George A. Romero, master of horror and the godfather of the zombie genre, has passed away following a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” the Los Angeles Times reports. In a statement from his longtime producing partner Peter Grunwald. the 77-year-old filmmaker died peacefully with his family while listening to the score of 1952’s film The Quiet Man.
Romero’s impact on the horror genre and indie filmmaking will never be understated. 1968’s Night of the Living Dead has been a touchstone of the horror genre, and his deeply satirical follow-ups in Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead paved the way for the massive popularity of The Walking Dead and others.
Romero’s uncompromising films were often midnight movie showcases with NC-17 ratings thanks to his over-the-top gore, but despite being hindered by a smaller audience, his cult following led to an industry full of important talent. His long-lasting relationships with special effects gurus Tom Savini and Greg Nicotero sowed the seeds for some of Hollywood’s most important practical effects that are still featured in The Walking Dead, and the Dawn of the Dead remake was helmed by Romero superfan and DC Universe director Zack Snyder.
Romero’s socio-political stances can’t be forgotten either. He often showed strong women and people of color as the heroes of his films decades before Hollywood would take notice of such casting decisions.
His tale is also cautionary. Romero’s biggest hit, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, didn’t have a copyright notice on it, which led to dozens of knockoffs and free showings on TV and drive-in theaters. He was successful and loved throughout Hollywood, but he was always chasing his biggest and most important film that influenced multiple generations of creators.
In later years, Romero continued to be involved with the genre he had a hand in popularizing, but he found major faults in The Walking Dead and Brad Pitt’s World War Z, calling them “soap operas with occasional zombies.”
(Via The Los Angeles Times)