Godfather of the zombie film, George A. Romero, has passed away

Last Updated on July 31, 2021

We are reporting today with a heavy heart that the godfather of zombie movies – George A. Romero – passed away today at the age of 77. He died in sleep Sunday after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a press release given to the LA Times from Romero’s longtime collaborator, Peter Grunwald. According to his family, who were at his side, he died in his sleep listening to the soundtrack to the 1952 film, THE QUIET MAN.

George Andrew Romero was born in 1940 in the Bronx in New York, and would go on to graduate from Carnegie Mellon University in 1960 from the College of Fine Arts. With a long and storied career at his back, Romero became most famous for his work in the zombie genre, creating such masterworks as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD in 1968, which kick-started a zombie craze, and remains a late-night masterpiece. He returned to the genre in 1978 with the equally amazing film DAWN OF THE DEAD, which was followed by 1985’s DAY OF THE DEAD, 2005’s LAND OF THE DEAD, 2007’s DIARY OF THE DEAD and 2009’s George A. Romero’s SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD.

His films do not resemble the mainstream zombie products of today, such as THE WALKING DEAD and WORLD WAR Z. Romero’s films have been lauded for their biting commentary on race, class and consumerism, and NIGHT, in particular, pushed the boundaries for the better back in 1968, casting a black man (Duane Jones) in the lead role when that was virtually unheard of.

Though a copy right problem meant Romero made no money off NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD (which sent him into financial turmoil), the movie was a smash hit making $30 million worldwide on a $114,000 budget. The movie has been terrifying audiences for decades, and in 1999 the movie was selected to be added to the National Film Registry for being of great historical and cultural significance.

In recent years Romero would voice his dislike of modern zombie films, calling shows like WALKING DEAD “soap operas.” He claims the Hollywood-ization made getting his movies made impossible, which caused a lot of ill will:

I harbor a lot of resentment…I used to be the only guy on the zombie playground, and unfortunately Brad Pitt and ‘The Walking Dead’ have made it Hollywood-ized. I was ready to do another one, a $2-3 million one, and nobody will finance a zombie film now.

Outside of the zombie genre Romero directed films such as THE CRAZIES, CREEPSHOW, BRUISER and even had a cameo in the critically acclaimed film, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

Romero may not have a ton of hits to his name, but the man was a master of the craft and was able to channel his frustrations and anxieties caused by the society we live in into horror gold, creating thought-provoking (and horrifying) films that still have relevance today. I can remember watching NIGHT when I was just a child, marking my introduction into the world of zombies. After watching it I had nightmares and visions of slow-walking, cannibalistic creatures of the undead bashing on my door and crashing through my window. I was told by my family that we were safe because we lived on the second floor of our apartment, but I figured if the zombies could get as far as my house what was a few steps up the stairs. I have few memories of such fear from that age, and after repeat viewings, the movie continues to terrify me to this day, but it also stimulates me intellectually. There’s a wisdom underneath the gore that is unflappable, and that was the genius of George A. Romero.

Source: LA Times

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