George Romero speaking to fans
George Romero, creator of the world's most influential zombie films and one of the horror genre's greatest creative talents, has passed away at the age of 77 after a short battle with lung cancer. The legendary director, who burst onto the scene in 1968 with Night Of The Living Dead, was admired both for his innovation and for the socio-political depth of his films, which helped to change public expectations of horror.
John Amplas and George Romero in Martin
As well as his zombie films, Romero won critical acclaim for Martin, about a young man whose obsession with vampires leads to deadly violence. He stepped outside the bounds of the genre for 1981's Knightriders, about the leader of a Medieval reenactment troupe who gradually loses his mind, and made a documentary about the young OJ Simpson. In a 2008 interview with Eye For Film with Tony Sullivan, he told us: "Martin and Knightriders are in my heart, the ones I love the most."
Very much a hands-on filmmaker who could squeeze a great deal out of a small budget, Romero impressed those who worked alongside him with his technical knowledge, and made contributions in almost every area of the industry. His last film as a director was Survival Of The Dead in 2009, but he continued to work as a voice actor until three years ago. Speaking to Eye For Film's Richard Mowe in 2015, he said that for him, the zombies were never really the point. "I just wanted to make a film about something extraordinary that is happening and the people are unable to grasp it. They continue to argue about stupid things instead of recognising that there’s something really awful going on."
A great believer in the importance of accessible art, Romero made Night Of The Living Dead free for public use, which has led to it becoming one of the most common films to be used in excerpts in other films, often appearing on television in the background as characters relax unaware that something monstrous is coming for them.
Romero is survived by wife Suzanne Desrocher Romero and daughter Tina Romero, who were with him at the very end while he listened to the soundtrack from The Quiet Man. Tributes have been pouring in from fans and those who knew him. Stephen King described him as a good old friend and favourite collaborator, and J Michael Straczynski said he had spent many nights hiding under the sheets watching his work.
"George Romero was a great director, the father of modern horror movies. He was my friend and I will miss him," said John Carpenter, while Robert Rodriguez said simply that he was "the man who started it all."