"The Grandfather of the Zombie"

As a film director, screenwriter, editor and occasional actor, George Andrew Romero is best known for his series of gruesome and satirical horror films about a zombie apocalypse. ll

Romero was born in New York City and would later attend Pittsburgh's Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating in 1960, he began his career shooting short films and commercials.

One of his early commercial films, a segment for 'Mister Rogers Neighborhood' in which Mr. Rogers underwent a tonsillectomy, inspired Romero to go into the horror film business. He and friends formed Image Ten Productions in the late 1960s, and they chipped in roughly $10,000 apiece to produce what became one of the most celebrated horror films of all time:

Night of the Living Dead - 1968

Chaos descends upon the world as the brains of the recently deceased become inexplicably reanimated, causing the dead to rise and feed on human flesh. Speculation rests on a radiation-covered NASA satellite returning from Venus, but it only remains a speculation. Anyone who dies during the crisis of causes unrelated to brain trauma will return as a flesh-eating zombie, including anyone who has been bitten by a zombie. The only way to destroy the zombies is to destroy the brain. As the catastrophe unfolds, a young woman visiting her father's grave takes refuge in a nearby farmhouse, where she is met by a man who protects her and barricades them inside. They both later discover people hiding in the basement, and they each attempt to cope with the situation. Their only hope rests on getting some gasoline from a nearby pump into a truck that is running on empty, but this requires braving the hordes of ravenous walking corpses outside. When they finally put their plans into action, panic and personal tensions only add to the terror as they try to survive.
The movie, directed by Romero and co-written with John A. Russo, became a cult classic and a defining moment for modern horror cinema. The films which followed were less popular: There's Always Vanilla (1971), Jack's Wife / Season of the Witch (1972) and The Crazies (1973). Though not as well received as Night of the Living Dead or some of his later work, these films have his signature social commentary while dealing with primarily horror-related issues at the microscopic level. The Crazies, (re-released in 2010) dealing with a biospill that induces an epidemic of homicidal madness, and the critically acclaimed arthouse success Martin (1977), a film that strikingly deconstructs the vampire myth, were the two standout efforts during this period. Like almost all of his films, they were shot in or around Romero's favorite city of Pittsburgh.

In 1978, Romero returned to the zombie genre with:

Dawn of the Dead - 1978

It's some time after the dead have started to rise and attack the shocked living, and civilization has started to crumble. In the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, TV station workers Stephen and Francine decide to run as the situation worsens and, after meeting Roger and Peter (two special policemen ordered to move any people into rescue stations) who have also choose to run, steal the station's helicopter and fly west in an attempt to find a safe place. After several attempts during their flight across Pennsylvania, they find a deserted mega-mall in Monroeville, outside Pittsburgh and decide to wait there until the crisis is over. Taking stock of their surroundings, they arm themselves, lock down the mall, and destroy the zombies inside so they can eke out a living--at least for a while. Tensions begin to build as months go on, however, when they come to realize that they've fallen prey to consumerism. Soon afterward, they have even heavier problems to worry about, as a large gang of bikers discovers the mall and invades it, ruining the survivors' best-laid plans and forcing them to fight off both lethal bandits and flesh-eating zombies.
Can they hold out, not only against the growing, moaning, and hungry masses of the undead outside, against murderous looters, but most importantly of all, can they hold out and not lose their sanity...
Shot on a budget of just $500,000 (the producers gave a false figure of $1.5 million to help their negotiating position with distributors), the film earned over $55 million worldwide and was named one of the top cult films by Entertainment Weekly in 2003. Romero made a third entry in his "Dead Series" with:
Day of the Dead - 1985
The Dead have conquered earth, leaving just small groups of people out of their clutches. One group made up of both scientific and military personal, hiding in a bunker somewhere in Florida tries to get in contact with other survivors of the zombie infestation, but find themselves quite alone in this new world. Desperately searching for a cure and therefore indulging in strange experiments to overcome this strange transformation into zombies. The military finds that their men have been used in the scientists' experiments, and banish the scientists to the caves that house the Living Dead. Unfortunately, the zombies from above ground have made their way into the bunker... Only common sense can save them now...

Day of the Dead was less popular at the box office, but has since gone on to gain a cult following, thanks to VHS and DVD releases, with sound samples being featured by Gorillaz and others.

(The film was re-made in 2008 with very little similarity to the original, leaving Romero fans feeling let down by yet another poor attempt at a re-make. Romero was not involved in any way)

