Pioneer­ing di­rec­tor of film­dom’s zom­bies

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS -

NEW YORK — George Romero, whose clas­sic Night

of the Liv­ing Dead and other hor­ror films turned zom­bie movies into so­cial com­men­taries, has died. He was 77.

Romero died Sun­day af­ter a bat­tle with lung can­cer, his fam­ily said 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 fa­vorite films, with his wife, Suzanne Des­rocher, and daugh­ter, Tina Romero, by his side.

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.

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 fa­vorite col­lab­o­ra­tor and said, “There will never be an­other like you.” Guillermo del Toro called the loss “enor­mous.”

Many con­sid­ered Night

of the Liv­ing Dead to be a cri­tique on racism in Amer­ica. The sole black char­ac­ter sur­vives the zom­bies, but he is fa­tally shot by res­cuers. Jor­dan Peele, the Get Out film­maker, on Sun­day tweeted a photo of that char­ac­ter, played by Duane Jones, and wrote: “Romero started it.”

George An­drew Romero was born Feb. 4, 1940, in New York City.

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