My admiration of George Romero is two-fold. The first reason for my esteem is the zombies.
George Romero, who died on Sunday at 77, created the zombie genre with the landmark film Night of the Living Dead in 1968. As an avid fan of horror films (when they’re done well), I’m embarrassed to admit I hadn’t seen Night of the Living Dead until a few years ago. Like John Carpenter’s Halloween, it’s lean, raw terrifying horror, and it’s essential viewing for any fan of the genre.
So many great zombie stories I’ve enjoyed have a direct line to Romero’s original, especially “The Walking Dead” and it’s (superior) spin-off “Fear the Walking Dead.” And let’s not forget Michael Jackson’s groundbreaking and game changing 1982 music video for “Thriller,” in which director John Landis liberally borrowed from Romero’s work.
Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” (1982), directed by John Landis.
As much fun as other recent Living Dead descendants like 28 Days Later, its sequel 28 Weeks Later and Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead were, I always preferred the zombies in Romero’s universe because they moved slowly, which just made them creepier. And regarding Romero’s original Dawn of the Dead in 1978, I always appreciated how the dead mindlessly gravitated toward the shopping mall because it’s what they knew – a the less than subtle commentary on American consumer culture.
On location at at Monroeville Mall (Monroeville, PA) filming Dawn of the Dead.
Romero directed several more films in his “Dead” series, including Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005) and Diary of the Dead (2007). But it all goes back to that low-budget original in 1968, where the ensuing terror was introduced by that unforgettable line: “They’re coming to get you, Barbara.”
Here is a trailer for the 2013 documentary, Birth of the Living Dead, about the making of the film and the cultural influences that inspired Romero to create it:
Oh… and the other reason I adored George Romero was because he had the best fucking glasses in show business.