The passing of George A. Romero has left his fans and friends in a state of shock and mourning. George was an innovator and a legend in genre filmmaking. He created the modern zombie mythos with NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. His films weren’t only scary and gory, but they were also smart and political.
Besides being master of film making he was also a great person. I met him at the Flashback Weekend horror convention in 2003 and he was so happy so see everyone. He greeted everyone with a smile, and made sure his fans knew they were appreciated.
In memoriam of George Romero I spoke with various creative professionals to ask them what George A. Romero and his films meant to them. Rest in peace George A. Romero.
JACK SHOLDER- director THE HIDDEN
I met George at a film Festival. He was a lovely man and we hit it off, two guys from opposite ends of Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh/Philly). He was an original.
T. VON SWINE- adult film star SWINEY’S PRO-AM
In 4th grade I was 9 years old, and just from the trailers on TV and the layout in FANGORIA magazine, DAWN OF THE DEAD (1979) kept me awake for about a week terrified something was gonna come through my bedroom window and start chomping on me, ripping me to pieces… And being a 9 year old, I had no one to take me to watch it and confront his horror head-on, unfortunately.
No one blended the texture of societal strife with horror before Romero did, and I don’t think he ever got enough credit for that. It must have been difficult to make those films since the level of gore was going to make 80% of the critics pan it instantly, even though Romero wasn’t making slasher films, he needed gore in a different way than slasher films did. His gore was more personal, and chilled you more than shocked you. That’s horror, not terror. I have a heavy heart for Mr. Romero’s passing. But thankful all the while that he is resting peacefully now, and forever. Godspeed Mr. Romero.
TONY COONEY- director LEAF BLOWER MASSACRE 2
I remember as a young child when my mom would let me go to the local video store and rent at least one movie for the weekend. I would section by section and always look for one of the coolest covers I could find . Well one time I found myself in the Horror section and what a section it was with such favorites as HELLRAISER and HALLOWEEN and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. However, as I was going through them I remember seeing Romero’s film DAY OF THE DEAD ( Which I rented as a kid over 10 times) and seeing Bub the zombie on the front cover. I was like whoa this guy looks so cool and gross at the same time.
I grabbed the VHS tape and ran to my mom and was like this is what I want. She looked at it and then me and said ” Oh you need to watch NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. She then took me over to the horror section and I looked at the box and was like No way! Looks boring plus it’s in Black and white. I want to see blood and guts! This one I picked out is much more gross looking. So I went home and played the tape. I must admit it was really violent and gory for a 10 yr old child, but I always like that kind of odd stuff. I remember when it was done, I was like, “oh I want to watch it again” . So then I rewound the tape and watched it again this time cheering for Bub.
As I got older and got more into horror films Romero has always been one of my top 5 favorite Directors of all time. When I got to meet him at Flashback a couple years ago, I was in pure awe meeting him and thinking this is the God of Horror and now you are finally meeting him. I spoke to him for a couple minutes and told him I myself make horror films and what advice would you give someone who makes movies. He said always keep filming no matter if it’s good or bad. I then took my picture with him and shook his hand and thanked him for all his wonderful films.
BILLY “BLOODY BILLY” PON- director CIRCUS OF THE DEAD
No matter how famous or great I ever become I’ll never be as great as George Romero. He’s the spark that started my engine of creativity decades ago as a boy. All the modern filmmakers had a template laid out before us by the greats of yesterday. There would be none of us (filmmakers) now if not for him and his work. In fact if there was a Mt. Rushmore for Horror filmmakers he’d be on it. I won’t even mention the zombie aspect of what he brought to the table. I will mention his approach to telling a story within all of his films. Horror can sometimes be about the shock or the blood of a movie. He reminds me to always remember the story and not to abandon it.
I met him at Texas Frightmare Weekend once and said I named my first feature CIRCUS OF THE DEAD out of tribute to him and what those movies meant to me as a youngster. He said, “awesome, that’s great. Is your film about zombie clowns at a circus?” I told him “no” and that I wanted to approach clown movies the way he approached the zombie genre and inspire future filmmakers on a different way of seeing clowns in horror films. Much love to you George Romero.
