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In Memoriam: George A. Romero (1940-2017)

Film icon George A. Romero has passed away
at the age of 77. His extensive and
varied filmography is one of daring and uniqueness and will continue to be
studied, enjoyed and admired.

Romero shocked audiences in 1968 with his jarringly bleak zombie
film’s haunting chiaroscuro, over-the-top violence and surprisingly grim
conclusion shocked viewers used to rubber monsters and happy endings. With this film he changed the entire
mythology of zombies, turning them from docile, voodoo-created undead into the
ravenous, rotting flesh-eaters that have become the expected norm.

1977 he attacked another traditional monster mythology, twisting the folk rules
of vampirism in his masterpiece MARTIN, an endlessly curious investigation of
the parameters of religion and psychology resulting in a stark indictment of
religion and irrational belief.

In DAWN OF THE DEAD Romero upped the ante
with outrageous inventive violence, special effects, and “splatstick” comedy to
create one of the greatest critiques of blind conformist consumerism. The scathing satire has spawned countless
copycats and remakes ad nauseam, but none have come near the profound, layered
brilliance of this entry.


Romero’s hilarious grand guignol anthology, CREEPSHOW remains a classic
homage to the EC horror comics that both he and writer Stephen King were
inspired by. It remains a perfect
synthesis of chills, gore, bizarre characters and stories.


was fortunate to have met Mr. Romero and found him to be gracious, witty and
fun. We discussed his career, a mutual
fondness for the dark fantasy films of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger,
how their vivid fairy-tale depictions of the surreal and grotesque inspired his
work. He expressed great pride in his
place in culture and film history, and although he understood imitation as
flattery, he wondered aloud why more film makers didn’t develop unique ideas
and take more chances. We spoke about
audience reaction and how much it thrills him; he chuckled as I related a story
of an ill-fated trip to THE DARK HALF to a theater full of crack users who
fearfully conversed with the screen.

During a recent revival of MONKEY SHINES I delighted in hearing audience
members shriek at the absurd finale and marveled at the staying power of his
films, remembering our conversation and realizing how much he would have loved
to hear the screams.


While George A. Romero’s unique oeuvre has frequently displayed humans
at their most cruel and volatile, they have also depicted the power of the
individual against gruesome odds. They
also cleverly, powerfully and profoundly articulate the humor in the darkest
moments, absurdity arising from tragedy.

 —Magister Charles Fortworth