George A. Romero, Night of the Living Dead director, died Sunday following a battle with lung cancer. He was 77.


In a statement provided by Romero’s manager Chris Roe, Romero’s family said Romero died in the presence of his wife Suzanne Desrocher and daughter Tina Romero, while listening to the score of The Quiet Man.

Romero is credited with reinventing the zombie movie genre with his directorial debut, Night of the Living Dead (1968). This movie set the rules for all zombie flicks to come – zombies move slowly, eat human flesh, can only be killed if shot in the head, and have an infectious bite.

Romero’s zombies, however, were always metaphors for racism, militarism, class differences, and other social issues. In fact, only the black character survives the zombies in the film, only to be shot and killed by rescuers. “The zombies, they could be anything,” Romero once said. “They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It’s a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it. They keep trying to stick where they are, instead of recognizing maybe this is too big for us to try to maintain. That’s the part of it that I’ve always enjoyed.”


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Romero’s flagship film was made on about a $100,000 budget. In 1999, the Library of Congress inducted the piece into the National Registry of Films. Romero’s influence could be seen all across the film and TV world, from the films of John Carpenter to Jordan Peele‘s Get OutEdgar Wright, who made 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, acknowledged that “what we now think of as zombies are Romero zombies.”

Ten years after his debut, Romero made Dawn of the Dead, in which humans escape a hoard of zombies by hiding in a mall, only to turn on each other when the monsters invade the halls. Next from the director came 1985’s Day of the Dead, which was an all-around failure. Two decade later, in 2005, came Land of the Dead and then in 2007, Diary of the Dead, which was also a failure.

Romero made various other films outside of the Dead franchise, including The Crazies (1973), Martin (1977), Knightriders (1981), Creepshow (1982), Monkey Shines (1988), and The Dark Half (1993). None was nearly as successful as Dead, with many being flops.

Romero was born in 1940 in New York City. He graduated from Carnegie Mellon University in 1960 and began working on sets of movies and also on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. His last film was 2009’s Survival of the Dead.

He stayed true to his principles though, never making a zombie film just for the spectacle. “That’s not what I’m about,” he said.

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