by Benjamín Harguindey
Legendary horror filmmaker George A. Romero died Sunday after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer”. Romero passed away in his sleep, surrounded by his family while listening to the score of The Quiet Man (John Ford, 1952) – one of his favorite films, as he once disclosed to Sight & Sound Greatest Films Poll.
George Andrew Romero got his start in the industry by forming Image Ten Productions with his friends and directing Night of the Living Dead (1968). The cult classic, co-written with John A. Russo, would borrow the zombie creature from Haitian folklore – a slave of voodoo magic – and reimagine it as a reanimated, lumbering corpse with a contagious bite as well as a hankering for human flesh.
Romero would continue to shape the modern-day zombie throughout five sequels: Dawn of the Dead (1978), Day of the Dead (1985), Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007) and Survival of the Dead (2009), his final movie. Russo would part ways and kickstart a secondary series with The Return of the Living Dead (1985), more of a comedy horror reflection on the genre (“You mean the movie lied?!” bemoans a character when it turns out destroying a zombie’s brains doesn’t stop it).
“I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism,” reflected Romero.”My zombie films have been so far apart that I’ve been able to reflect the socio-political climates of the different decades”. Night of the Living Dead becomes a parable on racism and xenophobia by the movie’s ending; Dawn of the Dead – set in a shopping mall – serves to parody the brainless consumerism in American society; Diary of the Dead takes the found footage genre and comments on the destructive compulsion of social media in XXIth century youth.
Romero would go on to make Creepshow (1982), based on a screenplay by Stephen King, and adapt The Dark Half (1993) from a King novel. He’d collaborate with Dario Argento in writing and directing Two Evil Eyes (1990), based on a couple of Edgar Allan Poe stories. In the 70s he produced The Winners, a series of sports documentaries, and then Tales from the Darkside in the 80s, a horror anthology series. As executive producer he would work on Tom Savini‘s 1990 remake of Night of the Living Dead as well as the 2010 remake of The Crazies (1973).
In recent years he turned down the opportunity to direct some episodes of the hit AMC series The Walking Dead. “Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally,” dismissed Romero. “Not my thing”. He was also Capcom’s top pick to helm the film adaptation of their hit survival horror videogame series Resident Evil, which alas was not meant to be. Romero did direct in 1998 a live-action commercial for Resident Evil 2, and for what it’s worth those 30 seconds are a better testament to the games than all of Paul W. S. Anderson‘s oeuvre.
See you when there’s no more room in hell, George.
Benjamín Harguindey / Managing Editor, Writer (Mar del Plata, Argentina – 1989) Screenwriter graduated from Universidad del Cine, Buenos Aires. Benja’s worked for EscribiendoCine as a film critic since 2010, covering the Biarritz, San Sebastián and Venice festivals. He judged the CILECT Prize and won several writing & criticism contests. He’s published one novel, Noches de Tartaria (2006).