George Romero liked scares.
But more so, he loved making a point. Mainly about the stupidity of man.
The legendary filmmaker died this weekend at the age of 77 from lung cancer. Best known for 1968’s zombie flick Night of the Living Dead — a film that cost $114,000 and made about $30 million — and its five sequels, Romero actually never got rich of his zombies: a, yep, stupid copyright error meant Romero never saw a personal profit.
But Romero’s cultural influence can’t be measured in dollars. His presence is felt not only in every modern zombie film, but in any horror film or thriller that mixes scares with social criticism.
“Dawn of the Dead is the single most searing indictment of his generation ever,” said Max Brooks (World War Z). "I always said it should be sold in a box set with Easy Rider, and it can be called The Baby Boomers: The Beginning and the End."
"If he was pigeonholed somewhat in the genre realm, one of the reasons that his work resonates still is because of fierce intelligence and humour behind it," noted director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead). "His zombie films alone are the work of a major satirist, being highly vivid socio-political metaphors and sometimes better records of the years in which they were made than countless serious dramas."
Without Romero, we also wouldn’t have had this year’s social-thriller hit, Get Out. "Romero started it," director Jordan Peele tweeted after Romero’s passing, posting a picture of Duane Jones, the African-American star of Night of the Living Dead.
Interestingly, Romero was not a fan of The Walking Dead ... the TV version. He called it "soap opera with a zombie occasionally" and noted that his zombies were "a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now." (He did like the original comic books, however.)
If you’re looking for scares and satire beyond the Dead films, Romero directed several underrated horror gems, including Monkey Shines, The Crazies and Creepshow — all of which had something more to say than “Boo!”