George A. Romero was born in the New York City borough of The Bronx on February 4, 1940. After graduating Carnegie Mellon University in 1960, Romero went straight into the film industry, making short films and commercials. He even filmed a segment for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. But it was in 1968 when Romero directed and co-wrote (with John Russo) Night of the Living Dead, a groundbreaking film that pushed boundaries and would forever change cinema.
The film kicked off the zombie sub-genre, which is still immensely popular in horror and pop culture. It also led to five films that continued the Dead franchise, which includes Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009). In addition to the series, Romero directed many fantastic horror films, including The Crazies (1973), Martin (1978), Creepshow (1982), and The Dark Half (1993).
There is no doubt that Romero has had a major impact on the horror genre, horror fans, countless filmmakers and actors. Because of this, the team here at HorrorGeekLife.com wanted to pay tribute to the legend, in our own words.
My very first George Romero film as a kid was 1978’s Dawn of the Dead. While I couldn’t fully appreciate the film until years later, it terrified me in a way that I wasn’t prepared for and stayed with me for life. Now, decades later, Mr. Romero is responsible for several films in my top 25 horror list. I had the privilege of meeting him four years ago, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget. He had such a genuine smile and made sure every fan had a bit of personal time with him. He was one of the most influential filmmakers the horror genre will ever know and his work and presence will most definitely be missed. “When there’s no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.”
I was rather young the first time that I watched Night of the Living Dead. Five or six, maybe. I was staying at my grandfather’s house for the night, and he lived in a secluded country town, down a somehow more secluded country road, so there wasn’t much to do other than watch television or play in the woods by the house. That night, I was searching through my grandpa’s old VHS’s for anything horror related (I was already obsessed with the genre), and that’s when I came across the film.
Needless to say, I loved it. In fact, it became a go-to film for me, and has been ever since. I spent many nights as a child watching Night of the Living Dead just so I could get comfortable enough to fall asleep. I’m a big fan of Romero’s sequels, Dawn and Day, as well as Martin, Creepshow, and the vastly underrated The Dark Half– but that connection between Night, my childhood, and my grandfather is something I will forever carry with me. I owe those memories to George A. Romero.
I’m so glad I had the chance to meet Romero at a horror convention a few years back. What a great man, and such a tragic loss for the horror community, not to mention the film industry as a whole. Unknowingly at the time, the first movie I saw that he directed was Creepshow. It is still one of my all time favorites. I’m glad that he will be forever immortalized in the Call of the Dead DLC for the original Call of Duty: Black Ops zombie mode.
I discovered a love of horror movies around the age of nine, but I didn’t become familiar with Romero and the modern zombie until I was well into my teenage years. In fact, the film that first exposed me to him, and is still one of my favorites was Creepshow. That was the first horror anthology that I ever watched, and a film that exposed me to how diverse the horror genre really could be. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love Night of the Living Dead and Day of the Dead, but neither had the same impact on me that Creepshow did.
A lot of great writers and directors have helped shape my love of the genre over the years, but few have been such an inspiration to other creators that I love like Romero has. Without his vision to inspire others, so many of the films that I truly love just wouldn’t exist. The world of horror will likely never see another creator who makes such an impact. He will be sorely missed.
He handed a pivotal leading role to an African-American in 1968. The Walking Dead would not exist without his vision. He trained a spotlight on the forgotten and disenfranchised. It was never about the shambling undead, but rather searing examinations of injustice and indictments of complacent blindness. George Romero delighted us with entertainment while leaving us with little choice to look inward, not only individually, but as a society. And he did so with nothing more than an ever-present smile. And zombies. If that’s not an artist, there’s never been one. Should you ever encounter someone who suggests that horror films have no redeeming social quality, remind them of George A. Romero.
George A. Romero, what can I say. I love all things horror, but zombie movies have always been my favorite niche. And no one has done it better, with more innovation, social awareness, less budget (except for maybe Redneck Zombies), and the same impact on pop-culture and filmography. I’ve unfortunately never meet George, but I did an interview with Joseph Pilato (of Day Of The Dead and Dawn Of The Dead) a couple of years back, and when we spoke of Romero, his voice lighted up and he spoke fondly.
When speaking about his favorite memories of shooting Day Of The Dead, Pilato said: “So those are the memories, when you say favorite… and of course the opportunity, even though it was the third time working with George, the opportunity to work with him on a fairly significant character, to watch his style, his command of the camera, and the scene. He’s definitely an actor’s director. I see George at conventions, and we always have friendly conversations, because he’s a great guy, very unpretentious, and he has a lot of love for his actors.”
George A. Romero will be missed by family, friends, actors, and fans alike.
