The Los Angeles Times reported today that director and film-maker George A. Romero has died at the age of 77 following a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer”. The legendary horror director was best known for inventing the modern zombie movie with Night of the Living Dead in 1968, setting the stage for a franchise that would include the sequels Dawn of the Dead in 1978, Day of the Dead in 1985, Land of the Dead in 1990, Diary of the Dead in 2007, and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead in 2009. The original 1968 film has since become a longtime staple for Halloween viewing and was notable for casting a black actor, Duane Jones, in the lead role. Romero’s zombie films have inspired a whole generation of horror film makers, including the likes of Halloween director John Carpenter and Texas Chainsaw Massacre director Tobe Hooper. It’s probably a safe bet to say we wouldn’t have the likes of The Walking Dead or the Resident Evil franchise without his influence.
Romero didn’t just focus on zombies during his career, though he generally stuck to the horror genre. Other films of his included The Crazies in 1973, the very different vampire tale Martin in 1978, the King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot inspired motorcycle movie Knightriders in 1981, and two collaborations with horror novelist Stephen King- 1982’s Creepshow and 1993’s The Dark Half. Romero also directed the television documentary The Winners (1973-1974) and even appeared in a couple of films, including an uncredited appearance as an FBI agent in 1991’s Silence of the Lambs.
George A. Romero was born in New York City on February 4, 1940, where he grew up. He moved to Pittsburgh while attending the Carnegie-Mellon University, and it was here that Romero shot most of his films. His was a talent that will sorely be missed.