George A. Romero, the Hollywood horror director best known for his zombie movies, passed away this weekend. His best-known work, 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, was created with friends on a crowdfunded budget of $114,000. He was inspired by Richard Matheson’s book I Am Legend, and based the storyline on what must have happened at the beginning of the apocalypse instead of after.
Until Romero introduced his iconic take on zombies, there wasn’t a general consensus as to what constituted one. Depictions of zombies ran the gamut from the literal dead to people that were simply hypnotized. Night of the Living Dead defined to the world all the traits we now expect from zombies — the decaying flesh, the shambling walk, the growls for brains.
Despite its permanent mark on pop culture, Living Dead never made Romero rich….due to incompetence on the part of the studio that released the film, it fell into the public domain. But he bounced back with multiple sequels. Some were well-received (1978’s Day of the Dead is a horror classic) while others were panned or outright ignored (such as his most recent films like Survival of the Dead).
Romero had been battling lung cancer for a while and passed in his sleep surrounded by his family. He was 77 and leaves behind a wife and three children.