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George A. Romero, father of the zombie genre, dead at 77

NEW YORK—George Romero, whose classic Night of the Living Dead and other horror films turned zombie movies into social commentaries and who saw his flesh-devouring undead spawn countless imitators, remakes and homages, has died. He was 77.Romero died Sunday following a brief battle with an aggressive form of lung cancer, said his family in a statement provided by his manager, Chris Roe. Romero’s family said he died about 1:30 Sunday in a Toronto hospital while listening to the score of The Quiet Man, one of his favourite films, with his wife, Suzanne Desrocher, and daughter, Tina Romero, by this side.Romero had lived in Toronto since 2004.“George was a gentle giant. He was one of the kindest, most giving human beings I’ve ever known or had the pleasure to work with,” Roe told the Star on the phone from Burbank, California. “There was no ego in any way shape or form with George. He was the real deal.”Romero is credited with reinventing the movie zombie with his directorial debut, the 1968 cult classic, Night of the Living Dead. The movie set the rules imitators lived by: Zombies move slowly, lust for human flesh and can only be killed when shot in the head. If a zombie bites a human, the person dies and returns as a zombie.Article Continued BelowRomero's "Night of the Living Dead," released in 1968, set the rules the zombie genre still mostly abides by. Zombies shamble slowly, crave human flesh and can only die with a shot to the head.“I think it’s very safe to say that The Walking Dead and similar franchises to that would not exist without George Romero,” Roe said.Romero’s zombies, however, were always more than mere cannibals; they were metaphors for conformity, racism, mall culture, militarism, class differences and other social ills.“The zombies, they could be anything,” Romero told The Associated Press in 2008. “They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It’s a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way. They fail to address it. They keep trying to stick where they are, instead of recognizing maybe this is too big for us to try to maintain. That’s the part of it that I’ve always enjoyed.”

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