(KUTV) To some George A. Romero was just a filmmaker with a particular interest in zombies. For me he was an artist who made films that reflected the hope and despair that he felt when he looked at society. Yes, he was making zombie films, but these films, while gory, weren’t just about ingenious special effects made on a shoestring budget. These films were about the mindless crowd mentality that sent hoards to malls, the mindless nature of war and the great divide between the social classes.
Romero might have been unaware of the statement he was making by casting Duane Jones, an African American, in a leading role in 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead,” but in doing so he gave a certain depth to the film that otherwise would not have been there. A fact that wasn’t lost on me when I saw the film for the first time in an era where the only zombie film of any kind I was familiar with featured Michael Jackson.
Romero’s films might have been about the living dead, but underneath it all they were cautionary tales about where he saw society heading.
The passing of Romero might seem insignificant to many, but without him there would be a massive void where classic cult films like “Martin,” “The Crazies,” “Knightriders,” “Creepshow” and the “Dead Series” should be. There would be no “The Walking Dead,” “28 Days Later” or any number of films, comic books, novels, a particular Soft Cell song or various pop culture phenomenon. Romero changed the world in his own quiet way.
George, thank you for the frights and the sharp observations.