George Romero, famous horror icon has died after a brief battle with lung cancer. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead trilogy, changed the horror genre more than any other director. Night of the living dead was a b horror film that introduced the world to the modern zombie and proved the horror genre could be sociopolitical and fun at the same time.
George Romero came from interesting film beginnings. Born in the Bronx in 1940, he graduated Carnegie Mellon University with a fine arts degree. His first paying job was for young children’s TV host named Mister Rogers, who hired the young director for several segments on his show “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” including “Mister Rogers gets a Gets a Tonsillectomy.” Romero joked throughout his life that ‘Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy’ is the scariest film I’ve ever made…. I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.”
In 1968, Romero created “Night of the Living Dead” a film about the dead rising from the grave and consuming the flesh of the living. It was considered shocking at the time with its gore and violence. It became a stapleaat midnight screenings across the US and would become a cult classic garnering 2 sequels- “Dawn of the Dead” and “Day of the Dead” . The Night of the Living Dead trilogy would inspire comic books, television, and influence horror for the next half century. Most of everything we know about zombies today, came from the school of Romero. Many of the top effects artists cut their teeth working for Romero, including legendary make up artist Tom Savini, who was an actor in Dawn of the Dead. Romero took chances with practical effects and created a genre of horror that would amass a huge following, until it finally exploded into the main stream with shows like The Walking Dead.
Arguably events like Halloween Horror Nights would not have been as prevalent if it wasn’t for Romero turning up the gore in some of his most iconic horror films.
It would be amiss if we did not address Romero’s sociopolitical themes throughout his films however. Historians note at the end of Night of the Living Dead (spoiler alert), the death of its African American leading man Ben at the hands of a white mob who shoot the armed character. Many believe it is a critique of race relations at the height of the civil rights movement . Romero himself however, frequently argued that theater actor Duane Jones “gave the best audition for the role”. Romero’s sociopolitical themes were arguably more apparent in “Dawn of the Dead” with its focus in consumerism and consumption, and “Day of the Dead” with its commentary on prejudices with women and other groups.
While most notably famous for the Night of The Living Dead Trilogy, Romero would make films over the next few decades, including the Steven King written “Creepshow”, The Crazies, and Monkey Shines.
While “The Godfather of Horror” may be no longer, his legacy much like his shambling, cannibalistic monsters will continue to roam the earth. Rest in Peace, George Romero.