George A. Romero Night of the Living Dead director Dies at 77

George A. Romero

Iconic Director George A. Romero died Sunday in his sleep after a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer

Father of the modern movie zombie and creator of the groundbreaking zombie genre passed away Sunday July 16, 2017

Night of the Living Dead, a zombie film which combined horror and social satire, which George A. Romero co-wrote with John Russo, was released in 1968 and became a cult classic. It spawned a series: Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead, Land of the Dead, Diary of the Dead and Survival of the Dead. The last was released in 2009.

“I never expected it. I really didn’t,” Romero told NPR in 2014 about the unexpected popularity of zombies. “All I did was I took them out of ‘exotica’ and I made them the neighbors. I thought there’s nothing scarier than the neighbors.”

In addition to its controversial content, Night of the Living Dead was also trailblazing in that it was one of the few films at the time to feature an African-American actor in a leading role.

“We shot it in ’67, but it was right in that period … where there was all that anger, you know race riots coming up,” George A. Romero said. “There’s a story I always tell, when we were driving up to New York to show it to potential distributors, and that night, in the car, we heard that Martin Luther King had been assassinated… And here we had a black lead (actor Duane Jones) in this film, and so, I think that was largely what made the film noticeable… He was, quite simply, the best actor from among our friends.”

Romero jump-started the zombie genre as the co-writer (with John A. Russo) and director of the 1968 movie “Night of the Living Dead,” which went to show future generations of filmmakers such as Tobe Hooper and John Carpenter that generating big scares didn’t require big budgets. “Living Dead” spawned an entire school of zombie knockoffs, and Romero’s sequels included 1978’s “Dawn of the Dead,” 1985’s “Day of the Dead,” 2005’s “Land of the Dead,” 2007’s “Diary of the Dead” and 2009’s “George A. Romero’s Survival of the Dead.”