American-Canadian filmmaker George A. Romero, the revered zombie movie maestro, has died at age 77 of lung cancer.
Acknowledged by fans and movie makers alike as the father of the zombie film, Romero started working in movies after graduating university in 1960. Before long he and nine friends formed Image Ten Productions, the first release from which was the game-changing cult classic Night of the Living Dead. A movie that set the template for all zombie movies that followed.
It wasn’t all about the undead for Romero though, with romantic dramedy There’s Always Vanilla his next directorial project. It didn’t take long to return to the world of horror though, with Hungry Wives and The Crazies following, the latter a horror-tinged disaster flick.
Everything from sports documentaries (including O.J. Simpson: Juice on the Loose) to family fantasy (Magic at the Roxy) followed, until the fangs came out for 1978’s Martin. Later that year, however, saw the release of Dawn of the Dead, which cemented Romero as a horror hero.
1985’s Day of the Dead – Romero’s acknowledged favourite of his zombie films – followed on from 1981’s medieval bikers action romp Knightriders and 1982’s killer Stephen King-penned Creepshow (”I want my cake, Bedelia!”), while the disturbing simian horror Monkey Shines (1988) and 1993’s split personality tale The Dark Half continued Romero’s rich talent for onscreen horror.
After a seven-year break, Romero returned in 2000 with Bruiser, the tale of a guy who wakes up one day with a blank mask in place of his face. Finally, a return to the zombie genre that he made his own, with Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009).
More recently, Romero cowrote and was producing Road of the Dead, set on an island where zombie prisoners entertain rich types by battling their peers racing cars in an arena.
Not surprisingly, Romero also found a friend in video games. From directing a Japanese ad for Resident Evil 2 to featuring as a downloadable boss zombie character in Call of Duty: Black Ops, part of a series that has maintained a hugely popular undead presence throughout its many iterations.
Romero once quipped, “I’m like my zombies, I won’t stay dead!” We could have interesting times ahead then… In the interim though, vale George A. Romero.