Sad news for horror fans: George A. Romero, the man who single-handledly created the modern zombie craze seen in shows like The Walking Dead, has passed away from lung cancer. The legendary Night of the Living Dead director was 77 years old.
It was that low budget 1968 film that first presented what audiences today know as a zombie (or a “walker” for those Walking Dead fans).
Nonetheless, the screenplay for Night of the Living Dead never actually uses the word “zombie”; Romero originally called the creatures “ghouls.”
Over the years, Romero wrote and directed five sequels, the most famous of which were 1978’s Dawn of the Dead and 1985’s Day of the Dead.
A seventh film, co-written by Romero and titled Road of the Dead, is in production for release next year, though it will be directed by Matt Birman and is not technically a part of the Living Dead series.
Romero directed many other films over the years, including The Crazies, Knightriders, Creepshow, Monkey Shines, and The Dark Half.
He was also the creator and a contributor to the popular 1980s anthology series, Tales from the Darkside, which was followed in 1990 by Tales from the Darkside: The Movie.
In addition, several of his classic films have been remade, such as Zack Synder’s 2004 version of Dawn of the Dead, 2008’s Day of the Dead, and 2010’s The Crazies.
Romero was originally hired to write and direct 2002’s Resident Evil, a film adaptation of the zombie video game series that borrows heavily from his own work.
However, the studio was not interested in a film that hued so closely to the game, instead opting for the action movie style that the franchise was later known for.
Although The Walking Dead is the most famous book/television show to take inspiration from Romero’s films, the director himself was not a fan. He revealed in 2013 that he’d been asked to direct a few episodes, but dismissed the show as “a soap opera with a zombie occasionally.” Romero is survived by his wife and his three adult children.