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RIP Romero – A Personal Rememberance

RIP Romero – A Personal Rememberance

George A. Romero has passed away at 77. When I first saw the news pop up in my email, I froze. It was hard to wrap my head around what I was reading. It still is. Romero’s name has been popping up quite a bit within the realm of horror news lately. George Romero Presents: Road of the Dead is currently seeking funding and will hopefully continue to move forward despite his loss. While details are scarce, we can assume that Romero has been battling cancer for some time. With that in mind, it’s easy to imagine Road being crafted as a way to ensure his Dead legacy carries on. My deepest condolences go out to those closest to him.

As I alternate between feeling numb and shedding tears, I wish us to focus on the legacy Romero has left behind. I’ve already shared a lot of love when I wrote about my excitement for Road of the Dead, but there aren’t enough words in the world to express the gratitude I have for the films he’s made. As I write this, I’m watching Day of the Dead with commentary from Tom Savini, actress Lori Cardille, production designer Cletus Anderson, and the mastermind himself, George Romero. Even after years of working in the zombie business, you can still hear what a passionate and jovial man Romero was. He lived doing what he loved.

Personally, Romero was a huge inspiration to me as an aspiring writer/director. The way he presented conventional B-movie plotlines with all the gore and thrills one expects from a Saturday matinee, yet used them to tell a socially conscious story, has always filtered its way into my own work. In fact, the very first screenplay I ever wrote as a teenager was Suburb of the Living Dead. I haven’t read it in many years, and I’m sure it’s pretty terrible. Nonetheless, it was a full blown homage to the entire Dead trilogy. It was a love letter to the years of amazing cinema we’d been gifted from the Master of Horror.

My love for Romero and his undead hordes started at an extremely young age. While I’m sure I’ve shared a version of this story before, it bears repeating at this time. I was probably around eight or nine. My mother had begun renting classic films from the library in an attempt to fill my ferocious appetite for horror cinema. The classic Universal Monsters were always on heavy rotation. One day, she brought home Night of the Living Dead. I was instantly struck by the label on the VHS. It stated the movie was rated “NC-17”. Being a good little Christian boy (oh, how times have changed), I pointed this out to my mother. I was afraid the contents of this tape were much too extreme for my innocent eyes. She brushed off my concerns, stating it was “just an old black and white movie.” 

Off I went to my bedroom and plugged the cassette into my VCR. I loved every second of it. The opening scene with cries of “They’re coming to get you, Barbara,” struck me right away as something iconic. While at the time, I had no idea of who Romero was or any knowledge of the trilogy of films that followed Night, I knew I was witnessing something special. As the tension rose throughout the runtime, I squirmed and hid my head under my pillow. When Barbara gets pulled through the broken window and becomes just another meal for the living dead, my jaw dropped. Suddenly, it became clear to me that horror could be truly dangerous. The good guys don’t always win.

For those who’ve somehow avoided seeing this film all these years, stop reading now! It’s a public domain title, so you can find numerous sites streaming it for free. You owe it to yourself to witness the birth of zombies as we know them today. Back to young-me glued to the television, I wasn’t prepared for how the ending played out. After barricading himself in the basement and surviving the incursion of zombies upon the house, our lead, Ben, hears the calvary rallying outside. As a viewer, you’re relieved. It appears he’s being rescued. As he pokes his head around the corner of a windowframe, a redneck outside mistakes him for one of the dead. “Hit him in the head. Right between the eyes.”  Just like that, a bullet is fired and Ben is put down. “That’s another one for the fire.”

Witnessing these final moments of Night of the Living Dead as a child were earth shattering. I sat in front of my TV, frozen in shock. I didn’t move to stop the film as the credits began to roll. When the tape reached the end and cut off by itself, I jumped up from my room. I ran crying to my parents in the living room, “They killed him! They killed him!” They had no clue what I was speaking of and didn’t seem terribly concerned to understand. I was alone to try and work through would I had just seen. I was distraught, but I finally settled on the realization that horror could be a powerful tool. It can stir emotions from a viewer that they might not be prepared to deal with. It forces us to face our mortality. We all die, but did you live your life trying to do what is right? It’s a heady takeaway for a nine year old, but I was hungry for more.

