Why George Romero matters to me and why he always will


The horror community is still reeling this week with the passing of George Romero. All of us here at 1428 Elm will truly miss the master of the macabre and our thoughts are with the Romero family. With the news I began to reflect on Romero and all the things I have learned from him and his master story telling.

George Romero needs no introduction.

As a life long horror fan and a political news junkie, George Romero had the ability to bring both of these things together and not in a subtle way. All one has to do is revisit his films and really look at the subject matter.

Romero had a gift. He was able to not only terrify you, but to hold a mirror to real life problems and the current political climate meanwhile forcing the viewer to face and contemplate them. Night of the Living Dead (1968) is a perfect example.


1968 America was a turbulent time, the atrocities of the Vietnam War were broadcast into the homes of America and the Civil Rights unrest were playing out on America’s streets. Romero capitalized on these fears with the tale of a zombie horde invading and attempting to eat a band of survivors trapped in a house.

The film showcased violence, helplessness and solitude. Romero is quoted in the documentary Nightmares in Red, White and Blue as saying “We were ’60’s guys and sort of pissed off that the ’60’s revolution didn’t work”. He was also said “I thought it was about revolution”.

Night of the Living Dead was not the only Romero zombie mash up with political overtones. Dawn of the Dead (1978) told the story of survivors escaping a zombie apocalypse by helicopter and finding refuge in a shopping mall. A simple conversation between two characters sums up what Romero saw as the problem with materialism and the indulgence of shoppers. The conversation plays out as:

Francine: “Why do they come here?”

Stephen: “Some kind of instinct. Memory of what they used to do. This was an important place in their lives.”

Day of the Dead (1985) told the story of an underground fortress staffed with U.S. Military staff, government officials and scientists riding out the zombie plague that has overtaken the U.S. In this outing Romero took on what he saw as military brutality and the an answer to the question we are all afraid of… how dark can the human psyche actually go?

Land of the Dead (2005) was released in a post September 11th world. Land of the Dead tells the story of small pockets of survivors who basically live in shanty towns in the middle of cities. Several survivors double as a band of scavengers who venture out into the zombie overrun world, in an attempt to find supplies and luxury items for the über rich who enjoy safety in a fortified high-rise building known as Fiddler’s Green. Romero tacked the problem of income equality and the have versus the have-nots.

I could go on and on and dissect all of Romero’s films but I would be doing the legendary director a disservice. Romero was truly a revolutionary and helped change the horror genre. I want you to be able to watch his films and truly try to figure out what statement he was trying to make. The villains in his films were allegories for what he viewed as the real villains of the world at the time.

Next: Celebrating 30 years of RoboCop

Romero was truly a genius and light years ahead of his time. Those of us in the horror community knew what an amazing man he was. It is a shame that his untimely passing has forced the rest of the world to recognize what a treasure he really was. All I can say is Godspeed Mr. Romero and a direct quote from yourself is the best way to end this because my words are not enough….

“I’m like my zombies. I won’t stay dead.”

– George A. Romero