OBITUARY—Legendary filmmaker George A Romero, creator of the genre-defining horror Night of the Living Dead, has died at the age of 77.
Romero passed away in his sleep on Sunday after a “brief but aggressive battle” with lung cancer, according to producing partner Peter Grunwald.
Filmed on a meagre budget of $120,000, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead is widely hailed as a masterpiece of the horror genre. Its tale of a zombie uprising caused by a contaminant from space gave birth to the undead, flesh-eating “ghoul,” which would later be called a “zombie.” The film not only spawned a series from Romero—which includes Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), and Land of the Dead (2005)—but also a swathe of imitators across films and video games.
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, Activison’s Call of Duty‘s Zombies mode, and Capcom’s Resident Evil all owe a debt to Romero alongside films like Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later, Marc Forster’s World War Z, and hit TV show The Walking Dead. However, the man himself wasn’t all that convinced by modern takes on the zombie.
“They asked me to do a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead, but I didn’t want to be a part of it,” Romero told the Big Issue in 2013. “Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”
Much of Romero’s work has been praised for its satirical edge, the catatonic, always-hungry zombies of Night of the Living Dead a denouncement of the mass consumerism that gripped America in the 1960s. Romero also inspired a generation of low-budget filmmakers, particularly in the horror genre, with his early works showing how to extract the most impact from the slimmest of budgets.
Romero was born in the Bronx, in New York City on February 4, 1940. After graduating from Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh in 1960 he began a career as a commercial director, before finding his niche in horror. In 1968 Romero, along with nine other investors, pulled together $6,000 to start production on Night of the Living Dead, which was originally called Night of the Flesh Eaters.
The change in title, made by the film’s distributor, caused Romero to lose the copyright and the resulting profits from the film. It wouldn’t be until the sequel Dawn of the Dead, which took $55 million at the box office, that Romero would profit from his work.
Late on Sunday, fans, collaborators, and celebrities paid their respects to Romero.
“Sad to hear my favourite collaborator—and good old friend—George Romero has died,” wrote author Steven King on Twitter. “George, there will never be another like you.”
Edgar Wright—director of cult British film Shaun Of The Dead, a satirical take on the zombie movie, wrote in a blog post: “R.I.P. to the lovely George. Knowing your movies, I have a feeling you will be back.” Wright also posted a recent e-mail from Romero, responding to Wright’s request to attend the director’s Hollywood Walk of Fame star ceremony:
As of now there is no definite date. Once a date is determined I will alert you and my children who, at this point, seem to be the only amused parties…I fully appreciate that some day in the future one of my kids might be walking along Zambeezie Street in L.A. and wonder why his or her father has his name embedded beneath the dog shit. Thousands of people, stepping over that same dog shit, if they can decipher the time-crusted lettering, will ask, “Who the fuck is George Romero?” Only you and my children will know.
Romero was married three times. He died while listening to the score of one of his favorite films, The Quiet Man, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his side.
More Info: arstechnica.co.uk