Movies & TV / News

Horror Icon George A. Romero Passes Away

July 16, 2017 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

A titan of the horror genre has left us. The Los Angeles Times reports that George A. Romero, who ushered in the era of the zombie film, passed away on Sunday after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer” per a statement from Romero’s producing partner Peter Grunwald. The statement noted that Romero passed away with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side while listening to the score of 1952’s The Quiet Man which was one of his favorite films. He was seventy-seven.

Romero more or less created the zombie genre as we know it today when he made Night of the Living Dead in 1968. The film, which joined the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry as a film deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” in 1999, was a revolutionary film in terms of the horror genre and spawned a franchise while influencing generations of movies, TV shows, video games, music and comic books, among other art forms.

Romero was born in the Bronx in February of 1940. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in 1960, he began directing short films and commercials. Romero formed his own production company, Image Ten Productions, with several friends in the late sixties and raised around $114,000 in order to make a horror film. That film, which was inspired by Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, broke new horror ground in several ways. It introduced the modern concept of the zombie (although the word is never used in the movie) and became the first film to feature an African-American (Duane Jones) in the lead heroic role. The role was originally written for a white character but Romero said in a 2013 interview with the Telegraph when Jones “gave the best audition,” co-writer John Russo and he “consciously, deliberately didn’t change the script.”

Night of the Living Dead became an instant cult classic, and Romero would return to the genre several times to make more Living Dead movies. 1978’s Dawn of the Dead expanded the world of Romero’s zombie apocalypse and was infused with social commentary on materialistic society. Day of the Dead was released in 1985, followed eventually by 2005’s Land of the Dead, 2007’s Diary of the Dead and 2009’s Survival of the Dead.

Romero also worked outside of the zombie genre; he directed films like 1973’s biological weapon-based sci-fi horror film The Crazies, vampire film Martin in 1978, a segment of Creepshow in 1982, the Stephen King adaptation The Dark Half in 1993. He wrote the script for the 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead as well and appeared as a cameo in Silence of the Lambs as an FBI agent. He was originally signed to write and direct the first Resident Evil movie but left due to disagreements on the studio about the creative direction.

As the zombie genre become more and more prevalent in recent years, Romero drifted away from filmmaking. He was critical of The Walking Dead, saying it lacked the kind of social commentary he always sought to include. He did work in video games, including voicing himself in Call of Duty: Black Ops’ “Call of the Dead” zombie mode, and writing Marvel Comics’ George A. Romero’s Empire of the Dead from 2014 through 2015.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends and many fans of Mr. Romero. The world of pop culture would not be the same without him, and he will be missed.

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George Romero, Jeremy Thomas