It is a sad day for horror fans. George A. Romero whose work defined an entire sub-genre of horror died today after a brief battle with an aggressive form of lung cancer. The director and writer was 77 years old.
Romero burst onto the scene with his 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead. The film centered on a group of survivors taking refuge in a secluded home as flesh eating zombies closed in on them. It was a standout film for multiple reasons, not the least of which was his casting of Duane Jones, a black man, as the lead. The controversial move made movie goers sit up and pay attention. On the surface, this was a horror movie, but down deep, they knew it was something more.
Romero would add Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead, and Survival of the Dead to his zombie family over a period of 41 years. He used the films to voice his opinions of the changing world and the socio-political climate of the times they were released. In 1978 when he saw the U.S. being consumed by materialism his survivors hid out in a shopping mall. In 2005, he took on the modern caste system, as his survivors lived inside a gated city, but only the truly wealthy could find a place in the inner sanctum and count themselves safe from zombie attack.
In each scenario, Romero picked apart societal norms and pointed a bloody finger at the people who were the real monsters. He was never heavy handed with the symbolism, however. He never felt the need to be.
“I don’t try to answer any questions or preach,” he once said. “My personality and my opinions come through in the satire of the films, but I think of them as a snapshot of the time. I have this device, or conceit, where something happens in the world and I can say, ‘Ooo, I’ll talk about that, and I can throw zombies in it! And get it made!’ You know, it’s kind of my ticket to ride.”
It wasn’t only zombies for Romero, however. Many will remember his strange vampire story Martin from 1978. It was, according to legend, Romero’s favorite of his own films because the final product was the closest to his own beginning vision. A young man named Martin, who claims to be nearing 90, believes he is a vampire. He arrives at his uncle’s home seeking salvation from his thirst but all does not go according to plan. It’s a masterpiece that isn’t shown nearly enough during Halloween horror marathons.
Along the way, he also gave us The Dark Half (adapted from Stephen King’s novel), Monkey Shines, and the cult anthology Creepshow (for which I will personally be eternally grateful).
Romero, at 6’5″ towered over most of his stars, but he was the gentlest of giants, and fans and collaborators took to social media to remember the legend as word spread.
Sad to hear my favorite collaborator–and good old friend–George Romero has died. George, there will never be another like you.
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) July 16, 2017
RIP #GeorgeRomero. You made me want to make movies, and helped me to find meaning in monsters. Thank you. I love you.
— James Gunn (@JamesGunn) July 16, 2017
The world has lost a visionary and I’ve lost a friend and an inspiration. Rest In Peace George Romero.
— Max Brooks (@maxbrooksauthor) July 16, 2017
According to reports from the L.A. Times, Romero died at home while listening to his favorite film score, 1952’s The Quite Man His wife, Suzanne, and daughter, Tina, were at his side.
The horror world will never be the same without this steady, Brooklyn-laced voice of the common man within it. We at iHorror extend our condolences to Mr. Romero’s family. We mourn with you…