It was with great sadness that I learned of the death of George Romero. Although he has been lauded as the master of the modern zombie genre, his signature film Night of the Living Dead was also an important social commentary on the racial divide in the United States, and it is for this that I will always remember him. As a Hollywood source describes it:
Night of the Living Dead arrived at a time when American idealism was starting to sour. The momentum of post-war progress and the hope of early 60s counterculture had all but evaporated in the year of the Watts riots and assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. The film was a potent piece of speculative satire: a low-budget, tightly scripted horror film that posited as its protagonist a young black professional (played by Duane Jones) who struggles to navigate the neuroses and hysteria of his white counterparts while fending off an undead horde. The film's closing moments, in which Jones is 'mistakenly' shot by the police cleanup crew, remain one of the most stinging incidences of irony in cinematic history.
In fact, Romero had been asked to write an episode for the television series The Walking Dead, but declined, saying that the show was more soap opera than social commentary.
Mr. Romero made a guest appearance at the Ottawa ComicCon this past May, much to the delight of my son Tim, who has all of his movies and admired him greatly. My son was able to meet him and because it was nearing the end of the convention and not overly busy, Mr. Romero took the time to talk to Tim and even have a picture taken (without charge) of the two of them. Tim had ordered, through eBay, foreign movie posters of the Living Dead franchise. He took them with him to ComicCon to get autographed. Mr. Romero was delighted to view the posters, which he had not seen before. He was a kind man who made an indelible impression on my son.
The light of the horror world is dimmed greatly by his passing.
RIP George Romero: 1940-2017