Saddened to hear about the passing of horror icon George A. Romero at age 77, after a brief battle with lung cancer. I consider Romero to be the king of the zombies. We wouldn’t have zombies as we know them today without him. Every single filmmaker who has made a zombie movie after 1968 owes him the biggest debt of gratitude.
Zombies were mindless minions under a spell until Romero’s Night of the Flesh Eaters was released as Night of the Living Dead and the world familiarized itself with the idea of walking corpse zombies. Now, I’m sure most everyone knows they weren’t supposed to be zombies, initially, but zombies they became.
Romero had a knack for inserting an underlying narrative for what was going on in the world into his films. It started right off the bat with America’s racial tension in NotLD.
Unfortunately, due to a loophole, Romero’s Night of the Living Dead quickly fell into the public domain and he never made the money he should have from it. Despite the success of NotLD, he struggled for financing on almost every film he made. The guy has been heralded as an all time great director, but he was rarely rewarded monetarily.
From what I read, Romero rounded out his “dead trilogy” with Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead from what was initially a three part short story he cowrote with John Russo. Each part became a film. This is probably why the three were so fluid together despite being made over the course of 17 years.
Romero proved time and time again that he could make great movies with little money. Dawn is widely regarded as the greatest zombie film ever and while Day had to be rewritten extensively due to low funding and budget cuts, it was still another iconic zombie apocalypse masterpiece.
George Romero always kept his foot in the cult/horror genre with The Crazies, Martin, Knightriders, Monkey Shines and more. He even teamed with Stephen King for the essential anthology films Creepshow and Creepshow 2. Not everything he touched was gold but it was damn close.
In 2005, Romero went back to his zombie roots with a new installment to his dead series, Land of the Dead. It seemed it was about the only time in his career that he really had any kind of budget to work with for a zombie film. It was mostly well-received by horror hounds and it looked as if Romero was back and might finally get to make the money he deserved for all of his cinematic contributions.
Romero stayed on the “dead” road but, unfortunately, the efforts were lackluster with the Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead films. Recently, however, we all got a nice surprise announcement that he was coming back for one more “dead” film, Road of the Dead. I’ll be honest, my first thoughts on the sinopsis for this one were that it would either be terrible or a fun-as-hell addition to the series. I like to think it would’ve been a return to form and the latter would’ve been true. I guess we’ll never get to find out.
Thank you, George A. Romero, for the countless hours of fun watching your films. Thank you for giving us a world full of zombies. Thank you for giving dorks like me scenarios to dissect with other horror fans. More than anything, thank you for entertaining so many of us for so long. Luckily, we get to watch and rewatch these films for years to come.