By Josh Simpkins
Special to the Sun
There are few iconic horror directors in the film making industry. There is a slew of horror directors out there, don’t get me wrong. I’m talking about the rare director that truly takes control of every aspect of their film from writing to editing. Like the concept in Joe Blow’s American Gods, I have a short list of old school directors and new school directors that I include on my List of Legends. New school includes Alexandre Aja (High Tension), Eli Roth (Hostel), Neil Marshall (The Descent), James Wan (Saw), and Rob Zombie (House of 1000 Corpses). As for Old School, I incorporate John Carpenter (Halloween), Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street), Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre) and George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead). I do not bring this to your attention, dear friends and neighbors, on a whim. Sadly, I must announce that legendary filmmaker and father of the modern movie zombie George A. Romero passed away in his sleep after a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer on July 16, 2017, in Toronto, Canada. He was 77.
Fact: The modern zombie horror genre wouldn’t be what it is today without the work of George A. Romero. As the guy who totally rewrote the definition of the term “zombie” (his films famously never included the Z-word, by the way) there is legitimately no underselling the effect that Romero had on the film industry and our culture at large. Literally every modern movie and television show about the shambling deceased—and yes, that includes The Walking Dead—has an immense debt to pay to the man. While he helmed notable titles like The Crazies (1973), Knightriders (1981) and Monkey Shines (1988)—he even directed two Stephen King film adaptations Creepshow (1982) and The Dark Half (1993)—he will always be remembered for his work with the undead.
George Andrew Romero was born in the Bronx in New York City on Feb. 4, 1940. He started his career with a bang in the late 1960s by jump-starting the zombie genre as the co-writer and director of the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, which went to show future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating spinetingling scares didn’t require backbreaking budgets. Romero never set out to become a Hollywood figure. However, by all indications, he was very successful. Just look at what the man inspired. Night of the Living Dead spawned an entire division of zombie knockoffs, spinoffs, and wannabes, most notably the Return of the Living Dead series of films. Romero himself generated five sequels: Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead (2009).
Romero took an intellectual view to his depiction of zombies, using the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, an approach he found lacking in some of the work that came after him. He was originally attached to write and direct Resident Evil (2002), but left the project in 1999 due to creative differences over the script. He also famously turned down the opportunity to direct episodes of the AMC hit The Walking Dead, because he found it basically just a soap opera with the occasional zombie. His opinion does matter folks, he is George Romero after all—and I love The Walking Dead!
Romero is survived by his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero. All happy thoughts and prayers out to the Romero family during this difficult time. Rest in Paradise, George A. Romero.