Monday, July 17, 2017

George A. Romero: The Life Of A Legend

George A. Romero.  This is a name that will forever carry with it the legend of an entire genre.  This is a man who inadvertantly changed the landscape of horror forever with a little black-and-white independent film.  The zombie film has grown and evolved over the last several decades into a subgenre that rivals pretty much any other in the world of horror, and it started with Romero’s classic, Night of the Living Dead.

Romero was born in the New York City borough of The Bronx back in 1940, the son of a Cuban-born father and a Lithuanian-American mother.  He attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and after graduating he began his career as a filmmaker, shooting short films and commercials.  He even shot a segment for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Then, in the late 60’s, Romero, along with nine of his friends, formed Image Ten Productions.  With this company, he directed, wrote, and produced his very first feature film, the film that would jump start his career and cement his legacy as a horror icon, Night of the Living Dead.  It would then be a decade before he would revisit the zombie genre with his second in the Dead series, Dawn of the Dead.  Over his 50+ year career, Romero would go on to make 6 films in the Dead series, and write and/or director nearly two dozen films in total.

I remember the first time I ever saw Night of the Living Dead.  I was probably too young at the time, but my father, a horror fan himself, thought it was an important piece of cinema for me to watch, and I am very grateful for that, as it was my very first entry into the world of zombies, and what a great entry it was.  I remember being terrified at the young age of 10, but with my father there with me, I knew I’d be alright.  So I continued watching, and by the end of the film, I was in love.  I was officially hooked on the horror genre, and zombie films became one of my favorites.  I would begin seeking out anything and everything in the subgenre I could find, usually when me and my Dad would go to Blockbuster.  I would scour the horror section for anything that seemed remotely interesting, most of which, in retrospect, was garbage, but I loved every second of them.  

Then, while I was in college, I learned that Romero would be making a new film in his series, expanding on the amazing trilogy of zombie films that had been released up to that point.  In 2005 we would see the release of Land of the Dead, 20 years after the release of his last zombie film, Day of the Dead.  And over the next four years we would get a new trilogy in the Dead series with 2007’s Diary of the Dead (one of my personal favorites) and 2009’s less successful Survival of the Dead.  We even got remakes of all three of his original Dead films with 1990’s Night of the Living Dead, Zack Snyder and James Gunn’s 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead, and 2008’s Day of the Dead.

But even though zombie films may be what he was best known for, he did have a career outside of this series with such films as Season of the Witch (1973), The Crazies (1973), Creepshow (1982), and Creepshow 2 (1987).  He even wrote the comic book series Empire of the Dead for Marvel Comics in 2014.

Romero’s films not only made him a horror legend, they made me a life-long horror fan and a life-long Romero fan.  He will be greatly missed, but his legend will live on forever, and his stamp on the horror genre will resonate throughout decades to come.

RIP George A. Romero
1940 - 2017

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