Romero, 77, pi­o­neered a gory genre

The Denver Post - - NATION & WORLD - By Jake Coyle

NEW YORK» George Romero, whose classic “Night of the Liv­ing Dead” and other hor­ror films turned zom­bie movies into so­cial com­men­taries and who saw his fleshde­vour­ing 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 fa­vorite films, with his wife, Suzanne Des­rocher, and daugh­ter, Tina Romero, by this 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 Romero 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 flesh­hun­gry ghouls try­ing to feast on hu­mans in a Penn­syl­va­nia house. In 1999, the Li­brary of Congress in­ducted the black-and-white mas­ter­piece into the Na­tional Reg­istry of Films. Many con­sider the film to be a cri­tique on racism in Amer­ica. The sole black char­ac­ter sur­vives the zom­bie, but is fa­tally shot by res­cuers.

Ten years af­ter “Night of the Liv­ing Dead,” Romero made “Dawn of the Dead,” where hu­man sur­vivors take refuge from the un­dead in a mall and then turn on each other as the zom­bies stum­ble around the shop­ping com­plex.

Critic Roger Ebert called it “one of the best hor­ror films ever made — and, as an in­escapable re­sult, one of the most hor­ri­fy­ing. It is grue­some, sick­en­ing, dis­gust­ing, vi­o­lent, bru­tal and ap­palling. It is also ... bril­liantly crafted, funny, droll, and sav­agely mer­ci­less in its satiric view of the Amer­i­can con­sumer so­ci­ety.”

Romero had a some­times com­bat­ive re­la­tion­ship with the genre he helped cre­ate. He called “The Walk­ing Dead” a “soap opera” and said big-bud­get films like “World War Z” made mod­est zom­bie films im­pos­si­ble. Romero main­tained that he wouldn’t make hor­ror films if he couldn’t fill them with po­lit­i­cal state­ments.

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