There are few people in the world who make an impact so great, the depth of what they’ve left behind is nearly impossible to calculate. Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago we lost one of those bright, shining souls. George Romero passed on July 16th at age 77. According to a statement given to The Times by Romero’s longtime producing partner, Peter Grunwald, the legendary filmmaker passed in his sleep after a, “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer.” The statement went on to say that Romero was at peace, listening to the soundtrack from his one of his favorite films, The Quiet Man, with his wife and daughter at his side.
To say we’re all floored at the news is an understatement. None of us at the ZSC would be here doing all things undead without Romero’s Night of the Living Dead. Not a one. What he did with that film, not just the outrageous notion to take zombies from their origin and give them somewhere new to come from, but the social commentary woven throughout, created a new form of horror film. It gave the creators who favor the dark side of fantasy the okay to send a message in what would otherwise just be a bunch of dead bodies shuffling toward their next meal. When I said we cannot calculate the differences Romero made in the film world, I mean it. So many directors currently shaping the entertainment world have spent the last few days expounding on how much they treasured what Romero started and how he stuck to his guns throughout his long career. But no matter how long it was, it’ll never feel like enough time with a man who just seemed to get it, to understand the impact a silly zombie film could really have on social constructs. That he did it with grace, dignity, and kindness just makes it that much harder to say goodbye. It’ll be a long time before I stop wondering when the maestro will drop a new film. It’ll be even longer before the tears stop coming every time his films pop on TV or someone sneaks Night of the Living Dead into their film in homage.
Everyone has that one favorite Romero film they go to time and time again. I have two, because it was just too difficult to pick one. Hell, whittling it down to two was a herculean task. However, I cannot overstate how Bub changed the way I approach acting and writing creature characters, and that’s what finally made Day of the Dead my top Romero flick. The other? The Dark Half. It’s just so spot-on for a Stephen King film, yet so few list it when they ramble off the usual suspects. Romero gifted us with a treasure-trove of films like that, ones which speak to a certain group and give them what they need to hear—but with a lot of gore because that’s fun to work with.
There aren’t enough words to thank him for not just his films, but the care he showed his fellow man. Nor are there enough to fully comprehend the loss. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.