George A Romero, one of the most innovative and incendiary horror directors to ever walk the Earth, reportedly died today (July 16), after a short battle with lung cancer. He was 77.
The news comes from Romero’s family who, in a statement to the LA Times, wrote that the master was surrounded by his loved ones and passed away listening to the score from The Quiet Man. Romero will undoubtedly be remembered for his contributions to the zombie genre, as his masterpiece Night of the Living Dead and its sequel, Dawn of the Dead, forever altered the cinematic landscape in ways too numerous to list here, but other masterpieces of his like Creepshow, Martin, and the vastly-underrated Knightriders deserved to be on the tip of every cinephile’s tongue.
In truth, Romeo was one of the best social critics to work within the horror genre, Duane Jones’ casting in Night became hyper-political in the climate of the late ’60s (though Romero always had claimed the casting was apolitical to begin with), and the whole of Dawn is essentially the kind of late-capitalist fable that so many other artists have struggled to live up to. There’s still so much to be written and understood about the man’s work that it was easy just to focus on those two films and ignore the rest of his filmography, but Romero was a consistently fascinating artist who defied all expectations.
And to top it off, he was a true mensch inside and out — this writer remembers meeting him at a signing at the Harvard Square Newbury Comics back in 2010, and he treated each person in line like they were a long-lost relative. He listened generously when he was told about the papers students had written about his films, and remained stunned and humble that he was being studied in film schools. He was a truly generous and wonderful person.
He will be deeply missed by fans all over the world.