I’ve been a horror fan practically since I could walk, and among the first horror films I ever saw were Creepshow and Romero’s original zombie trilogy. I dare say that, with the possible exception of the original Halloween and the Evil Dead trilogy, I’ve owned more copies of those films in different home video mediums than anything else. I also have any number of comics, posters, books and soundtracks associated with Romero’s works, and the scores to the aforementioned films rank amongst my all-time favorites of ANY genre.
My favorite thing about Romero’s work, and probably the main reason his films were so re-watchable, was the the fact that he wasn’t afraid to inject dark humor and even trenchant social commentary into the mix. His films have what the best of all genres of film have- they reflect the times in which they were made in incisive and clever ways that make them stand up to multiple viewings, and ensure that viewers pick up on something they missed with each successive re-viewing. There was no one quite like him, and that is why his work continues to inspire, influence and win over new fans with each passing day. RIP, George- you will be missed.
I’m so glad I got to see George Romero speak at least once, at MonsterCon in Charlotte. He was sharp as a tack, hilarious and not scared to talk openly about his disdain for The Walking Dead, Brad Pitt’s ruining of World War Z and also the things he liked and loved (which now stand out less in my memory because they were less hilarious than his usual wryly funny observances and shit talking). He said that day he’d never do another big budget film after his experience with the last one (and “Brad Pitt ruined it for everyone,” he said, pointing out that all any film company really WANTED him to make was another big budget film). An indie legend that created an entire genre and a legion of imitators comprised of people who mostly seemed to miss what he was getting at most of the time. A huge loss to see him go. R.I.P.
It’s easy to remember George Romero as the godfather of the zombie movie, he certainly deserves the title, but there was far more to his films than mindless flesh eaters. The casting of Duane Jones in Night of the Living Dead was a breakthrough. Never had an African American led a horror film; even the idea of an African American hero amongst a predominately white cast was controversial in the racially charged climate of the late 60’s. Romero continued to explore social issues throughout the entire Dead series, helping to legitimize the horror genre along the way.
Beyond his filmography, George Romero was a staple and fan favorite at countless horror conventions; his accessibility was truly endearing. Over the past decade I’ve seen him as the Stan Lee of the horror community, no longer at the forefront creatively but a guiding light and friendly face whose influence is still felt throughout both film and television today. “I’m like my zombies, I won’t stay dead!” It’s a quote from the man himself, and while we might not be lucky enough for that to literally be true let’s hope that his work continues to inspire for generations.
George A. Romero was the king of the zombie genre and paved a way for all those who would come after. Every time I watch one of his films, it stays with me long after the credits end. It doesn’t matter if I’ve seen it once or fifty times, they always stuck with me. Although I’m sad about the loss of a true legend, I don’t feel empty. He left so much of himself behind through his movies and the fond memories we have of him. Thanks for not only giving us amazing horror stories that we will continually pass down from generation to generation, but for understanding what it means to be a horror fan. R.I.P. Romero.
My first introduction to the films of the late George A. Romero and the foot dragging flesh feasting sub-genre that he inspired, happened in a bit of a roundabout way. There was no cool older sibling who exposed me to the forbidden horrors of their VHS collection while my parents were at work, nor any late night torch-lit creature feature after sneaking downstairs under cover of darkness. I had seen horror movies before this of course, but they lit no special spark inside me. It happened, probably the same for more than a few people my age, because of Resident Evil. Playing that game through at a friend’s house was the catalyst. There was just something about those tragic, shambolic, undead creatures that left me- not unlike them- hungry for more. So we rented Night of the Living Dead without knowing anything about its genre status or its creator…it was just something that sounded vaguely like what we were looking for. I wasn’t at all prepared for what I saw.
The jarring (to me) lack of colour, Barbara and John in the graveyard, a black lead character, the darkly comic observation in the portrayal of humanity’s reaction to “the plague,” the crushing tension in the farmhouse and one of the most unexpected and unforgettable gut punch endings I have ever seen in film. At 13 years old, I didn’t fully comprehend everything Romero was putting forward, but I just knew I had seen something very special. It was the first time horror had really, really spoken to me. And I wanted more still. Not long after, Dawn of the Dead was being shown on TV and it felt like someone had made a horror movie for me. The first time I watched it I was just completely fascinated and watched it again immediately. Zombies in the mall…I was in love. It smashed through the shoddily barricaded window panes of my mind and devoured my brain whole. The first of what would eventually become my coveted top five horror movies. I had found my gateway into appreciating the genre and my love for the Zeds never faded.
Today, people say they are sick of zombies while they also enjoy more popularity than they’ve ever had. Whether you got your first taste because of “Thriller,” Treehouse of Horror, a video game, a movie based on that video game, a board game, a book, those sprinting ‘infected’, a comic, a TV show based on that comic or because of Simon Pegg… I hope you traced it back- because they all have the same source. A guy who had a little bit of money but a lot of imagination to work with. If you didn’t, well then you owe it to yourself and to him. Go bask in the work of The Master.
Rest In Peace, Sir. Thanks for the Zombies.