It has been established that persons who have recently died have been returning to life and committing acts of murder. A widespread investigation of funeral homes, morgues, and hospitals has concluded that the unburied dead have been returning to life and seeking human victims. It’s hard for us here to be reporting this to you, but it does seem to be a fact.
Newcaster in Night of the Living Dead (1968)
What can a say about George Andrew Romero that hasn’t been said by fans, filmmakers, critics, trolls and even himself. Well, I can only tell you what Romero meant to me personally. And of course ramble as I do. You where warned.
He was responsible for many nightmares, for which I thank him for from the bottom of my scaredy cat heart. Sound strange? Why do we watch horror films? To be entertained? Of course. But it’s the fact that they frighten us that gives us that thrill we keep coming back for. And George did that in spades. And his films, especially his zombie films, had an underlying social commentary that not only made them stand out from the average slasher or gore-fest flicks at your local megaplex, but truly scared the living dead shit out of us. He did it to me. Zombies, or more so the idea of a zombie outbreak, remains my one irrational fear. That safe fear can be entertaining and rejuvenating.
Until I discovered his films in my mid-twenties study film at university. Up until then I steered away from zombie movies because of a bad childhood experience with one. It was the Night of the Living Dead that started it all. Watching the film and reading the material we lowly students were given, my skull was burst open for Romero to feed on. I hunted down and watched, and later bought, every one of his films and devoured them all. And just like when I had discovered John Carpenter years earlier, I was studying at the feet of a master filmmaker, a master of horror. And at 6’5” his feet case a big shadow.
Romero created a whole sub-genre of film. He created what we think about as the modern zombie films. Before 1968s Night of the Living Dead, zombies had been a voodoo created horror that was old hat in the late 60s. He put rotting flesh on those old bones and the imitators and rip off artists built on his foundations.
He was a filmmaker that almost came out of nowhere, if you don’t count the countless short films and tv commercials he made with his company ‘Image Ten Productions’, and quickly became an auteur. The Romero name became a brand, one which delivered a quality product every time. And of his 20 directing credits, 15 where horror movies, 6 where zombie flicks, 3 where collaborations with Stephen King, 2 with Dario Argento and one featured knights in armour on motor bikes. What is not to like.
I watch his films every year, as I do with John Carpenter and Wes Craven, and I never get bored with them. They have a unique style and structure all their own. And the images. Wonderfully frightening. And the characters interact was where the real horror was. Minority and females characters often took centre stage. A black lead in a movie in 1968 was a big deal.
In a time where the older filmmakers are passing on, Craven and now Romero, I fear for the horror genre as there doesn’t seem to be to many candidates to take up the mantle left by the old guard. We need a new generation to strap on the armour, jump of the motor bike and kill some fucking zombies. To recreate the vampire. To add a new twist on the werewolf, to re-slash the slasher film.
George Romero’s work will live on. It will inspire, entertain and make us all think about the hard questions. And plan for that zombie outbreak.
And who knows, maybe George with be back in a few days hungry for human flesh leading the zombie horde.
The Godfather of the Zombie has passed. (Maybe).