I was only 4 or 5 year’s old when I saw my first George Romero movie. My dad rented Dawn of the Dead on VHS and we all sat and watched. Being a small child, it freaked the hell out of me and began my descent into horror.
Upon learning of George Romero’s passing, it reminded me how much he did creating an entire genre of movie. The undead have long been a part of horror, but Romero turned zombies away from the voodoo hoodoo of early films and turned them into a societal statement. Whether he meant to or not. As a kid, I didn’t think too much about the meaning behind Dawn of the Dead. I just saw some really weird green skinned zombies eating people in a mall.
It wasn’t until later that I realized what it truly meant and the movie became an entirely different animal. His use of zombies as an expression of humanity began a trend that lasts to this day. I never had the opportunity to meet George Romero, it was always one of this bucket list things that will never happen now.
These days zombie movies are a dime a dozen and even his films got rebooted for a new generation, often focusing on the action more than anything else. His classic unholy trilogy, still are a benchmark for zombie movies and few today can come close. Today, I can watch horror movies of all types without so much as flinching. While everyone around me cowers behind pillows, I just sit back thinking about the production values of the makeup and if the screenwriter actually new anything about The Hero’s Journey.
The original Dawn of the Dead still gets to me though and despite the dated makeup and special effects still sends shivers down my spine; probably a little childhood trauma rearing its ugly zombified head. The world of horror lost an icon. I only hope filmmakers will look past box office receipts and instead actually focus on the characters, the story and using the zombies as an allegory to some aspect of humanity. For God’s sake, make a statement.
Romero was never afraid to put his thoughts and beliefs out there. In fact, he prided himself in from Dawn of the Dead to Diary of the Dead. The master may be gone, but his disciples still study his films not only for their cinematic awesomeness, but to glimpse the mind of the man himself.
From the entire Horror Junction family, Rest in Peace George Romero. We’ll see you again when the zombie apocalypse finally happens.