George A. Romero, a horror visionary who created the modern zombie genre with his 1968 cult film, “Night of the Living Dead,” which has influenced generations of horror enthusiasts, died on Sunday in Toronto. He was 77.
His death came after “a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” his family said in a statement.
“Night of the Living Dead,” made for about $100,000, was released when racial tensions were high in the United States. Mr. Romero had not intended to address that climate in the film, but with Duane Jones, a black man, as the lead, it was impossible to ignore the connection, Mr. Romero told NPR in a 2014 interview.
“We never thought of it being a racial piece at all, never,” he said. “But because the character was played by an African-American, you almost don’t notice anything else. We didn’t realize that. Duane did.”
“I think that was largely what made the film noticeable,” he said.
Mr. Romero went on to add installments to the “Dead” series, including “Dawn of the Dead” (1979) and “Day of the Dead” (1985). The film critic Roger Ebert called “Dawn of the Dead” “one of the best horror films ever made.’’
Mr. Romero’s “Land of the Dead” in 2005 was his largest-budget studio-backed film, and became one of his biggest box-office successes.
Mr. Romero returned to independent filmmaking with “Diary of the Dead” (2008), and he described it as one that “comes from my heart.”
“It’s not a sequel or a remake. It’s a whole new beginning for the dead,” Mr. Romero said, according to a biography provided by Peter Grunwald, a film producer who worked on several of Mr. Romero’s movies.
“I have a soft spot in my heart for the zombies,” he told NPR. “They are multipurpose, you can’t really get angry at them, they have no hidden agendas, they are what they are. I sympathize with them.”
Most recently, Mr. Romero tried his hand at comic books, creating “The Empire of the Dead” series starting in 2014, published by Marvel, which combines zombies and vampires.
“I’m dabbling a little bit, mixing genres and metaphors,” he said, adding that he likes to incorporate political satire in his works, and that it is a bigger part of the comic.
Read more at The New York Times.