Filmmaker George A. Romero, known for horror films such as Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, and others, has died, reports the LA Times. According to his long-time producer partner Peter Grunwald, he succumbed after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 77.
Romero was born in The Bronx in 1940, and began directing short films after his graduation from Carnegie Mellon University. In 1968, he directed his first independent film, Night of the Living Dead, which the efforts of a group of people trapped in a house during the zombie apocalypse. The film attracted controversy for its depiction of violence and political commentary, and went on to become a landmark classic in the horror genre.
Romero went on to direct other films: There’s Always Vanilla (1971), Season of the Witch (1972), and The Crazies (1973), but returned to zombies in 1978 with Dawn of the Dead. He would eventually return to the genre several more times, with Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2009).
Romero used his zombie films comment on society, satirizing everything from consumerism to politics. In 2014, he told NPR that he saw zombies as a means to comment the state of the world: “They are multi-purpose, you can’t really get angry at them, they have no hidden agendas, they are what they are. I sympathize with them. My stories have always been more about the humans and the mistakes that they’ve make.” Romero’s films helped kickstart an entire generation of horror stories, such as Edgar Wright’s horror-comedy Shaun of the Dead and Robert Kirkman’s comic series (and later television series) The Walking Dead.
Stephen King paid tribute on Twitter, saying that there will “never be another like you”, while horror author Paul Tremblay (Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and A Head Full of Ghosts) told The Verge that Romero’s “impact on the modern horror film and horror culture is immeasurable,” and that “Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead remain two of the most important American films ever made; frightening, deftly political, smart, and human.”