RICHARD TANNER- director ROOM FOR RENT
Ive always loved watching movies. Chalk it up to me wanting to hang out with a father that I didn’t have a lot in common with. We watched a lot of black and white Universal Monster flicks but eventually I grew past that and Ill never forget watching DAWN OF THE DEAD with my dad for the first time. It was magical and one of his favorite films. Most people will remember Romero for igniting a passion for filmmaking within them. I’ll always remember Romero for giving me and my father some of the best memories we have ever had.
GRAHAM SKIPPER – actor BEYOND THE GATES
Few films have shattered me like NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD did when I first saw it. I’d always heard about it as a kid in the context of being a midnight movie, gory grindhouse, the original zombie movie… What I didn’t expect was a profound statement on race in America. What I didn’t expect was a film so masterful in building dread that I’m hard-pressed to find one as effective even today. What I didn’t expect was to be completely destroyed. It showed me that a horror film could be more than the sum of its parts, that a midnight movie could be filled with pathos, and meaning, and make an impact. George Romero made many excellent films, but to me NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is perhaps the pinnacle of the form. It’s difficult to stomach even after dozens of viewings, and if that isn’t the sign of a good horror film, I don’t know what is. George Romero is a titan, a quiet genius that was always fighting the status quo. We’re extremely fortunate to have his films live on forever. May he not Rest In Peace. Instead, may he rise again like his eternal creations, and continue to remind us all what it is to be human.
GREGORY GUNTER- actor BEAR CITY trilogy
Lamentations! George A. Romero, auteur director who breathed life into a dead genre — has left this mortal coil. Back in 1968, Romero invigorated the horror genre, partly, by incorporating contemporary social sins into NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. Though Romero rightly recounted that talented Duane Jones gave the best audition, positioning a black man as lead in a primarily “white” film was revolutionary. Despite having begun the film with, Barbara, “they’re coming to get you, Barbara” – the real star is Ben, the only valiant soul with any sense. He embodies what each of us hopes will happen when that moment comes, and it will, when the dead arise. Ben is calm, makes smart decisions, uses reason, and exemplifies courage under un-godly duress.
It was one of the first times that white America, the preponderance of moviegoers in 1968, identified with a black lead. It wasn’t the big budget, groundbreaking, GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER; this was a subversive, moody, macabre horror film …. we didn’t expect a political statement. The final scene with Ben on the pyre at the hands of rednecks is, to this day, shockingly powerful. I shouted at the screen, “NO!” Was he mistakenly shot as a zombie, or was he taken out by his ladder-rung in inherently racist society? He was the hero, and couldn’t escape America’s prejudice. Sadly, horrifically, it’s apropos still. Who cries at a zombie movie? Um…….
One of my personal faves is still 1973’s THE CRAZIES. As a child of the 70s, I’m always slyly suspicious of our government. I also spent a lot of time in the tiny towns of my relatives where THE CRAZIES were not so far-fetched. At any moment, I expected those wide-eyed infected to come at my cousins & I. Every year, the scandals of our own nation: Tuskegee Syphilis Experiments, U.S. Eugenics efforts, CIA mind-control trials, Flint’s water travesty, the list makes THE CRAZIES look prophetic. One can only hope the Great George A. Romero will zombie into our dreams eternally. At least, in film, he will haunt us for eons to come.
JACKSON STEWART – director BEYOND THE GATES
There’s very little to be stated about George Romero’s work that people haven’t already pointed out. The timeless, ultra-relevant stories of humankind’s innate nature to self-destruct has been front and center in recent years in an eerily prescient way that Romero tackled in a time when no one else did. His work has permeated every facet of modern horror culture and sadly never got the accolades he deserved. You can feel his influence in the works of Carpenter, Hooper, Craven, Gordon and just about everyone else. While his life has come to an end, his work has been immortalized and will continue inspiring for generations to come.
JT HABERSAAT- Stand Up Comedian
The lone problem with Romero is he came out of the gate with such a perfect, ahead-of-its time debut of a genre film that it was going to be impossible to ever top. NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was gory and scary and most of all IMPORTANT. The metaphors for racism of the time and humanity’s overall selfishness are seriously heavy, especially in the third act. Plus, he made a KID turn into a zombie! That was some serious shit for the time period. A kid literally turning on her parents in the most savage way. Talk about nailing the rebelliousness of the 1960s underlying fears on the head! I like some of the sequels, others I felt jumped the shark. By the time the zombies were using machine guns I had checked out, and I wish George had experimented a bit more with other horror avenues a la the fantastic CREEPSHOW. Any way you slice it, zombies are Romero’s legacy. RIP George.
