Sunday, July 16, 2017

RIP George A. Romero

RIP George A. Romero
There is a reason why "The Walking Dead" is a hot sensation right now. There is a reason why we had a huge sleuth of zombie movies between 2002 through 2009. There is a reason why zombies have assimilated themselves into our popular culture, here to stay. There was a man you popularized zombies. A man who made the slow-moving, green-faced, moaning former humans so much fun to discuss, debate, and dissect as we move through the years. That man was George A. Romero and he is no longer a man on Earth.

The best of the horror genre (and even the science fiction genre, especially the science fiction genre) has always been socially progressive. George A. Romero was making big moves in the movie business before anybody else did. In 1968, Romero made is first film. A zombie film of course. It was "Night of the Living Dead." In the heat of the 1960's, there weren't many African Americans showing up in films, and if they did, they were rarely leads. "Night of the Living Dead" featured a black actor as its lead, something that was completely unheard of at the time. But, that wasn't just some stunt. Romero didn't just make zombie movies, they were never just people surviving the night against a hoard of the undead. If that's all you saw, you are seeing it wrong. Romero's films have always been social satires. If you look at "Dawn of the Dead," a film that got remade in 2004, originally was released in 1978. It was about a group of survivors in the midst of a zombie apocalypse who barricade themselves in a mall. Of course, for some reason the hoards of zombies showed up at the mall? It was a metaphor for how Americans are so handcuffed and addicted to consumerism. Romero may have populated the weirdest monsters in the history of the horror pantheon, he made movies that were about us.

If you look at "Land of the Dead," "Day of the Dead," and "Diary of the Dead" Romero never just gave us more of the same. He made movies that took a different piece of our society and our culture and stuck it under a microscope. He was never afraid to challenge or sometimes confirm our beliefs. Other than making zombie movies, he made the original "The Crazies" in 1973. He also directed "Season of the Witch," Stephen King's "The Dark Half" and was a long time producer of the television show, "Tales from the Darkside," a show I enjoyed dearly growing up. He's been a producer on nearly every remake of his films. He's contributed to lots of horror movie specials on TV. He has been dubbed "The Godfather of the Dead" and "Father of the Zombie Movie." For good reason, we don't get zombies in popular culture without him. If we did, it would have come WAY later, like when Max Brooks writes "World War Z," maybe. We have lost a living legend tonight, may he rest in peace.

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