In a recent interview, horror icon John Carpenter dismissed 'The Walking Dead' as a latter-day attempt to milk 'Night of the Living Dead.' The writer, in my opinion, seems to unfairly dismiss Carpenter's opinions as the ramblings of an old fuddy-duddy.
Carpenter is perhaps best known for directing classics such 'Halloween' and 'The Thing.' His own early overt stab at zombie films, though it functions more as a ghost story in many ways, is the underrated 'The Fog.' But there is an earlier film by Carpenter, the 70s' grind house epic 'Assault on Precinct 13,' which perhaps reflects how the zombie genre could be saved from redundancy. The film is nominally an action film about a group of cops, civilians and criminals that are trapped in a defunct police station that is in a blighted urban sprawl and under attack by gang members. The film was remade with Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne, but the original is more chilling due to its stark simplicity (a full review and more detailed look at the film will be reserved for another time).
What makes it of interest to zombie fans is its approach. The siege scenario and the trapped people turning on one another certainly brings survival horror to mind, although these components can be found in other genres. But the film's antagonists really bring zombies to mind -- they don't talk and they attack as a horde with a single-minded purpose.
Perhaps applying zombie tropes to non-zombie stories would be a good way to keep things fresh. The recent French zombie film 'The Horde' is similar to the excellent Indonesian thriller 'The Raid: Redemption,' for example. Hopefully filmmakers will move forward.