Director George A. Romero died in his sleep on Sunday according to a statement given by Peter Grunwald, his producing partner. Romero had been 77 and battling lung cancer.
Romero is best-known as the father of the modern zombie movie. In 1968, he unleashed “Night of the Living Dead” on an unsuspecting public. Although it was critically panned at the time, it later became one of the most influential horror movies ever made. It inspired both movies like “28 Days Later” and TV shows like “The Walking Dead.” Romero’s opus also demonstrated to other filmmakers that they did not need big bucks to produce big scares.
“Living Dead” led to a horde of zombie movies including Romero’s own sequels: “Dawn of the Dead” (1978), “Day of the Dead” (1985), “Land of the Dead” (2005), “Diary of the Dead” (2007), and “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead” (2009)
“Night of the Living Dead” was considered noteworthy not just for its gore; it also cast Duane Jones, an African-American, as the hero. Romero also used his zombies to represent various social ills. Unlike other monsters, like vampires, that were solitary threats, zombies attacked in large groups. They therefore represented the potential menace of a mass mind.
Romero was born in 1940 in New York City. In 1961, he graduated from the College of Fine Arts at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University. He remained in Pittsburgh for most of his career. After graduating, Romero made several commercials and short films. Ironically, one of them was a segment for the children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” It depicted the title character going to the hospital to have his tonsils removed.
In addition to the Living Dead movies, Romero also made “Martin” (1978), “Creepshow” (1982), “Tales From the Darkside” (1988) and “The Dark Half” (1993).
The famous horror film director George Romero, 76, is getting his own star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. The announcement was made via livestream on June 28, and Romero’s star will be unveiled sometime in 2017. Other honorees getting their stars include Amy Adams, Goldie Hawn, Ryan Reynolds, Dwayne Johnson, Chris Pratt and Rita Wilson.
Directors and actors who specialize in horror films often have a tough time earning respect. They rarely win Academy Awards and just as rarely receive stars on the Walk of Fame. The Zombie Research Society had campaigned unsuccessfully in 2012 to get Romero on the Walk of Fame.
Romero is a particularly deserving honoree. In 1968, he burst onto the scene with “Night of the Living Dead,” which has since become a classic that is also one of the most influential horror films ever made. “Night of the Living Dead” revitalized horror movies, and it inspired a new wave of books and later video games with horror themes. The influence of “Night of the Living Dead” can be seen in TV shows like “The Walking Dead” and movies like “World War Z” and “Zombieland.” Romero’s last movie was “Survival of the Dead.” Made in 2009, it is the sixth film in the “Living Dead” series.
Romero was also the executive producer of “Tales From the Darkside,” a TV anthology of horror shorts that ran from 1984 to 1988. He also wrote the screenplay for “Cat From Hell,” an adaptation of a short story by Stephen King, that was used in the 1990 movie based on “Tales.”