It wasn’t long after this viewing that I discovered Dawn of the Dead and the legacy of George A. Romero. I’ve loved almost every single entry into his filmography. Bruiser is a woefully underrated revenge tale. Monkey Shines is filled with insane moments and weaves a twisted story of love and dependence….with a monkey! Few directors would touch such a subject, let alone manage to deliver it with such panache. Romero’s skill eschews the seemingly inherent campiness of it all. He quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite directors, and his style has always seeped into the DNA of my own work.

The outpouring of love for Romero across the horrorverse tonight has been deeply touching. In fact, when news broke, you guys actually crashed our servers as you piled on to share your own thoughts and condolences. He will be missed by us all. We may never known just what else he had in store for our beloved genre or, more specifically, the sub-genre he helped create, but we will always have his body of work to inspire us, frighten us, and keep us questioning just how close we are to becoming the monsters we fear. With great sadness I say, “RIP, Romero.”

 



COMMENTS

71 Comments
  • CalUni

    Beautifully written Zach, you done him and yourself proud.

  • CalUni

    Condolences on your family loss.

    • Necro

      Hey Thank You ‘CalUni’ I seriously appreciate that!

      • CalUni

        Your so welcome. I can relate (recent loss) and in a weird way there’s a sort of comfort in that shared experience. Plus any pal of Zach’s is pretty cool in my books. Look after yourself.

        • Necro

          Absolutely!

  • Ocelot006 .

    I can’t wrap my head around how Harry Dean Stanton is 91 and still alive.

  • I’m sorry for your loss. It can’t be easy.

    • Necro

      Hey man excellently written! I mean it that was f***ing good! Thanks for the words they are appreciated! See this is why I love this genre, sure we have differences in opinions, but when things are tough we come together like no other fan base! IMO!

      • Thanks. Yeah, you don’t here about the “drama community” banding together. 🙂

        • Creepshow

          I will have you know sir, that my “drama community” is a tight knit bunch!

          That’s a total lie. I don’t have a drama community, nor would I ever. And if I did…it would be a colossal “slap fight” 24/7.

          • Hey, I’m sure someone somewhere has got one. Best wishes to wherever they may be. 🙂

          • Creepshow

            As they say…
            “Drama feeds Drama”.

            They can keep it.

  • Matt Birman

    Beautiful Zach. Thank you.

    • Necro

      Hey Matt deepest condolences and sympathies for the loss! Heard this terrible news 2 hours after burying my Grandmother so trust me I know where you’re at right now. Mr. Romero was a big reason why I’m an enthusiast/supporter for this fantastic genre. I truly hope that everything works out for you in all your future endeavors! We all do! Keep your head up and stay strong my friend!

      • Matt Birman

        Sincere thanks Necro! Peace.

  • Darkknight2149

    Hopefully, they are respectful of Romero with the marketing of “Road of the Dead” (if it gets made). If they use Romero’s death to sell the film, I might decide to not watch it out of sheer principle. As it stands, I’ll watch it simply because it’s part of the series. But without Romero, why bother making it?

    Rest in peace, George A. Romero. And, to the studios or producers, please do NOT disrespect Romero when marketing the “Dead” films. You aren’t dealing with a simple movie, you’re dealing with the memory of a human being.

    • Necro

      Excellent Dark! Well said!

    • Matt Birman

      I am “they” and I have registered to comment so I can be with and among you. Nothing matters more than protecting and celebrating George’s legacy and his brilliance. He loved what he did, LOVED IT, and I will stop at nothing to maintain the integrity of his art and his vision. Thank you for loving him and for loving his work. His journey will continue. Stay scared!

      • Darkknight2149

        If true, then I very much appreciate you respecting Romero’s legacy.

        • Matt Birman

          It goes beyond respect. I love the man with all my heart. It’s true.

          • Matt

            Good luck with the project. I truly hope you are able to make it happen.

          • Matt Birman

            Thanks so much!

    • Ocelot006 .

      “George A. Romero Returns From The Dead To Present…..ROad Of the Dead!!!!”

