George A. Romero, whose classic Night of the Living Dead and other horror films turned zombie movies into social commentaries and who saw his flesh-devouring undead spawn countless imitators, remakes and homages, has died. He was 77.
Romero died Sunday following a battle with lung cancer, said his family in a statement provided by his manager Chris Roe. Romero’s family said he died while listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his favourite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter, Tina Romero, by his side.
Romero is credited with reinventing the movie zombie with his directorial debut, the 1968 cult classic Night of the Living Dead. The movie set the rules imitators lived by: Zombies move slowly, lust for human flesh and can only be killed when shot in the head. If a zombie bites a human, the person dies and returns as a zombie.
Romero’s zombies, however, were always more than mere cannibals; they were metaphors for conformity, racism, mall culture, militarism, class differences and other social ills.
“The zombies, they could be anything,” Romero told The Associated Press in 2008. “They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It’s a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it. They keep trying to stick where they are, instead of recognizing maybe this is too big for us to try to maintain. That’s the part of it that I’ve always enjoyed.”
Night of the Living Dead, made for about $100,000 US, featured flesh-hungry ghouls trying to feast on humans holed up in a Pennsylvania house. In 1999, the Library of Congress inducted the black-and-white masterpiece into the National Registry of Films.
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