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The modern zombie horror genre wouldn't be what it is today without the work of one man: George A. Romero. And it is in recognition of that fact that we have some sad news. The legendary director of Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead has passed away at age 77. According to a statement from his producing partner, Peter Grunwald, Romero had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and died after a "brief, but aggressive battle."
The Los Angeles Times published the news of George A. Romero's passing, noting that he died in his sleep with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher Romero, and daughter, Tina Romero, at his bedside. At the time of his death, he was listening to the score of one of his favorite films, John Ford's 1952 classic The Quiet Man.
George A. Romero started his career with a bang in the late 1960s, and while he helmed notable titles like The Crazies, Knightriders and Monkey Shines, he will always be remembered for his work with the undead. Released in 1968, Night of the Living Dead was a revolutionary horror movie that not only had audiences passing out from fright, but had some serious things to say about society and reflected the era's disillusionment with its institutions (not to mention the big deal that was casting a black actor, Duane Jones, in the lead role). A decade after his debut, he went after consumer culture in 1978's Dawn of the Dead - and together the two movies stand as true classics of the horror genre.
Romero returned to "zombie" movies (his films famously never included the Z-word) in 1985 with the military-centric Day of the Dead, and they were at the center of his last three movies as well: Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009). In May it was reported that he was set to produce a new movie titled George A. Romero Presents: Road of the Dead, directed by his second-unit director Matt Birman, but it's unclear how or if that project will move forward without his involvement.
There is legitimately no underselling the effect that George A. Romero had on the film industry and culture at large, as the guy totally rewrote the definition of "zombie," and we've been rolling with it ever since. Literally every modern movie and television show about the walking dead - and yes, that includes The Walking Dead - has an immense debt to pay to Romero, and I bet there will be a lot of people who recognize that in the coming days.
It's always sad to hear about a great filmmaker's passing, but we will always remember George A. Romero's contributions to the art form, and he will live forever in history for them. He will definitely be missed, and please use the comments section below to share your memories for Romero and his work.