life has is failing. On an individual level, you're out there on your own and you're damned if you get sick.
Even more alarming is the rise in global food prices in the last 6 months resulting recently in outbreaks of food riots all over the globe.
Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite
Soaring crop prices and demand for bio fuels raise fears of political instability
In a very real sense the most fundamental needs of humans (the ones way down at the bottom of Maslow's Pyramid) are being threatened. The most basic survival instincts are under duress and triggering flight/flight responses. It's starting to feel like it every man for himself and God, and the earth and its climate... nature herself, against them all.
It's looking more like the 28th day every minute.