TIM MURR- author MOTEL ON FIRE
The passing of George Romero is a gut punch, as it should be. As a third grader who couldn’t handle even seeing a commercial for a horror movie, George had me glued to the TV with TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE. That show gave me so many nightmares, but I could not stop watching it. Then only a couple years later, sitting on the edge of my bed on Halloween, I saw NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD on a tiny black and white TV. I expected something kinda hokey, since it was an old film, but it wrecked me. Really wrecked me. That ending was so nihilistic and scary and devastating. I had no context for such a thing. I remember sitting through the closing credits breathing hard, overflowing with emotions. When I found out Night had two sequels, that was all I cared about.
I can point directly at the moment when my writing became darker and more serious and creating fiction that could wreck the room became more important than dreaming about writing Batman-it was when I rented DAWN OF THE DEAD for the first time. I obsessively rented that film over and over. It was a weekend ritual. I learned the dialogue, the beats, I analyzed it, I paused the gore scenes trying to catch a glimpse of how Tom Savini was pulling off all that crazy shit. All my earliest, serious stabs at writing were steeped in Romero. What I owe him, I’ll never be able to repay. I’m hurting to type this. I wish I could have met him at least once, just to shake his hand and thank him for all the gut punches over the years. He toughened me up and taught me that scary stories, serious commentary, and art could all be the same thing.
JOHN BOROWSKI- filmmaker SERIAL KILLER CULTURE
My entire childhood and teenage life was filled with the joy that George Romero gave me as a lover of horror films. Not only did he know how to tell a story, but he also knew not to hold back on the aspects that horror fans craved, realistic gore with a purpose. One of my favorite films ever is CREEPSHOW, which is not only highly entertaining but a technical marvel of makeup effects and lighting techniques. George Romero will forever be an inspiration to me and hopefully many generations of those who appreciate great cinema from a true independent filmmaker.
BRANDON LITTLE – singer for punk rock band THE GLORYHOLES
Other than creating the modern zombie, George Romero set a new standard for film making. From “They’re coming to get you, Barbara!” to the final gunshot, NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD is a ride on which you can’t escape. It doesn’t matter your status, no one is safe. Death is coming for you, and it’s coming in hordes.
CHRIS DIANI – director CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON
George Romero was a personal hero of mine, and his of classic NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD was clearly one of the biggest inspirations for CREATURES FROM THE PINK LAGOON. I had the privilege of meeting George at a zombie convention a few years ago and he was charming, funny, and generous with his time and advice. Horror cinema has lost a master, and the world has lost a great man.
NATHAN ERDEL- writer HEADLESS
“They’re coming to get you, Barbara.” With one line – and a countless number of Pittsburgh residents dressed as flesh-eating ghouls, George A. Romero changed the face of the horror film, both in terms of helping to bring the audience (and the monster) out from the gothic and into Americana, and also helping to bring filmmaking from an artistry and vocation handled solely by the studio system and into the hands of filmmakers who were as blue-collar as his zombies. Romero will always and forever be credited as the Godfather of the Living Dead, the man who was responsible for changing our cinematic definition of zombies from, in his words, “those cats down in the Caribbean,” to “the neighbors.” In my eyes, however, his more important contribution to the genre was bringing the possibility of filmmaking down to the common man. Indeed, if it weren’t for pioneers like Romero, I have to believe that I would not be able to call myself a screenwriter or a filmmaker. From the classic DEAD trilogy, to the commercial CREEPSHOW and even his more daring output – the vastly underrated modern vampire tale “Martin” and Arthurian motorcycle opus KNIGHTRIDERS – the films of George A. Romero stand as a testament to how strikingly original and masterful the man’s output really was, both in terms of their influence upon filmmakers, and their own macabre and creative celluloid merits. Romero was a maverick, working outside of the Hollywood system to bring life to his films on his own terms, and, for this, we must be forever thankful. Romero was a consummate, journeyman filmmaker, a crack editor, a fantastic writer, and, from my brief interaction with him at HorrorHound Weekend in Indianapolis (not to mention the many accolades and tributes expressed by his colleagues and friends) a true gentleman. We’ll all “stay scared,” George, and that is, by a large amount, thanks to you, and your wonderful films. We salute you, maestro!
