Father of The Living Dead, George A. Romero, Passes Away at 77
While horror, as a genre, has had many, many influencers, mothers, fathers, creators and pioneers, none come close to affecting horror gaming as George A. Romero, the father of what we consider to be the modern zombie. Sadly, Romero passed away this morning at the age of 77 after a “brief but aggressive” battle with lung cancer, while in his sleep. His family say that he had been listening to one of his favorite film scores, that of 1952’s The Quiet Man, with them at his side.
As fans of horror, we all owe a great debt to Romero. His visionary retooling of the famous novel I Am Legend into an original film with 1968’s Night of the Living Dead paved a roadmap for an entire subgenre of horror that would go on to become arguably one of the most popular of the 21st century. Without Romero’s library of work, much of what we consider to be modern horror wouldn’t exist in the form it does today. What Romero called “The Blue Collar Monster” helped shape an entirely new style of “grounded” horror that would go on to inspire not just other filmmakers, but novels, comics, and especially video games.
Resident Evil, Dead Rising, Left 4 Dead, The Last of Us, Tell Tale’s The Walking Dead, these are all titles that either wouldn’t exist or wouldn’t exist in the same way at the very least if not for his legacy. There’s even quite a few games directly licensed from his films, like 2004’s Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green (a game I grew up with and adore) and even appearing as (a zombified nightmare version of) himself in Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer zombie mode. Romero even directed a set of live-action commercials for Resident Evil 2, and wrote a treatment for the Resident Evil film series (you can even read the whole thing online).
As someone who lived in the Pittsburgh area for years (the local that the majority of his films where either shot or take place in), this hits me pretty hard. I even worked in the modernized Monroeville Mall for a time, the setting of the original 1978 Dawn of the Dead, and would often attend the Its Alive Show sponsored zombie walks both in the mall and downtown as well. I grew up with his films, and works inspired by them (like Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide), and even got the chance to see the two of them (Romero and Brooks) speak at a panel together at San Diego Comic Con when I was younger.
So pour one out for George, friends and ghouls. May he rest in piece.