On July 16, we lost George Romero—a true legend. Among horror fans, Romero was a key figure in the monster genre. Fans will always remember him as the man who created the flesh eating zombie. In 1968, Romero directed the zombie flick that would launch our fascination with zombies that used to be our neighbors, relatives and spouses.
During the 60s, Romero directed a low budget movie titled Night of the Living Dead. I can vividly remember sitting on the sofa with my father watching this classic movie. Although it was a low budget black and white film, it would become a staple among true horror fans. Romero changed some things that didn’t go along with the Hollywood status quo.
First, the star was an African-American man, a rarity in any Hollywood movie. Second, the zombies ate human flesh. This movie would launch hundreds of other zombie programs. For instance, The Walking Dead has grown into an international sensation. Fans can also attend zombie and monster conventions and buy zombie merchandise. The horror industry has made billions. The genre includes werewolves, vampires, ghouls, and zombies.
If you aren’t familiar with Romero’s work, I suggest you watch Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead. Both are low budget masterpieces. One takes place inside a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere while the other is filmed inside a shopping mall.
Both movies involve survivors battling against the undead for survival. In Dawn of the Dead, the zombie apocalypse was described in a few words. The dead had returned because Hell had run out of room. It was a great line.
Many people may also not realize that Romero created the flesh eating zombie. I will share a little zombie history. The zombie originated from Haiti: A creation of the Bokor, who is similar to a witch doctor. However, the zombie didn’t eat people. Originally, the Haitian legend is that zombies were used for manual labor. They may have picked crops or did menial work. The Bokor controlled its zombies with Voodoo.
You may even consider this zombie a bore. Besides, no one is going to drop their cash to watch a movie about zombies picking up laundry or gathering vegetables. Romero, familiar with the zombie legend decided to create a twist. What would happen if the zombie ate the living? Romero was a pioneer because he didn’t know how people would react to this idea.
Night of the Living Dead was an independent film and released in 1968. The movie wasn’t exactly met with a great response. It was something different and people weren’t ready to believe that grandma or grandpa could one day return from the dead seeking a tasty brain.
As with many other movies and programs, Night of the Living Dead did develop its own fan following. For instance, Star Trek wasn’t a popular show back in the day, but it has grown into an international phenomenon. True fans have branded themselves as “Trekkies.”
What I also admired about Romero was that he made his movies believable without any famous actors or fancy special effects. His stories were good enough to sell the movie and make us believe the dead had returned from wherever they had escaped from.
I don’t consider myself an admirer of celebrities, but there are some people who deserve much recognition for their accomplishments. I consider the late George Romero as one of these people worthy of recognition and admiration. He has definitely touched the lives of millions of horror fans throughout the world with his artistic vision.
Marc is a grandparent and longtime resident of Clermont County. Visit his author page at http://www.lifewithgrandpa.com. He also wrote Just Bite Me: A Guide to Zombies, Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Walking Nightmares, which is available on Amazon.com