  • Red Right Return

    They should have Tom Savini finish ROTD. His work on the Night of the Living Dead remake in the 90s was excellent and one of my favorite zombie movies after the original.

    • Ocelot006 .

      What do you mean have Savini finish it?

      • Red Right Return

        Pretty simple really – whatever isn’t done have Savini work on.

        • Ocelot006 .

          Work on it at what capacity? I’m not following.

          • Red Right Return

            Direct it I guess?

          • Ocelot006 .

            The movie already has a director. I’m not sure where it was written that if Romero were to die, the director gets shit canned.

            Oh ….I get it. You thought Romero was directing it. Okay. Gotcha.

          • Red Right Return

            Indeed. I know less than nothing about it. Don’t want to see some other dude lose his job over it. That wasn’t the intention.

          • Ocelot006 .

            I can’t blame you not knowing someone else was directing. Whole articles are written on this site about the film and why we should be excited without mentioning the man’s name (Matt Birman). In itself is quite disrespectful to Romero. Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s obvious know Romero knew he was dying and handed the reigns over to Matt Birman and he keeps getting swept under the rug.

          • Red Right Return

            Well then, I look forward to seeing something that Romero trusted to hand down to this director. I guess the question to ask now is will the movie be made without Romero being around?

          • Ocelot006 .

            The man died of cancer. I’m sure his passing was expected to those involved. He hands the franchise over to someone else then just happens to die? Pretty sure the movie is gonna move ahead as planned.

          • Red Right Return

            Good to hear.

          • Creepshow

            Except for the whole “funding thing”.

            What is making you an over-the-top cock sore lately? Let’s hear that.

          • Ocelot006 .

            I think the death of Romero opened up the road to easier financing.

          • Creepshow

            How? What is the incentive? With Romero, it was a straight to VOD potential piece of crap. Now without Romero’s involvement, it’s a sure-fire straight to VOD piece of crap (still without funding).

          • Ocelot006 .

            The dying wishes of a dead man seems like incentive enough. His name is worth more than it has been for nearly thirty years now that he’s dead.

          • Creepshow

            Wishful thinking, but it will take a lot more than that for investors to shell out millions for a Romero-less (really bad sounding) film. The risk outweighs reward heavily.

          • Ocelot006 .

            Considering the 4K restoration of NOTLD just secured instant distribution after the man’s death, I see only easy roads ahead for ROTD.

          • Creepshow

            You can’t compare the quintessential zombie film that started it all, to an unfunded movie pitch about bags of puss driving cars. Beware of bumpy, pot-hole filled roads ahead.

          • Ocelot006 .

            The quintessential zombie movie that has been treated like shit when it comes to home video for fifty fucking years. Took the man’s death to finally show it some respect and get it back in theaters and I’m assuming an inevitable Criterion release.

          • Creepshow

            Treated like shit how?

          • Ocelot006 .

            Because of it’s lack of copyright no one has ever been willing to step up to the plate and give it a proper release. And own someone with some gusto is stepping up to the plate for some theatrical distribution that I assume will lead to a Criterion Blu-Ray(it is Janus Film) and took the fucking death of George to make this viable.

          • Creepshow

            Ok. What more would you like besides HD coloration of a black & white film, that was made in the 60’s? I’m sure there aren’t too many outtakes laying around in a salt-mine, like Event Horizon.

          • Ocelot006 .

            When the fuck did I ask for an HD colorization?

            An actual release of the film sounds suffice.

          • Creepshow

            Then you will be temporarily happy?

          • blackie_chan

            Lately? He’s BEEN that

  • Saturn

    Sorry to hear about your personal loss mate.
    Keep strong.
    My Nanna died over 25 years ago, but I still have fond memories of her introducing me to stuff like Friday The 13th,
    She was a bit of a horror geek herself (moreso novels than movies, but still….) so I guess that’s where I got it from (although my Mum was a massive fan of Stephen King/James Herbert back in the day, so I guess it’s my maternal side of the family).

    • Necro

      Thanks Saturn it’s greatly appreciated! Yeah even though she wasn’t into the genre, she was the type of person who supported me/you no matter what! I remember for my first ever Horror convention she gave me $200 to go enjoy myself. It was just her. Again my friend Thank You for your kind words!

