George A. Romero: The father of the zombie flick passes away aged 77

By Vicky Pea
Mon 17 July, 2017

George A. Romero, the Godfather of the Dead, has died after a short battle with cancer. 

The famed director who made a career of toying with the grim possibilities of life after death has passed away aged 77.

Surrounded by his family and serenaded by the soundtrack from The Quiet Man, there was no trademark gore at the end of Romero’s life as he died after a short battle with lung cancer. An all too real death for the horror master, scarier in its realism than any of his most shocking of movie demises.

Having made a career out of manipulating death, portraying it in a number of creative and gory ways and toying with it in such a manner that to some (myself included) it grew to provide a warped sense of comfort and familiarity – not to mention a fascination with all that is morbid and macabre – it almost feels odd to morn Romero’s passing. Dead? Is that it? No nail through the eye? No limbs torn off? All organs intact? Bah!

In making the assumption he was a man comfortable with the concept of death in a variety of inventive and bloody disgusting ways I feel that the news was somewhat softened to me. I certainly don’t feel as much sorrow now as I have for other recent high profile passing’s – even though I’d class Romero as more beloved to me. It is however no less of a loss to the world in which he influenced a generation.

Throughout his work he took the most universally shared fear, the inevitability of death (and a gruesome one at that!) and made it so familiar to us that the fear passed and was replaced by a fate far more grisly. Hell I’m not scared of death anymore, but I’m damn scared of a zombie eating my face off, or even worse pulling out my intestines while I’m still screaming. In fact we’ve come to the point now where death is usually preferable to the transformation into the disfigured brain craving creatures.

Although zombies had appeared in cinema prior to Romero’s films, they were as bewitched beings, victims of voodoo or curses. It was Romero that first introduced us to the re-animated, cannibalistic un-dead that the world soon became obsessed with.

No one could have predicted that 1968’s Night Of The Living Dead would become one of the most ground breaking low budget films of all time. Almost 50 years later we’ve countless remakes, official sequels, unofficial sequels, blatant rip offs and a whole universe of Romero influenced stories portraying the end of the world and contagious outbreaks.

Still running at over 95% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes Night Of The Living Dead is no throw away b-movie. Chosen by the Library of Congress as a “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” piece of work it will forever be preserved in the National Film Registry.

Part of its historical importance no doubt relates to the casting of Duane Jones in the lead role as Ben. Even as late as ’68 it was still unheard of for a black man to play an hero, let alone a hero in a lead role, something that Romero never shouted about simply explaining that Duane gave the best audition, and that was that. Significant none the less.

As the Zombie genre continues to grow, popularity included, it is comforting to know that in his passing he will receive the credit and notoriety for what he created (at least for those who don’t already know). For without Romero we’d have no Walking Dead, World War Z, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, Dead Snow… the list goes on.

Even if zombie’s had made their way into pop culture via another route, it’s safe to say they’d be a whole lot different to the ones we know and love… maybe they wouldn’t even eat braiiiiiiinns at all?

They’re coming to get you Barbara