Director George Romero dies at 77
Classic horror film ‘Night of the Living Dead’ spawned countless imitations
George Romero, whose classic “Night of the Living Dead” and other horror films turned zombie movies into social commentaries and who saw his flesh-devouring undead spawn countless imitators, remakes and homages, has died. He was 77.
Romero died Sunday following a battle with lung cancer, said his family in a statement provided by his manager Chris Roe. Romero’s family said he died while listening to the score of “The Quiet Man,” one of his favourite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter, Tina Romero, by this side.
Roe told The Canadian Press in an interview from Los Angeles that Romero died in Toronto, where he had lived since 2004.
Romero “was a gentle giant, and one of the kindest, most giving human beings I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing,” Roe said Sunday, noting he and the director had been friends for 15 years.
Romero is credited with reinventing the movie zombie with his directorial debut, the 1968 cult classic, “Night of the Living Dead.”
The movie set the rules imitators lived by: Zombies move slowly, lust for human flesh and can only be killed when shot in the head. If a zombie bites a human, the person dies and returns as a zombie.
“I think it’s very safe to say that ”The Walking Dead“and similar franchises to that would not exist without George Romero,” Roe said.
Romero’s zombies, however, were always more than mere cannibals. They were metaphors for conformity, racism, mall culture, militarism, class differences and other social ills.
“The zombies, they could be anything,” Romero told The Associated Press in 2008. “They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It’s a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it. They keep trying to stick where they are, instead of recognizing maybe this is too big for us to try to maintain. That’s the part of it that I’ve always enjoyed.”
“Night of the Living Dead,” made for about $100,000, featured flesh-hungry ghouls trying to feast on humans holed up in a Pennsylvania house. In 1999, the Library of Congress inducted the black-and-white masterpiece into the National Registry of Films.
Romero’s death was immediately felt across a wide spectrum of horror fans and filmmakers. Stephen King, whose “The Dark Half” was adapted by Romero, called him his favourite collaborator and said, “There will never be another like you.” Guillermo del Toro called the loss “enormous.”
In this Monday, Jan. 21, 2008, file photo, director and writer George Romero poses for a photograph while talking about his film ‘Diary of the Dead’ at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.