  • Matt

    Great piece Zachary, your words did justice to a cinematic legend. Your reverence for Mr. Romero is equal to my own. Like you, and in spite of all the trolls, I was looking forward to “Road.” Hopefully they can still get the project off the ground. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/546e280469231d4e516986c10ecdb4d761db14970fe3b5ad80201bd7cdf3e0da.jpg

    • Thanks, but damn – that pic made me tear up again.

      • Matt

        Great quote though. And he won’t stay dead because of fans like us!

  • J Jett

    Zach, i know you were a big fan of Romero and his work. his death is so sad and i’m sorry for the sadness his passing has brought you.

  • J Jett

    Necro, i’m so sorry for you loss. losing any family member is (most times) completely devastating (i’ve lost all but 1 of my family members). even though were all strangers on this site, you DO have friends here, me being one of them. again, sorry for your loss. 🙂

    • Necro

      Thanks J I really appreciate it! I always thought and think of many of you as friends! Even though it’s through a screen. Believe me the feeling is mutual. And even in ALL of our current time of sadness (Mr. Romero) the kind words are a tremendous help! They are seriously appreciated! Again Thank You!

      • J Jett

        🙂

  • Gjk2012

    7/17 a day before the 17th Undead at 77.

  • Homeless Joe

    Necro sorry to hear about your loss. You have a friend in me as well. Take care, my brother.

    • Necro

      Thanks Joe! For starters the feeling is mutual, it’s amazing to me that even on or through a tablet/computer I still get a ton of support from people! This is why I take it personal when anyone puts down this genre, they don’t realize the types of wonderful people they’re insulting. Everyone (including yourself) has made this rough time so much easier to deal with! Thanks again!

  • OMO

    Maybe some one should take a pop at doing the original day of the dead script in honour of mr Romero.

    • James Allard

      This. I have read the script and while *then* it was all but impossible… now? Yeah. Now. And we rather need it.

  • Jonathan Larsson

    Mr. Romero shall remain as an icon in the horror genre a long time past his passing; not only because of his own movies, but also because of the long line of creative works that are inspired by his legacy. The man helped to shape a whole subgenre, because if there had been no Dead-trilogy, zombies may have not reached the popularity that they now have or looked the way they do today. Without them, series like The Walking Dead or movies like Shaun of the Dead may have not existed.

    Ergo, his legacy lives on, still feasting on the flesh of the living.

  • Tyree

    My brother and I lucky enough to meet the man, himself and shake his hand! I also left with an autograph. It was a moment I’ll never forget.

  • Rafael Fernandez

    RIP. The ‘Living Dead’ series was a major influence for my love of horror movies growing up.

  • Charles Cumella

    Wow. You know everyone’s going to die but I don’t think you’re ever really ready to see it happen. It’s very sad to see masters like Romero or Craven pass, but their creative masterpieces and inspiration will always live on, and we’ll always have that. RIP George Romero. (I just wish he could come back as a zombie though. 🙁 )

  • enemy

    This isn’t about any body in particular or the person who wrote this article, but fed up of reading all these lies, about how people watched night of the living dead when they were a kid, and it changed their lives and the way they viewed films. Bla bla bla you probaly never watched it because was in black and white and you were to young to understand the social commentary……happens every time a celebrity dies everybody has an emotional connection to them and there work. AND THEIR LIVES WILL NEVER BE THE SAME AGAIN!!!

    • SpaceManSpliffz .

      how do you use “there” wrong in one sentence, but then use “their” correctly in the next one?

  • SupernaturalCat
  • Gracie

    My sister was offered a part as a zombie in the Dawn of the Dead, but had to turn it down due to a final exam conflict at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Mellon University, where she was a student. I went to the University of Pittsburgh back in the day, the screening of Night of the Living Dead was a halloween ritual on campus. In the movie, as the actors watched the TV coverage with subtitles indicating where to go for help in each zombie-afflicted Western Pennsylvania town, the student contingent from that town (anywhere from one kid to dozens) would applaud and shout! Eventually, the movie news got to the Oakland section of Pittsburgh (where the University is), and the entire crowd of hundreds of students would erupt in jubilation! Good times!

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