Between these two films Romero shot Knightriders (1981), another festival favorite about a group of modern-day jousters who reenact tournaments on motorcycles, and the successful Creepshow (1982), written by Stephen King, an anthology of tongue-in-cheek tales modeled after 1950s horror comics.
From the latter half of the 1980s and into 1990s came Monkey Shines (1988), about a killer helper monkey, Two Evil Eyes (1990), an Edgar Allan Poeladaptation in collaboration with Dario Argento, the Stephen King adaptation The Dark Half (1993) and Bruiser (2000), about a man whose face becomes a blank mask.
In 1990, Romero also updated his original screenplay and executive produced the remake of:
Night of the Living Dead - 1990
A remake of George Romero's 1968 black-and-white classic that begins in a cemetery, as the recently-dead return to life - from an unknown cause - and attack the living as their prey. One woman escapes the frightening zombies to take refuge with others in a farmhouse, as every cadaver for miles around hungers for their flesh. Will they make it through the night...that the dead came back to life?
In 1998 he directed the live action commercial (promoting the videogame Resident Evil 2) in Tokyo, Japan. The 30-second advertisement was live action and featured the game's two main characters, Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, fighting a horde of zombies while in Raccoon City's Police Station. The project was obvious territory for Romero; the Resident Evil series has been heavily influenced by Romero's "Dead" projects. The commercial was rather popular and was released in the weeks before the game's actual release, although a contract dispute prevented the commercial from being shown outside Japan. Capcom was so impressed with Romero's work, it was strongly indicated that Romero would direct the first Resident Evil film. He declined at first, although in later years he reconsidered and wrote a script for the first movie. But it was eventually rejected in favor of Paul W. S. Anderson's version.
Universal Studios produced and released a remake of Dawn of the Dead in 2004, with which Romero was not involved. Later that year, Romero kicked off the DC Comics title Toe Tags with a six-issue miniseries titled The Death of Death. Based on an unused script that Romero had previously written as a sequel to his 'Dead Trilogy', the comic miniseries concerns Damien, an intelligent zombie who remembers his former life, struggling to find his identity as he battles armies of both the living and the dead. Typical of a Romero zombie tale, the miniseries includes ample supply of both gore and social commentary, dealing particularly here with corporate greed and terrorism - ideas he would also explore in his next film in the series:
Land of the Dead - 2005
The living dead have overtaken humanity. The last remnants of the human race live inside a walled city as they come to grips with the situation. The wealthy live in sealed skyscrapers as the poor fend for themselves on the streets. Protecting them is an enormous tank called Dead Reckoning, controlled by a group of people led by Riley. But when Riley loses command of the tank to an insane man bent on destroying the city, he must fight to save it as those who walk beyond the walls of the city slowly develop new abilites and become a much greater threat to humankind.
Its $16 million production budget was the highest of the four movies in the series. Actors Simon Baker, Dennis Hopper, Asia Argento, and John Leguizamo star in the film. It was released on June 24, 2005 to generally positive reviews.

Some critics have seen a development of social commentary in much of Romero's work. They view Night of the Living Dead as a film made in reaction to the turbulent 1960s, Dawn of the Dead as a satire on consumerism, Day of the Dead as a study of the conflict between science and the military, and Land of the Dead as an examination of class conflict. The films are now used in some social studies classes for use in examining the commentaries within.

Romero collaborated with the game company Hip Interactive in creating a game called City of the Dead, but the game was canceled midway due to the financial problems of the company.

Diary of the Dead - 2007

(released 2008 in the UK)

The film follows a band of people making a horror film at the time of the first outbreak. They decide to record the epidemic incident documentary-style and end up themselves being chased down by zombies. It appears to be set in a present time (though it takes place in the same time frame as the original) and it is also the first film in Romero's series to explicitly reveal that the zombie epidemic is not a localized event but a worldwide phenomenon. Filmed almost entirely from a first-person perspective the film puts the audience right in the middle of the outbreak.

The film was independently financed, making it the first indie zombie film Romero has done in years. After a limited theatrical release, Diary of the Dead was released on DVD by Dimension Extreme on May 20, 2008.

Shooting soon began in Toronto in September 2008 for Romero's latest film:

Survival of the Dead - 2009

On a small island off North America's coast, the dead rise to menace the living. Yet...the islanders can't bring themselves to exterminate their loved ones, despite the growing danger from those they once held dear. A rebel among them hunts down all the zombies he can find, only to be banished from the island for assassinating his neighbours and friends. On the mainland, bent on revenge, he encounters a small band of survivors (who fans will recognise from Diary of the Dead) in search of an oasis on which to build a new life. Barely surviving an attack from a mass of ravenous flesh-eaters. They commandeer a zombie-infested ferry and sail to the island. There, to their horror, they discover that the locals have chained the dead inside their homes, pretending to live 'normal' lives...with bloody consequences. What ensues is a desperate struggle for survival and the answer to a question never posed in Romero's Dead Series: Can the living ever live in peace with the dead?

Posters were created before the movie's full title was revealed

The production company is called Blank Of the Dead. Originally, the film was reported to be a direct sequel to Diary of the Dead, but Alan Van Sprang (who featured in Romero's Land of the Dead and Diary of the Dead)stars alongside a new cast of characters. Rather than a sequel, the film occurs at the same time as Diary of the Dead. Thankfully to some, the first-person camerawork of Diary of the Dead was abandoned in favour of the classic cinema style. The film premiered at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival to mixed reviews.

Romero is currently writing two original Dead novels for Grand Central publishing, the first of which was released in summer 2010, with the second still to follow.

Many people wonder whether George Romero has any more '... of the Dead' movies floating around in his head. It's more likely that the question is, when will they be unleashed on the world...