Night of the Liv­ing Dead di­rec­tor in­spired le­gions of hor­ror fans,

“I think it’s very safe to say that The Walk­ing Dead and sim­i­lar fran­chises to that would not ex­ist with­out George Romero.” CHRIS ROE ROMERO’S MAN­AGER

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 flesh-de­vour­ing un­dead spawn count­less im­i­ta­tors, re­makes and homages, has died. He was 77.

Romero died Sun­day fol­low­ing a brief battle with an ag­gres­sive form of lung can­cer, said his fam­ily in a state­ment pro­vided by his man­ager, Chris Roe. Romero’s fam­ily said he died about 1:30 Sun­day in a Toronto hos­pi­tal 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.

Romero had lived in Toronto since 2004.

“George was a gen­tle gi­ant. He was one of the kind­est, most giv­ing hu­man be­ings I’ve ever known or had the plea­sure to work with,” Roe told the Star on the phone from Burbank, Calif. “There was no ego in any way shape or form with George. He was the real deal.”

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. Roe said Romero showed young film­mak­ers that they didn’t need mil­lions of dol­lars to make a great movie.

“He al­ways would say to young film­mak­ers when asked for ad­vice, when you start some­thing, fin­ish it — so you can at least say you com­pleted it. You learn from your mis­takes and you move on to the next one, but al­ways fin­ish what you start,” Roe said. “His thought process was, pick up a cam­era, go do some­thing with it, but when you start it, fin­ish it. That’s great ad­vice for young kids es­pe­cially now where mak­ing a movie is so much eas­ier to­day be­cause of tech­nol­ogy.

Roe said Romero was com­fort­able in his later years with his stature among film buffs as the god­fa­ther of the zom­bie movie.

“He was loved by his peers. No mat­ter where he went in the world, prom­i­nent ac­tors, directors, pro­duc­ers would all come to him just to say how much he meant to them and what kind of an in­spi­ra­tion he was.”

Romero’s death was im­me­di­ately felt across a wide spec­trum of hor­ror fans and film­mak­ers. Stephen King, whose book 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.”

“Night of the Liv­ing Dead was so in­cred­i­bly DIY I re­al­ized movies were not some­thing that be­longed solely to the elites with mul­ti­ple mil­lions of dol­lars but could also be cre­ated by US, the peo­ple who sim­ply loved them, who lived in Mis­souri, as I did,” wrote James Gunn, the Guardians of the Galaxy di­rec­tor, who wrote the 2004 re­make of Dawn of the Dead.

Romero’s in­flu­ence could be seen across decades of Amer­i­can movies, from John Car­pen­ter to Edgar Wright, who di­rected the homage Shaun of the Dead, to Jor­dan Peele, the Get Out­film­maker. 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. Peele on Sun­day tweeted a photo of that char­ac­ter, played by Duane Jones, and wrote: “Romero started it.”

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.

Film 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.”

Roe said Romero spent the last few years of his life writ­ing sev­eral scripts, which he hopes one day will be given a chance to be seen. George An­drew Romero was born on Feb. 4, 1940, in New York City. He grew up in the Bronx, and he was a fan of hor­ror comics and movies in the pre-VCR era.

Romero grad­u­ated from Carnegie Mel­lon Univer­sity in Pitts­burgh in 1960. He learned the movie busi­ness work­ing on the sets of movies and Mis­ter Rogers’ Neigh­bor­hood, which was shot in Pitts­burgh. With files from Kenyon Wal­lace


Night of the Liv­ing Dead di­rec­tor George Romero is cred­ited with reinventing the zom­bie movie. His 1968 cult classic set rules his im­i­ta­tors lived by.

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