GARY PULLIN- horror artist RUE MORGUE
This one hits pretty hard. Romero’s films have been with me most of my life. I’ll never forget the first time I watched NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and DAWN OF THE DEAD. I watched them on VHS at a friend’s house on a crappy little TV but it didn’t matter, I was mesmerized and terrified by what was unfolding on screen. I remember having to walk home alone late at night, past an open field and I was scared as hell. George’s films stayed with you long after the credits. I became an instant follower of his work and always measured other films against Romero’s films. He was a true visionary and his films changed the landscape of cinema. Rest in Peace, Mr. Romero, your art changed lives and inspired millions. I created a piece of artwork that I hope says more than I could ever put into words. R.I.P.
HARRISON SMITH – director DEATH HOUSE
Romero will always be identified for shaping the zombie film into what we know it today. Sadly, we got to see THE WALKING DEAD reap the rewards of his work and the infrastructure he created with many of its fans not knowing who Romero was.
However, my contribution would like to offer thanks for CREEPSHOW. The film still holds the standard for anthology films and what recent attempts strove for. I saw it in the old Sherman Theater in 1982 and walked out transformed in the type of short stories I wanted to write. It gave me a renewed interest in aesthetics and the craft of filmmaking. His MONKEY SHINES is an over looked gem and MARTIN went off in a direction that was ahead of its time.
So yes, zombies are George’s legacy and deservedly so. However he was a filmmaker who gave a lot of himself and didn’t ask for much back. The industry took a lot from him and I hope his legacy is expanded to highlight his power
HENRIQUE COUTO- director BABYSITTER MASSACRE
DAWN OF THE DEAD was the first film I ever deeply obsessed about. When I discovered it the DVD was insanely out of print and the only way I could watch it was on VHS from my local Hollywood Video.
I rented that tape at least 20 times, I would read online with fervor about the idea of seeing the Extended Cut and the Argento Cut. I was 15 when the DVD boxset came out with all the cuts in it, I went to Best Buy at 9am got the set and then immediately skipped school and watched all of it’s contents in one sitting.
MALCOM INGRAM – director SMALL TOWN GAY BAR
The first time I saw DAWN OF THE DEAD I was probably 12 years old. The advent of VCRs had made inappropriate content accessible to a slew of young ‘uns hungry for forbidden fruit.
DAWN OF THE DEAD broke my cherry of things once seen cannot be unseen. The movie made me feel incredibly uncomfortable , yet elated. I was completely shocked at the amount of gore one filmmaker could pack into one picture…and as I got older…and began to understand social commentary….the movie transformed into a completely different beast.
George Romero is God.
CHRIS DUBEY- actor GRINDSPLOITATION
The man who made arguably the most influential horror film ever has died. Although he was responsible for several good flicks, and a few very quirky cult films apologies, but KNIGHTRIDERS is just too weird, even for me, he will always be remembered as the King of the Zombie films. I loved his work before Zombies became cool again, and I always wished that the genre would come back. The sad thing of it is that even though the genre he created had a popular culture resurgence, he was never given the caliber budget to make a film on the scale he deserved. Instead, we got other directors being handed the reigns. It is sad that he never got to make his big one, but, after a very long, full life, he is gone. I do not know about those that knew him personally, but I do know that his legacy will live on in my mind. He had life by the ass, and he left his mark. R.I.P..
CHAD FERRIN- director PARASITES
The talent and passion of George A. Romero is etched upon every frame of his films. He inspired me more than any other director, a true maverick that worked on his own terms. The genre has lost a true icon, but his artlives on to entertain, scare and inspire generations to come.
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Tags: Billy Pon, Brandon Little, Chad Ferrin, Chris Diani, Chris Dubey, Gary Pullin, george romero, Graham Skipper, Gregory Gunter, Harrison Smith, Henrique Couto, Jack Sholder, Jackson Stewart, John Borowski, JT Habersaat, Malcom Ingram, Nathan Erdel, Richard Tanner, T. Von Swine, Tim Murr, Tony Cooney