George Romero, whose 1968 low-budget horror classic Night of the Living Dead basically launched the zombie genre as we know it, has died at age 77. He had been battling an aggressive form of lung cancer, and the Los Angeles Times reports died in his sleep on Sunday:

George Andrew Romero was born in the Bronx in New York City on Feb. 4, 1940. He attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and graduated in 1960 from the university’s College of Fine Arts.

In recent years, as the zombie genre had a resurgence, Romero wasn’t always a fan. He told a British newspaper in 2013 that he’d been asked to do some episodes of “The Walking Dead,” but had no interest.

“Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” he told the Big Issue. “I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism, and I find that missing in what’s happening now.”

Romero took an intellectual view to his depiction of zombies, an approach he found lacking in some of the work that came after him.

“I grew up on these slow-moving-but-you-can’t-stop-them [creatures], where you’ve got to find the Achilles’ heel, or in this case, the Achilles’ brain,” Romero told The Times in 2005, referring to the organ whose destruction waylays a zombie. “In [the remake] they’re just dervishes, you don’t recognize any of them, there’s nothing to characterize them.... [But] I like to give even incidental zombies a bit of identification. I just think it’s a nice reminder that they’re us. They walked out of one life and into this.”

Romero made five subsequent "Dead" films, including 1978's classic Dawn of the Dead and the most recent, 2009's Survival of the Dead.

Edgar Wright (Baby Driver, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World) wrote a lovely tribute on his website, and talked about screening Shaun of the Dead for Romero:

Universal contacted George and screened the movie for him while he was on vacation in Florida. I remember being bemused that he watched the movie with a studio security guy in the theatre. As if George himself would pirate the movie! Even If he did, he would be more than due some profits from our cinematic valentine to him.

Later that night, George called us in London. I remember standing in my flat in Islington when I got the call from him and he couldn’t have been warmer and kinder about the movie. I remember him saying that it was ‘an absolute blast’. That indeed became the sole poster quote for the movie in the United States. I frequently think back to this moment of standing in my house as the moment my life truly changed and the world got smaller.

Read the whole thing here.

George, you'll be missed but your influence, much like the zombies you created, lives on. Rest in peace.


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