It's happening again. Seems an author is enlisting friends and family in a campaign to boost his Amazon presence. But before I get into that, let's examine the book in question.
Academic film books suffer from two common pitfalls. First, there's the intentionally unreadable prose. The bigger the word, the more convoluted the sentence, the better. Academics will say "methodology" when they mean "method." They'll "post" everything. Post-feminist, post-industrial, post-modern. (Are we in a "post" era or after its close? Is "post" even used consistently?)
The second pitfall is that academia's law of "publish or perish" encourages a slavish, Soviet-like parroting of PC politics. Books are written not to elucidate, but to impress tenure committees. Even New York's left-alternative Village Voice admitted (in a 2005 article) that in today's university film departments, scholars are pressured to ignore aesthetics in favor of political and social issues.
Although Kim Paffenroth teaches at Iona College's Religious Studies Department (judging from his Acknowledgments page) and his Gospel of the Living Dead is published by Baylor University Press, Paffenroth's prose is lucid and reader-friendly, mercifully avoiding academia's pretentious vapidity. But not its politics. Gospel of the Living Dead is less a study of zombie films than an exercise in political showboating. His book reads as though calculated to impress a tenure committee. (Paffenroth informs me in an email that he already has tenure. Nevertheless, that's how his book reads.)
Not that there's anything wrong with discussing the politics of George Romero's zombie films. It's a valid and potentially interesting topic. But frequently Paffenroth's own grandstanding overwhelms his film analyses. He forgets that his book is about Romero's zombies and not about Paffenroth's own views on Hurricane Katrina (a recurrent reference). Paffenroth often comes across as a drunken boor at a party who insists on telling you everything that's wrong with Bush (or Clinton, or Mideast politics, or whatever one's current bugaboo is).
I expect any tenure committee would enjoy this gratuitous swipe: "It is also a telling anecdote as to the religious meaning implicit in [zombie] films that Dawn of the Dead (2004) was the first movie to edge Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ (2004) — another low budget movie with plenty of gore and no big stars — out of the number one place in box office sales."
Gratuitous, because this segue into The Passion is irrelevant to zombie films. And can we put one urban legend to rest? The Passion of the Christ is not all that gory. To those who only view romantic comedies, maybe, but not to any experienced gorehound. Most of The Passion's gore was in the scourge scene, some eight or nine minutes total (and even then interrupted by flashbacks). Far more sickening scenes may be found in many a gore film, such as Make Them Die Slowly and the authentically misogynistic Don't Go in the House, not to mention such contemporary torture films as Saw and Hostel.