This week, we were saddened by the news of George A. Romero’s passing. As the co-writer and director of the 1968 classic Night of the Living Dead, Romero is considered the grandfather of the modern concept of zombies. Countless different movies, TV shows, books, comics, and games have drawn influence from this movie and the series of Dead films that would follow. One of CMON’s early hits was Zombicide Season 1, a game made very much with the Romero zombie in mind. Zombicide has gone on to become its own series of games, spanning many different storylines and time periods.
For this week’s CMON Feature Friday, we decided to take a look at the career of George A. Romero and his impact on popular culture.
“We saw Night of the Living Dead as teenagers,” said Nicolas Raoult, one of the co-designers of the Zombicide series. “That movie pioneered the horror and zombie genres, and is still relevant to this day, due to its political and social messages. Studios would never allow such an ending to happen today.” Romero is probably best known for his first Dead film, but he had a long lasting and varied career.
Romero was born in New York City in 1940 to a Cuban-American father and a Lithuanian-American mother. After graduating from college, he began his film career with simple shorts and commercials. In the late 60s, he formed Image Ten Productions and went on to make Night of the Living Dead before the end of the decade. The film was a financial success, and although it seems tame by today’s horror movie standards, it was heavily criticized for its excessive gore. He would go on to direct five more films in the Dead series, including Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Day of the Dead (1985). The series helped to launch the career of horror make-up master Tom Savini, and was also praised for its anti-consumerist message and the overall impact it had on the genre.
Aside from the Dead series, Romero made a number of other excellent horror films over the years that are worth noting.
The Crazies (1973) involved a town where the people were slowly being infected by a strange mental illness. Martin (1978) is Romero’s favorite of his own films. It deals with a strange, quiet young man, who just might be a vampire.
In the 1980s, Romero teamed with another master of horror, Stephen King, for Creepshow (1982). This film is truly a cult classic, based on the old EC and DC horror comics of the 50s. It tells five different short tales of creeping insects, alien flora, horrible monsters, and, of course, shuffling zombies. Together with King, Romero was able to perfectly capture the silly scares and creepy fun of the old horror comics.
The 1990s brought about more collaboration as Romero worked with long-time friend Dario Argento on the Edgar Allan Poe adaption, Two Evil Eyes (1990). He teamed again with King for the film version of his novel The Dark Half (1993).
In recent years, Romero returned to the genre that he knew best. He continued the Dead series with Land of the Dead (2005), Diary of the Dead (2007), and Survival of the Dead (2008). He was working on the seventh installment of the series, Road of the Dead, when he passed away.
Romero’s passing is a definite blow to the industry, however, his influence is already living on. Perhaps his biggest contribution is the behaviour and abilities of the zombies we see today: slow moving, reanimated dead, that can be killed with a massive blow to the head. These Romero Zombies were the starting point for the design of Zombicide Season 1.
“Basically, Romero created the Walkers, the classic shuffling zombies overwhelming survivors in Zombicide,” said Raoult. “To an extent, Romero also had an influence on the "Aaahh!!" card, with the little girl reanimated as a zombie and eating a corpse in the cellar. We won't spoil the ending, but Romero also had an influence on the way survivors were created in Zombicide. They are unique individuals, most of them being marginal loners or forsaken. The zombie invasion reveals their true potential, and their unwillingness to come back to the way that society used to be. People show their true selves in the face of horror. Most of them become part of it.”
The Zombicide series definitely owes a lot to Romero, but Raoult believes that his influence will have wider reaching impact on society at large.
“The horror genre is inconstant. It comes and goes with major social crisis, from Dracula and Frankenstein, to Alien and Saw. Zombies practically disappeared from movies from the 30s until the late 60s. Romero had an open road before him, and chose to reflect the social issues of the time using zombies. And he did it right! His impact as a director and scenarist is deeply set in the popular culture. Most movies take from his work without the audience really realizing it anymore. Being such a pivotal part of the culture as a whole is, in our opinion, the best tribute Romero deserves.”
Were you a fan of Romero’s films? Which ones were your favorite? What impact do you think Romero has had on the culture? Reach out to us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #CMONFeatureFriday to let us know your thoughts on the passing of this horror master.