The iconic George A. Romero, regarded by horror fans and film luminaries the world over as the “Godfather Of The Dead”, has passed away after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.”
After beginning his career making commercials, Romero – with a group of friends and a shoestring budget – filmed his horror classic Night of the Living Dead, which became a cult phenomenon that introduced man-eating zombies to a generation of movie fans. Made in 1968 for just $114,000, his cult classic Night Of The Living Dead is responsible for the unrelenting parade of zombie movies and TV shows. He was, without a doubt, the creator of the modern zombie who, along with other contemporaries at the time like Lucio Fulci, positioned the monsters as modern-day allegories for our drone-like consumerism.
It was his low-budget approach to Night Of The Living Dead that inspired future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that to generate big scares didn’t require big budgets. More so, Romero’s approach to the horror genre is even longer-lasting. His ability to mix thrills with social satire, shining a spotlight on the outright militarism he was noticing around him
Romero’s 1978 sequel Dawn Of The Dead (still probably the greatest Zombie movie ever made) was made for $1.5 million and grossed $55 million. He followed that by writing and directing Day Of The Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary Of The Dead (2007) and Survival Of The Dead (2009). His Living Dead series earned him the moniker Father of the Zombie Film.
Romero’s legacy will forever be associated with the Zombie. A figure that has loomed large in both film and TV for the last decade now. The most watched show on TV, The Walking Dead and the comic series it’s based on, owes its entire existence to many of the conundrums and profound philosophical discussion that come with the brain-eating hordes spearheaded by Romero.
However, in recent years, as the zombie genre grew and grew, Romero wasn’t always a fan. He told a British newspaper in 2013 that he’d been asked to do some episodes of The Walking Dead, but had no interest.
“Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” he told the Big Issue. “I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”
The horror director was planning a new movie titled Road Of The Dead, which he discussed with IndieWire recently as sort of Mad Max–inspired tale of automotive zombies that he was producing but not directing. Romero and director Matt Birman were headed to the Fantasia International Film Festival to secure financing. “I’ve had a terrific run,” he said during the conversation — one that unfortunately didn’t last much longer. We sadly will not be getting that movie anymore, and if we do, It will probably the last thing Romero will be involved with personally.
As a producer, Romero delivered TV’s seminal 1980s horror anthology Tales From the Dark Side, and also directed one of the oddest but equally amazing vampire film, 1978’s Martin, as well as 1973’s The Crazies, 1981’s Knightriders, 1982’s Creepshow, 1988’s Monkey Shines, 1990’s Two Evil Eyes, and 1993’s Dark Half.
Reactions are pouring in following the loss of groundbreaking filmmaker. Considering his legacy as a director, storyteller and cultural commentator, the kind of public reaction following his passing aren’t overstated. Everyone from Eli Roth and Stephen King (with whom he considered Romero an old friend and business partner) to Barbara Crampton, Jordan Peele and Guillermo del Toro.
Take a look at selection of some of the tweets and condolences hitting the web:
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
Just heard the news about George Romero. Hard to quantify how much he inspired me & what he did for cinema. Condolences to his family. ❤️
— Eli Roth (@eliroth) July 16, 2017
Romero started it. pic.twitter.com/i4dnxi8EFV
— Jordan Peele (@JordanPeele) July 16, 2017
Romero has passed away. Hard to find words right now. The loss is so enormous.
— Guillermo del Toro (@RealGDT) July 16, 2017
RIP George Romero. Your groundbreaking contributions to the genre are unparrelled. We will miss you and are made better for your brilliance pic.twitter.com/zYPn3GRfXw
— Barbara Crampton (@barbaracrampton) July 16, 2017
A fond farewell to charming, legendary zombie king George Romero. 'Martin' is one of my favourite horrors. An honour to have met him. RIP pic.twitter.com/8ZIwjxFrmx
— Mark Gatiss (@Markgatiss) July 16, 2017
It is impossible to overstate George A. Romero's impact on the genre. We've lost a legend. Sadness, and gratitude. May he Rest In Peace.
— Mike Flanagan (@flanaganfilm) July 16, 2017
It is impossible to overestimate the impact George A. Romero had on the horror film. pic.twitter.com/4lIMAPvWaU
— Kim Newman (@AnnoDracula) July 16, 2017
Romero died Sunday in his sleep following a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a statement provided by his longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald. Romero died while listening to the score of one his favorite films, 1952’s The Quiet Man, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side, the family said.
George A. Romero is, and forever will be, a titan of horror. His passing will leave a void hard to fill and his films will stand as a testament to his rebellious nature, satirical edge and warm love of the genre. We here at GEEK are really feeling this one and we send out thoughts and prayers to his friends and family. The horror community mourns the passing of a true legend.
Images: Universal, Warner Bros., UA, Image Comics