Filmmaker and occasional comics writer George A. Romero passed away yesterday at the age of 77. Romero died in his sleep due to a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” according to a family statement provided to the Los Angeles Times. He died in Toronto while listening to his favorite film scores, The Quiet Man. He is survived by his family, including his wife, his daughter, and his two sons.
Since the release of his paramount 1967 horror masterpiece Night of the Living Dead, Romero’s influence can be felt over not only the horror genre but the entirety of filmmaking. Not only did the man pioneer “survival horror” as a concept, but he also infused deep social satire that are still being analyzed by film scholars today. Heavily influenced by classic Universal monster movies, EC Comics, and then current events, his hyper violent and ultra realistic style help set the standard for what the next 2 decades of horror on celluloid would look like. He was also quite progressive in his casting, choosing people like Duane Jones and Ken Foree in lead roles not because of their race, but because they were right for the part.
After Night of the Living Dead was a hit, Romero found most of his success in the horror genre, though he often spoke of wanting to direct more non-horror fare. Some of his most famous and successful films include Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, The Crazies, and his collaborations with Stephen King, Creepshow, Creepshow 2, and The Dark Half. He also acted in a few films, including Silence of the Lambs and The American Nightmare.
Romero and his films have gone onto inspire hundreds of filmmakers, if not thousands of films. One would be hard pressed to find any piece of contemporary horror fiction that you can’t draw back directly to Romero’s Dead trilogy. From the concept of shambling, moaning “Zombies” to the deliberate use of realistic blood and gore, Romero has such a strong hold on the genre. He had also written a number of comics in his day, including DC’s “Toe Tags” and the “Empire of the Dead” trilogy for Marvel. The aforementioned Creepshow films also borrowed the format of an EC-style comic, so much so that the first film was eventually illustrated by Bernie Wrightson. That book was reprinted earlier this year by Gallery 13 books.